Ohio State wrestling’s winning streak against rival Michigan came to an end Friday.
About 2,765 people witnessed the Buckeyes fall to the Wolverines, 27-9, in OSU’s first match at St. John Arena since Nov. 21. OSU, which dropped to 2-7, hoped for an upset against No. 13 Michigan, which improved to 9-2. But instead, its winning streak against the Wolverines ended at three.
Redshirt freshman Nick Heflin, 174 pounds, started the night by defeating Michigan redshirt junior Justin Zeerip, 2-1. After a scoreless first period, Justin scored an escape in the second to take the lead. However, Heflin answered with a late reversal in the third to win the match and give the Buckeyes an early 3-0 lead.
Even with the individual victory, Heflin said he was upset with the team’s loss.
“You know, it really sucks,” Heflin said. “A lot of things went their way, and it’s just little things we need to fix.”
The momentum shifted in the Wolverine’s favor after Michigan redshirt senior Anthony Biondo, 197 pounds, defeated redshirt freshman Peter Capone, 10-5. The Buckeyes lost seven of the final eight matches.
In an exciting 125-pound match, Michigan sophomore Sean Boyle defeated redshirt junior Bo Touris, 7-6. Touris scored a takedown in the last 20 seconds to tie the match at 6-6. However, Boyle scored a bonus point for holding a 2:09 riding time advantage to win the match.
“I liked the way we battled back late in the (125-pound) match,” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. “(We) closed the gap, almost came back and won that match.”
Redshirt junior captain Sean Nemec did not wrestle because of an injured shoulder, so redshirt sophomore Jared Kusar, 157 pounds, wrestled in Nemec’s place. Kusar led the match, 6-5, until the last 30 seconds, when Michigan redshirt freshman Brandon Zeerip scored with a takedown and a three-second near fall, winning the match, 10-6.
“At (157 pounds) you get the takedown to win the match, the guy gets out and you stop wrestling with about five seconds left,” Ryan said. “You got to wrestle at every position, and we didn’t do that at (157 pounds), and it cost us the match.”
At this point in the season, Ryan said, the team needs to focus mostly on getting mentally tougher rather than improving its wrestling technique.
“Got to get mentally tougher and wrestle every second of every match,” he said. “It was the difference in several matches.”
OSU captains C.J. Magrum, 184 pounds, and Colt Sponseller, 165 pounds, earned individual victories in the dual.
Magrum defeated Michigan redshirt sophomore Hunter Collins, 4-1, in the night’s second match. Magrum scored early in the first period with a takedown, then again in the second period with an escape. Collins’ third-period escape was not enough to clinch the match, as Magrum scored a bonus point for a riding time advantage for the win.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit lately. (Tonight) definitely helped my confidence,” Magrum said Friday. “I felt good tonight, and I’m just going to keep it rolling the rest of the season.”
Magrum said the rest of his team also needs to build its confidence.
“We got to get our confidence back,” he said. “As soon as people start winning, then we’ll start rolling. But it’s definitely in our heads right now, and that’s got to change for us to start winning.”
Sponseller defeated Michigan redshirt senior Aaron Hynes, 5-1, in the final match. Sponseller scored two takedowns in the first period and added a point for a riding time advantage to secure the win. Sponseller improved his record to 15-3 and is riding a four-match winning streak.
The Buckeyes will look to bounce back Friday night when they take on Illinois at 8 p.m. in Champaign, Ill. They return home the following day for a 7 p.m. dual against Minnesota.