While most of Ohio State’s wrestling lineup is set already due to a roster full of veterans, a pair of wrestle-offs were held to determine competitors for three of the lower weights Thursday evening. The Buckeyes begin their season with the Princeton Open on Nov. 4.
Junior Joey McKenna and redshirt sophomore Ke-Shawn Hayes squared off for the right to compete at 141 pounds in a best-of-three series that would see the loser move up to 149 pounds. The match, which was created to settle the weight classes, simply yielded the Buckeyes more uncertainty.
After McKenna, a transfer from Stanford, won the first match 3-2 by way of a tiebreaker, he sustained a knee injury in the second contest, ending the night early for he and Hayes. The injury occurred as the two went towards the edge of the mat and Hayes tried to float his lower half over McKenna, whose knee appeared to give out.
“Things looked scary at first, but it looks like he’s going to be alright,” Ryan said. “He had nothing major. Definitely some pain there, but more and more, a lot of times it’s just fear. You hear something, you immediately go to the place of ‘I’m out, I’m hurt.'”
Ryan said he would leave the decision up to the doctors, but he’s optimistic McKenna will be ready to go for the season opener in two weeks. As far as settling who will compete at 141 pounds, Ryan said he is leaning towards McKenna.
McKenna will be competing in the U-23 World Championships for the United States in late November and will need to be at a leaner weight. Ryan also said Hayes has the more capable frame to compete at a higher weight.
“I think ultimately that’s the way that it will probably go,” Ryan said. “And not necessarily just that Joey may be a hair better than him. Ke-Shawn just looks bigger. He’s just taller and it just seems to be a weight class that would make sense for him physically.”
A pair of freshmen hit the mat for the chance to compete at 125 pounds at the Princeton Open. Brakan Mead won the best-of-three series over Brady Koontz 2-0 after securing a pin during the first match and winning a hefty points victory in the second.
The 125-pound class was left vacant after redshirt senior Nathan Tomasello suffered a right knee injury earlier this month while competing at an international qualifying event. The former NCAA champion will be out for at least the first two months of the season. Ryan appeared ready to go with Mead until Tomasello’s return.
“That weight is settled,” Ryan said. “[Mead] pretty much showed, at least at this point in his career, he’s our guy. He’s coachable. He loves wrestling, so those are real positives. He’s good on top. He’s a very good mat wrestler.
Mead, a Columbus native, won a high school state championship at Olentangy Liberty his senior year, registering a 45-4 record. The freshman will now be thrust into a lineup that trots out multiple former All-Americans and national champions. Tomasello liked what he saw from his young replacement Thursday night.
“He looked good,” Tomasello said. “I was happy to see that he was able to get the pin in the first match. He’s a good top wrestler. He’s intense. I like to see that intensity before the match, during the match. He’s going to scrap hard. When I’m out, I feel like he’d be a good guy that could score points and get the pin.”