“Be all you can be.”
It might be the Army’s mantra, but it’s also something Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan has preached throughout the season.
“You come into practice and it’s really the measuring of effort more than anything,” he said.
And perhaps, with Big Ten and NCAA Championships looming, it means more than it ever has.
For Ryan and the Buckeyes, like most sports, the postseason is often the defining moment in determining the team’s success, or lack thereof.
“This is the best time of the year, as a competitor. A lot hinges on what you do at the end of the year,” he said.
It also ironically happens to be the time where athletes are the most beaten down they have been all year long, having struggled through the grind that is the regular season, Ryan said.
There lies the struggle for OSU at the moment — the art of what Ryan said is making sure his team’s attitude is in the right place despite the natural fatigue that sets in this time of year.
“Despite how much you love it, it’s still a lot of work,” he said. “It’s been a long, physical year — a lot of training.”
Just more than a week removed from the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals where the Buckeyes lost in the Stillwater regional final to Oklahoma State, OSU’s full attention, at the moment, is focused on the Big Ten Championships.
In fact, redshirt junior C.J. Magrum said he and his coaches see losing in the national duals as a bit of a blessing in disguise.
“To be honest, we were all kind of relieved — the coaches were relieved — that we get to take this time and really kick up our training,” Magrum said. “The other teams that are in it, you know, there’s three Big Ten teams, they’re all wrestling each other right now and beating each other up and not getting a good break before Big Tens.”
OSU, on the other hand, is in the middle of a two-week stretch that includes two-a-days, where wrestlers come in the morning and afternoon instead of one practice a day.
Ryan said the intensity has been turned up in preparation for the postseason and next week, they’ll transition into lighter practices in order to adequately rest up and recover before traveling to West Lafayette, Ind. for the Big Ten Championships.
He said while perhaps Big Ten rivals Penn State and Minnesota might be viewed as a notch above the rest of the competition, he’s confident that OSU has a very real shot at winning the tournament.
“We can wrestle better than we have based during the season,” Ryan said.
Redshirt sophomore Nick Heflin agreed the Buckeyes have what it takes to be champions.
“In my personal belief in being in the sport, I think that anyone can be beaten in any day,” he said. “If we’re all on our game, I don’t see why we can’t be the best.”
And even as grueling as practices have been lately, Heflin said he remembers what associate head coach Lou Rosselli told him.
“He said wrestling is like a religion,” Heflin said. “He said you work as hard as you can and you don’t get the results sometimes but you … keep believing and working hard and one day, you’re beating the best.”
Between Ryan, Magrum and Heflin, the collective sentiment seems to suggest that if OSU wrestles to their potential, anything is possible.
Maybe it all comes back to Ryan’s motto of “be all you can be.”
“Live up to your ability, whatever that is, live up to your ability” Ryan said. “And I think if we do that, we’re going to be in the hunt.”