The last dual meet of the season has arrived for the Ohio State wrestling team, and all eyes will be on how the Buckeyes handle their last opponent on the regular-season schedule.
No. 10 OSU (9-3, 6-2) returns to Columbus after a three-week stint of away meets, where it is set to face Wisconsin (2-6, 1-4) on Friday at 7 p.m.
After a grueling and taxing matchup with No. 1 Penn State last Friday, which resulted in a 24-14 loss, the Buckeyes will be looking to end on a high note against the Badgers.
The two teams did not meet last year during the season, but Wisconsin picked up the victory in their last bout with OSU. The all-time series has the Badgers ahead 29-19-1.
Despite the Badgers’ rough 2015-16 campaign, OSU coach Tom Ryan said he has the utmost respect for the program.
Not only does this match mark the last regular-season dual meet of the year for the Buckeyes, but also the final time nine seniors will share that experience.
Although the team will be back in Columbus to host a National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals Championships Series match, the outgoing seniors will be honored against Wisconsin for their careers at OSU.
Notable seniors who will be honored are Kenny Courts, Mark Martin, Hunter Stieber and Johnni DiJulius.
“Obviously it means a lot but it’s more like a shocker,” DiJulius said. “I’m in disbelief because I’m a senior. When I was a freshman watching senior night, I thought to myself I had all the time in the world, but it goes by so quick.”
Courts, Stieber and DiJulius all began their journey as freshman in 2011, and will get to round out their careers together on the mat.
Ryan isn’t as worried about the box score for his outgoing wrestlers against Wisconsin as much as his is about the Buckeyes giving it their all.
“In any sport, we get so caught up in winning and losing, and that can be so stifling,” Ryan said. “You do not control winning and losing. You control effort.”
Effort has been a point of emphasis for Ryan and the team for years.
There is a strong sense of respect held by the OSU coaching staff and wrestlers toward a program like Wisconsin’s.
“(Wisconsin) is a fully funded Big Ten team, with great tradition there,” Ryan said. “They’ve got a great head coach in Barry (Davis). He was an Olympian.”
Wisconsin brings in two ranked wrestlers with No. 7 Ryan Taylor at 133 pounds and No. 3 Isaac Jordan at 165 pounds.
The match at 165 pounds will be watched for more than just a bout between two wrestlers with the top five nationally. It will also be watched for the family matchup.
Redshirt sophomore Bo Jordan will be facing his cousin from Wisconsin at 165. The two met last season in the Big Ten championships, where Isaac Jordan earned a 3-2 victory.
“The big one is at (165 pounds),” Ryan said. “Not only are they ranked two and three in the country, but they’re first cousins. That adds an element you don’t want to seep into it.”
Ryan was referring to the extra emotional implication of a match between family. He also cited that in order for Bo Jordan to succeed, he must focus solely on wrestling, and not who he stares down before the opening whistle.
DiJulius will be facing the other ranked opponent on Wisconsin’s roster in Taylor. He said he wants to use a quality opponent like Taylor to correct some wrongs from this season.
“I just want to make sure I’m wrestling the way I want to wrestle at the national tournament,” DiJulius said. “This season I haven’t done a great job at winning the third period and scoring enough points in the third.”
Wisconsin nearly emerged with an upset in its previous match against now-No. 18 Minnesota but dropped the dual meet 17-16.
Against Wisconsin, all the starters from the team are expected to make an appearance.
“We will have a full lineup against Wisconsin for the first time (this season),” Ryan said.
Big venues ahead
The settings for the Big Ten and NCAA championships will be memorable environments, as the Buckeyes are slated to travel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Madison Square Garden, respectively.
After the rowdy, sold-out Bryce Jordan Center in its previous match, Ryan said OSU feels prepared for crowds that will flock to Iowa City, Iowa, and New York City.
“The environment is going to be every bit as crazy as it was at Penn State,” Ryan said.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena holds more than 15,000 people, while Madison Square Garden holds over 18,000.
At the conclusion of the next match, OSU will get ready to play host to an NCWA National Duals match. The pairing will be announced on Sunday, as well as the time.