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Defending champion Ohio State wrestling team enters new season with ‘bullseye’ on its back

Coach Tom Ryan lifts the the Buckeyes’ national championship trophy as fans applaud during a national championship celebration for the OSU wrestling team on March 28 at St. John Arena. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Coach Tom Ryan lifts the the Buckeyes’ national championship trophy as fans applaud during a national championship celebration for the OSU wrestling team on March 28 at St. John Arena. Credit: Lantern File Photo

While the Ohio State football team has begun its quest for a second-straight national title, the wrestling team is right on its heels in pursuit of its own repeat.

After guiding the squad to its first national title in school history last year, head coach Tom Ryan and assistant coach J Jaggers both agree that there’s one thing this year’s team cannot do: be complacent.

“We’ve got a big bullseye on our back now,” Jaggers said. “We’re kind of new to the party, we’re the most recent people in the club.”

Ryan said he had fears about the dangers of falling into traps that many defending championship teams can face.

“The one thing you always fight is complacency,” Ryan added. “Sometimes it’s unnoticeable, so you really have to look closely.”

Both coaches said that the loss of four-time national champion Logan Stieber will not be easy to overcome, but incoming freshmen might be able to fill the void.

“With elite level programs, the names change but the tradition continues, I’m thinking,” Ryan said. “So, there will be a different guy in there, but if the system and the process is being followed, we’re in a position to win it again.”

Ryan tabbed Ke-Shawn Hayes, Myles Martin and Kollin Moore as three freshmen to watch this season.

“For us to be back on top and to stay on top, we’ll need lots of points from those guys,” Ryan said. “And they’re all capable of it.”

Jaggers also singled out Hayes and Martin as wrestlers who could make some noise in the upcoming season.

“They are 100 percent the guys that we thought they were going to be when we recruited them.” Jaggers said. “They have looked phenomenal, and they’re just into it. They seem to fit our culture and what we’re looking to do.”

The wrestling team is set to take the mat for the first time of the 2015-2016 season on Sept. 29 with its annual Wrestle Offs event at St. John Arena, which will feature members of the squad competing against each other.

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