For the first time in four seasons, as the Ohio State wrestling team prepares to defend its title — the first national championship in program history — it will proceed without Logan Stieber.
Life without the most decorated wrestler in OSU history has begun.
Masterfully, Stieber was a force. Ending his career 119-3, winning his last 50 matches, he — along with coach Tom Ryan — took the wrestling program to unprecedented heights.
The Buckeyes are now discovering why repeating as national champions in college athletics is so hard.
OSU not only has to make up for the absence of Stieber’s scoring, but Kyle Snyder’s as well, as the second-year Buckeye plans to redshirt the upcoming season to train for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“It will be weird,” Snyder said. “It will be hard for me to come to practice and watch, and not be able to compete because I’m going to want to practice so bad. (There) will definitely be a bitter taste in my mouth.”
Like Stieber, Snyder — the first collegiate wrestler to win the U.S. Open and make the World Team as a freshman — was dominant. With Snyder in the lineup, the Buckeyes were favored to repeat as national champions.
Now sans Snyder, the Buckeyes are projected as a bubble team.
“Obviously, preseason rankings, you go from No. 1 to No. 5 when you don’t have a Kyle Snyder in the lineup,” Ryan said. “It’s hard to make up the 25 points that you consider him getting in the national tournament, but we’ve got people who can.”
Redshirt sophomores Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan can make up the points, and should.
Tomasello is coming off a 33-4 season in which he captured the Big Ten and NCAA championship at 125 pounds.
For Jordan, he is pegged as InterMat’s top-ranked wrestler at 174 pounds and comes off a 2014 season in which he went 11-0 in dual meets and 9-0 against the Big Ten.
The incoming freshman class should assist the team, as well.
“We’ve got some really good freshmen coming in,” Jordan said. “A lot of guys that think right and train really hard and have the right mindset.”
Freshman Kollin Moore, along with Myles Martin, have made early impressions. Former high school standouts, Moore went 51-0 in his senior year at Norwayne High School in Creston, Ohio, and Martin — a New Jersey native and FloWrestling’s No. 3 recruit — is expected to contribute early at 174 pounds behind Jordan.
Satisfied with the young guys at the back end of the lineup, Ryan — who has coached four different student-athletes to eight national championships — refuses to settle. In fact, he’s raising expectations for the young Buckeyes.
“Winning it one year is fantastic, but we’re here to stay,” Ryan said. “We want prolonged, sustained success, and I’m really confident that 10 years from now, people in the wrestling world and community will say, ‘Ohio State is a place where wrestling is alive and well.’”
Repeating is OSU’s goal, but Ryan admits the loss of Snyder is a hurdle. Nevertheless, he thinks the team can vault it.
“The goal is to win another championship. That hasn’t changed,” Ryan said. “It’s definitely more challenging without (Snyder), but what a story it will be, should it happen come March.”
Confident and convinced, the Buckeyes — despite being without two All-Americans — are ready to defend their title.
“We’re not going to have Logan and Snyder, but we’re still going to be good, and I know we can win a national title if everything happens right,” Jordan said.
As Stieber and Snyder continue to train in Columbus for their personal careers, their presence will still be felt. On the mat, however, life without both has just begun.