The Buckeyes have managed to stay in the national title hunt despite one of the toughest schedules in college wrestling, a handful of injuries and unpredictable tragedy.
Just about a month after the Ohio State wrestling season began, teammate Kosta Karageorge was found dead a few days after going missing the night before Thanksgiving.
“Obviously Kosta (Karageorge’s death) has been something we’ve dealt with, but we are learning about ourselves,” coach Tom Ryan said. “This team has what it takes mentally and physically to be on top at the end.”
Along with the tragic passing of a teammate, the Buckeyes have also been shorthanded throughout the year and lost some matches early on because of it.
Redshirt-junior Hunter Stieber (elbow) and redshirt-sophomore Nick Tavanello (knee) are looking to return during the first or second rounds of the National Duals.
Stieber (1-2) ranks sixth nationally at 149 pounds despite only wrestling three matches. He was a Big Ten Champion and national semifinalist in 2013.
Tavenello (13-7), ranked ninth at heavyweight, has missed the last seven duals and the Buckeyes don’t have a win from a backup in the weight class. Ryan said he believes Karageaorge could have been a real help during this time of year.
“Kosta would have been tough,” Ryan said. “He put on a lot of size during football and could have been a heavyweight backup, he would have given some of these top guys some good matches.”
Despite the adversity, the third ranked Buckeyes have defeated four teams currently ranked in the top 16 — No. 3 Minnesota, No. 5 Penn State, No. 12 Virginia and No. 16 Michigan.
Leading the way for the Buckeyes has been redshirt-senior Logan Stieber (19-0). Stieber is currently ranked first at 141 pounds and is looking to become just the fourth collegiate wrestler to win four national championships.
Not only has the senior leadership been there for the third-ranked Buckeyes, but three freshmen have also carried their weight and then some, and are a big reason for the team’s success.
Redshirt-freshmen Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan, along with freshman Kyle Snyder, have pushed their way into the top 10 in their respective weight classes.
Tomasello, ranked seventh nationally at 125 pounds, has been called the fire that gets this team going on match days. His aggressive style and nonstop action on the mat provides a spark to each wrestler that follows him in the lineup. At 22-4 he is tied for most wins on the team with redshirt-junior Johnni DiJulius (22-3) and Snyder.
Jordan is currently 14-0 and 37-0 in his career at OSU. He is ranked fifth nationally and has stepped up in key moments to give his team extra points when called upon to do so. In his last match against No. 17 Nick Wanzek, the 165 pounder didn’t just get the win, he managed to get the fall and the hopeful six points.
Snyder continues to move up the rankings and will have a chance to continue this trend after his latest win against a top five opponent Scott Schiller of Minnesota. Snyder looks to be the number one seed for the Big Ten Championships the first weekend in March.
“I’ve never done a study on teams that have won championships and the amount of adversity that they go through and how much makes them grow, but we’ve had our fair share and it’s been a challenging year,” Ryan said. There has been situations where if someone were to have told me they were going to happen beforehand I would have said they should be a writer in Hollywood because that’s some crazy thinking.”
OSU is set to return to the mat Sunday, when it is scheduled to travel to take on No. 15 Edinboro in the first round of the National Duals in Edinboro, Pa.
For more on this story, watch Maddie Spielman’s video below.