A season ago, Joey McKenna and Te’Shan Campbell won the Pac-12 championship and ACC championship, respectively. Now, the two are looking for success with a different program, Ohio State, that has championship aspirations of its own.
The junior McKenna, who will compete at either 141 or 149 pounds, was an All-American last season at Stanford while placing third in the nation at 141 pounds. Campbell competes at 165 pounds and was a two-time NCAA tournament qualifier at Pittsburgh.
Ohio State coach Tom Ryan acknowledged how advantageous it was to add the two transfers to an already talented group.
“It’s quite a luxury,” Ryan said. “We’re really fortunate that both of those guys decided to be Buckeyes.”
McKenna owns an overall record of 58-6 (21-1 dual record), which includes 15 falls and four technical falls. He compiled 15 victories against nationally ranked opponents while at Stanford. As a high-schooler, he won three national championships in New Jersey.
Campbell has made his mark in the city of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania, growing up in the Steel City and competing there since adolescence. The junior registered an overall record of 40-16 as a Panther, including a 22-4 mark in 2016-17. He tallied 10 technical falls, seven major decisions and three falls during his two college seasons. In high school, he won the 2015 PIAA state championship at 170 pounds and ended his senior season undefeated.
Since the two transfers have arrived in Columbus, Ryan has seen all the positive qualities he hopes to see in all his transfers.
“Love, passion, purpose,” Ryan said. “All of the things that you would expect to see from an individual that left places where they were perhaps comfortable, had rooted friendships. It’s not an easy thing to do, to have the courage to leave a school where they were happy.”
A drive for competitive success seems to be the most pertinent reason wrestlers like McKenna and Campbell transferred to Ohio State. McKenna said geography was also a major factor in his decision.
“I’m from the East Coast, I’m originally from New Jersey and a big part of me wanted to come back closer to home,” McKenna said. “There was something about the program that was always appealing to me. I’m good friends with Kyle Snyder. After coming here on my visit and seeing the energy in the room and seeing how motivated everybody was, it felt contagious and I wanted to surround myself with those kinds of guys.”
Jason Borrelli, McKenna’s former coach at Stanford, said McKenna will add his own unique energy to the culture at Ohio State.
“I just think his consistent approach will rub off on people,” Borrelli said. “That bodes well for other people that need maybe some of that guidance. He’ll be the guy that nearly every day will revolve around doing something to make him a little better at the sport of wrestling or academically or whatever endeavor he’s chasing.”
Campbell, on the other hand, decided to transfer because he wanted to put himself in the best position to win, while also hoping to become a better man.
“You see guys on the team that are engaged, married, starting families, having good families and stuff like that that you want to be a part of,” Campbell said.
The culture Ryan and the coaching staff have built at Ohio State was the decider in Campbell’s decision to transfer.
“The coaches pretty much sold me on the development of being a good guy, being a good man,” Campbell said. “You can learn wrestling anywhere, and that was probably the difference maker for me in deciding to come here.”
As far as personal and team goals for their remaining two seasons at Ohio State, McKenna and Campbell are in agreement. They want it all.
“As a team, I hope to help Ohio State win their second NCAA title in the past five years,” McKenna said. “That’d be awesome for the school, for the program and just everybody on the team. Me, I want to become an NCAA champion for the first time.”
McKenna might be shooting for the stars, but Borrelli believes the sky’s the limit for his former team captain at Stanford.
“I think that he has the ability to win national championships,” Borrelli said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from him than to be competing for national titles in his remaining two years.”
He hopes to find success in the uncharted territory of being a Buckeye, and wants to be entertaining while he does it.
Campbell also has set his expectations high. Those lofty goals are based not only in his athletic life, but also in his academic life where he said he hopes to stay on top of his grades and leave the school with life skills developed through his time as a Buckeye
Ryan said that along with being goal-oriented, motivation has not been a problem for his two decorated transfers.
“The statement isn’t in leaving,” Ryan said. “The statement is in what you do after you’ve chosen to transfer. They seem, right now, really hungry to attain the things they want to in the sport, and beyond.”