While the Ohio State wrestling team finished last in the Big Ten during the regular season, the team showed up at the conference tournament, finishing with two runners-up.
Senior captain Colt Sponseller, 165 pounds, and redshirt freshman Nick Heflin, 174 pounds, both came up short in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Sponseller lost a closely contested match to Wisconsin’s Andrew Howe, who defeated Sponseller in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. With the match tied, 1-1, the wrestlers went into overtime where Howe scored a takedown to secure the victory.
“I thought I had to go out there and beat him. I came up a little bit short again,” Sponseller said. “It’s not a good feeling and I don’t like it, and I got to wait another week to get it out.”
It is Howe’s second consecutive Big Ten championship and Sponseller’s second straight runner-up finish.
“Second place may have felt all right last year,” he said, “but this year it doesn’t feel any better.”
With his finish, Sponseller qualified for the NCAA Tournament and is looking to end his career with an All-American finish.
“I really got to refocus, work on a few little things, critique myself a little bit, and be smart, not get hurt in the practice room,” Sponseller said.
In Heflin’s first appearance in the Big Ten Tournament, he faced off against the No. 1 seed, Penn State’s Edward Ruth. Heflin said he read forums saying Ruth would tech fall or pin him if they met, and used that as motivation for the match.
After a scoreless first period, Ruth scored five points in the second period to take the lead. But Ruth ultimately prevailed and won the match 8-5.
“I didn’t stop wrestling, so I can be happy with myself in that, but I’m still upset I let myself get caught,” Heflin said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy I took second, but I think everyone can agree, your goal is first.”
Both Sponseller and Heflin would welcome rematches with Howe and Ruth, respectively, in the NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes finished eighth overall in the Big Ten Tournament. Ryan said he felt the team competed well and was proud of the performances.
The Buckeyes also qualified four wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament. Besides Sponseller and Heflin, redshirt sophomore captain C.J. Magrum, 184 pounds, and sophomore captain Ian Paddock, 133 pounds, also qualified for the national tournament.
Magrum came into the tournament as the No. 7 seed; after six matches over a two-day span, he finished fourth.
Magrum said he felt he finished strong in the tournament and is hoping for success in the NCAA Tournament.
“Making it to the tournament was my first goal, and now get on the podium,” Magrum said. “This was only my second tournament all year. Just getting six matches in here and being able to compete in every match, I’ll be more than ready for NCAAs.”
Paddock, who had not wrestled because of an injury since the Illinois dual, wrestled through to the consolation semifinals. When he had secured a berth in the NCAA tournament, Paddock forfeited the next two matches in hopes to not further injury.
“(Paddock) had a good weekend. He had been out; we were watching out for his health,” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. “He could have gone for third, but we thought it best to keep him healthy for NCAAs.”
Ryan said he believes there is a good chance that freshman Peter Capone, 197 pounds, could be an additional selection for the NCAA Tournament, alongside the four automatic qualifiers. Capone finished seventh overall at 197 pounds.
That decision will be made March 9.