Any Buckeye will tell you there’s not much that tops the feeling of defeating “that team up north.”
The Ohio State wrestling team is no exception.
“It’s Ohio State — Michigan. We don’t like each other,” senior captain Colt Sponseller said. “That’s evident when we wrestle each other.”
The misconception that the rivalry is limited to football is something the team looks to dispel.
“A lot of people think it’s just football, but it’s all sports,” Sponseller said. “It’s a real big deal.”
The Buckeyes have beaten Michigan the past three years, and look to extend that to four when they host the Wolverines at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve won the last three; we want to continue to win against Michigan,” coach Tom Ryan said. “Our group understands the importance of the rivalry.”
The competition brings a different approach to the week preceding it. Ryan said he showed his team a video of the football rivalry, and the wrestlers know it is not just an ordinary dual.
“The whole Ohio State atmosphere with Michigan — we want to beat them; they want to beat us,” sophomore captain Ian Paddock said. “So, that always adds to the competition.”
Members of the winning team will receive gold singlets, like the gold pants trinkets given to victorious football players.
Though their records are near opposites — Michigan is 7-2 and the Buckeyes are 2-6 — Ryan said he believes a win is within the Buckeyes’ sights.
“We’re looking for a win,” he said. “Despite the struggles we have had, I think the matchups are favorable for us.”
A Buckeye victory against the Wolverines rests on the outcome of one key matchup.
“It’ll come down to the 197 pounds,” Ryan said. “It’ll be the key match of the night for both programs.”
Sponseller said his team is ready for the dual and eager to take on its rival.
“Everybody gets geared up,” he said. “It always feels like there’s a rivalry.”
Ryan said his captains need to step up for the dual and lead the team to victory.
Sponseller said he isn’t taking the challenge lightly.
“Not trying to be an enforcer,” he said, “but trying to be a motivator.”
The fans will play a key role in Friday’s dual, Sponseller said.
“The crowd means a lot,” he said. “It feels like you have an 11th man out there.”
Sponseller said he has one plan.
“I just plan on going out there,” he said, “and beating Michigan.”