As the Big Ten and NCAA Championships rapidly approach the Ohio State wrestling team, the Buckeyes are gearing up to travel to Indiana for a pair of conference matchups.
No. 9 OSU (7-2, 4-1) is first set to travel to Bloomington to square off against the No. 22 Hoosiers.
Indiana (6-2, 3-2) is coming off a tough loss against Michigan in which the Hoosiers struggled to produce any points.
No member of the team produced more than 10 points in the meet.
The Hoosiers are not likely to be an easy foe, though, and the Buckeyes are well aware of the fact.
OSU coach Tom Ryan noted that with both conference and national tournaments right around the corner, it’s sometimes a struggle to maintain a certain level of play.
“It’s really challenging with so many competitions in a sport like this,” Ryan said. “But every team goes through it.”
It’s no secret that longevity is key to a successful program, and Ryan understands that better than anyone.
“Those (teams) that understand it and manage it best have an advantage,” Ryan said.
The Buckeyes have had success against Indiana in the past, winning each of the last five meetings between the programs.
Led by 125-pound freshman Elijah Oliver, the Hoosiers will be looking to set the tone early and buck that trend on Friday.
Oliver is currently 24-4 on the year, with a dual-meet point differential of plus-29, and is currently ranked 19th in the InterMat 125-pound rankings.
Redshirt junior Nate Johnson will also pose a significant challenge to the Buckeyes.
Johnson dropped a decision against Michigan for his first in-conference loss of the season, but he is still ranked eighth in the InterMat polls at 174 pounds with a 24-3 overall record.
Indiana holds some nostalgic significance to Ryan, as it is the school where his coaching life began.
“Indiana, ironically, was my first job,” Ryan said. “The head coach there now, Duane (Goldman), gave me the opportunity to coach at this level.”
OSU’s match against Indiana is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the University Gym.
After the dual meet with the Hoosiers is completed, OSU is set to get on the bus and drive a little over two hours north to West Lafayette to battle with the No. 24 Purdue Boilermakers.
Purdue (7-4, 2-3) will be having just its third match of the season in a home environment, as the Boilermakers have competed at six away matches and three neutral sites.
The last home meet for the Boilermakers saw a complete domination by the Black and Gold, with the team ultimately taking home a 32-6 win against Maryland.
Redshirt senior Chad Welch is the key member of the Purdue lineup that OSU will have to account for.
The 165-pound Welch leads the team wins, major decisions and falls this season.
Last year, Welch competed in the Big Ten Championships and went on to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships.
Currently, the redshirt senior is ranked seventh at 165 pounds in the InterMat rankings.
Purdue has struggled at times this season and is coming off a close loss to Minnesota.
Ranked opponents have been a thorn in the side of the Boilermakers, giving Purdue just a 13-38 mark against wrestlers ranked in the top 25.
The Buckeyes’ match against Purdue is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Holloway Gymnasium.
After missing the previous match with a sore back, redshirt freshman Micah Jordan is expected to return to the lineup this weekend.
Jordan was scratched from the lineup and replaced by redshirt junior Stanley Hendrix.
The Scarlet and Gray will be competing in matches very close to each other, with limited time for recovery in between. However, Ryan’s wrestlers are well-versed on how to maintain their health and stamina.
“The biggest thing is making sure you’re getting sleep and making sure you’re eating really well,” redshirt freshman Jake Ryan said.
The OSU team has been fairly lucky in terms of health this season, after struggling at times to put a healthy unit on the mat last season.
After the stay in Indiana, the Buckeyes are scheduled to travel to State College, Pennsylvania, to meet the current unanimous top team in the country, Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have not lost a dual meet all year and are in a dead heat for the top spot in the Big Ten.
The dual meet between OSU and Penn State, which is arguably the biggest and most important meet of the year for the Scarlet and Gray, is set to take place on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.