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OSU wrestlers look to build momentum as season winds down

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The Ohio State wrestling team will have two tough tests this weekend as it faces No. 19 Illinois and No. 4 Minnesota on consecutive days.

First up for the Buckeyes is a match at Illinois (3-4-1, 1-3-1 Big Ten) at 8 p.m. Friday. Right after the meet, the team will drive back to Columbus to prepare for the Golden Gophers (13-3, 4-0 Big Ten).

The Buckeyes (2-7, 1-3 Big Ten) say they know they’re in for a tough weekend, and they will be looking for upsets throughout it to pull off a victory.

“We have to upset a couple of their high-ranked athletes,” coach Tom Ryan said. “We need a couple surprises; the team knows that.”

Ryan said he feels his team matches up better with Illinois and feels it has a better chance at victory in the first dual.

“If our guys fight,” he said, “we match up fairly well with the rest of the teams.”

Peter Capone, a redshirt freshman who wrestles at 197 pounds, said he knows a sweep this weekend would be great for the team.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It would be huge for the program.”

The most difficult part, Capone said, is going to be the travel back from Illinois right after the dual finishes.

“It’s going to be hard,” he said. “We’re going to be really tired on the way back.”

If the Buckeyes can manage to win both duals this week, Ryan said he believes the team will earn a much-needed confidence boost heading into its final two meets.

Redshirt junior captain Sean Nemec, 157 pounds, said the back-to-back duals are different from what he is used to. The team usually will have duals Friday and Sunday, but because of the Super Bowl, Ryan said, this week’s duals are Friday and Saturday.

Nemec said the biggest problem for wrestlers is when they aren’t smart about their weight, but to prevent that, OSU will be back in the gym Saturday before it faces Minnesota.

“Come back, try and get a little sleep,” Nemec said. “Then come back in, work out a little bit and try to get your weight back down.”

While team members say they hope to beat Illinois, they know the odds of pulling out a victory against Minnesota are slim.

“You’ve got to have your mind made up before you step on the mat,” Ryan said. “This isn’t something that I’m not going to try to do. I’m going to get this done.”

As the 2010–11 season wraps up, the team prepares for the Big Ten Tournament in March. The back-to-back duals will help the team build up its endurance for the tournament, which will have multiple matches in a day.

“It’s a good opportunity for our guys to get used to a couple of the key tournaments at the end of the year,” Ryan said.

Despite the Minnesota meet being the day after OSU wrestles Illinois, Ryan said, fatigue should not be a factor for his team.

“You wrestle for seven minutes,” he said. “We’re not talking about a Hawaiian triathlon. They’ve been training their whole life for this.”

Nemec said he believes if his team can manage to pull out victories over the two ranked teams this weekend, it could help the Buckeyes build momentum toward the end of the season.

“It’ll be real big,” he said, “especially to get momentum going heading into the end of the season.”

OSU will travel to Champaign, Ill., to wrestle Illinois at 8 p.m. Friday; then the team is scheduled to return to Columbus to host Minnesota at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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