After starting the season 11-1, the No. 3 ranked Ohio State wrestling team is looking to avoid a midseason slump and finish the season strong.
The Buckeyes were in a similar position the past two years and ended each season by finishing second in the nation.
Coach Tom Ryan believes this team is capable of a similar finish.
“Finishing second the past two years has resulted in a very positive environment,” said Ryan, the reigning National Coach of the Year. “There is a strong sense of pride among the team members.”
The addition of talented freshmen along with the return of some key upperclassmen has the team’s outlook looking bright, senior captain Reece Humphrey said.
“We’ve improved at every single weight class [since last year],” said Humphrey, who is the No. 1 ranked wrestler at 141 pounds. “Younger guys have filled into their potential, that’s what it’ll take to win nationals.”
Despite its young guns, the team’s heart and soul is its senior class, more specifically Humphrey, the national runner-up at 133 pounds last season. The two other senior captains, Mike Pucillo and Lance Palmer, are both three-time All-Americans.
“Reece Humphrey has been wrestling well up at 141 [pounds] … Lance Palmer has been wrestling very well also,” Ryan said. “There are not too many surprises in the sport; the people that work hard consistently do well. It boils down to the right habits, those with great habits do well.”
Ryan has gotten in the habit of watching his seniors have remarkable success, which he claims comes as no accident.
“Our senior class is leading us,” Ryan said. “This is a team with five seniors who have worked very hard to bring the program to the level it is currently at.”
Ryan believes the other team members feed off the triumphs of his accomplished seniors.
“Success breeds success,” Ryan said. “Wrestling is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of energy and a strong mentality. It is very helpful when athletes at a very high level are training alongside each other; it gives them a great frame of reference to where they stand in the sport.”
Humphrey believes the Buckeyes may finally have what it takes to bring home a national title after coming up short two years in a row.
“We have the individuals to win the title,” Humphrey said. “If a couple of the younger guys turn it up at nationals, we’ll have a good shot.
Ryan thinks the team’s achievements over the past few seasons have landed them a vast amount of faith in themselves.
“This is a team that believes they can win an NCAA team title,” Ryan said. “The previous two runner-up finishes have strengthened this team’s confidence.”