The No. 2 Ohio State wrestling team returns three former individual national champions and multiple members of the team that won a national championship in 2015.
There are 10 Ohio State wrestlers — one in each of the 10 weight classes — are ranked in the top 12 of FloWrestling’s preseason individual weight class rankings. Given the depth of the roster, it might seem like national championship or bust for the Buckeyes.
Head coach Tom Ryan took it one step further.
“In March, not only do we want to win, I want to be the best team to ever walk on the mat,” he said. “I want this team to have more points and more champions than any team in the history of the sport.”
Ohio State opens the season Saturday with the Princeton Open in Princeton, New Jersey. The open will strictly feature individual-weight brackets in lieu of a team competition. Ohio State opens its dual-meet season at home Sunday against Arizona State.
Ryan’s roster is headlined by a trio of seniors looking to become the first four-time All-Americans together in NCAA history. That group features senior heavyweight and Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder, redshirt senior and 2015 national champion Nathan Tomasello (125 pounds) and redshirt senior and 2017 Big Ten champion Bo Jordan (174 pounds).
For the first couple months of the season, however, the 125-pound class will be anchored by Columbus product and freshman Brakan Mead. He will be stepping in for Tomasello, who sustained a right knee injury while competing internationally last month. It was believed initially that Tomasello would return in January, but the recent prognosis now points toward December, Ryan said.
The lineup is supplemented by No. 2 junior Myles Martin (184 pounds), No. 1 redshirt sophomore Kollin Moore (197 pounds) and No. 4 redshirt junior Micah Jordan (157 pounds).
Two competitors with NCAA tournament experience — sixth-ranked junior Joey McKenna (141 pounds) and 12th-ranked Te’Shan Campbell (165 pounds) — transferred to Ohio State during the offseason.
No. 6 sophomore Luke Pletcher dropped from 141 pounds to wrestle at 133 pounds.
Ryan finds it hard to contain his enthusiasm when he looks at his lineup, which he said is likely the most talented in Buckeye history.
“Sustained excitement,” Ryan said. “That’s what I think of. I think of just one after the other. They all bring so many unique things to the sport, to wrestling, their styles. They have different styles but they’re all uniquely good. I’m just looking forward to seeing the team compete. I think they feed off each other, they will feed off each other and it’s just going to be an exciting year up and down the lineup.”
Though it can sometimes be hard to view the upcoming season as anything other than national championship or bust, Martin said outcomes can often be unpredictable and that only a lack of effort would be considered a failure this season.
“If some guys around nationals time get nervous, they like hold back, get a little conservative, I feel like that’s a failure,” Martin said. “Just because all year we focus on putting all we have out there and trying to put the best wrestling and just wrestle through every position and just leaving it all on the mat. If that doesn’t happen up and down the lineup then it’s probably a failure.”
Two away dual meets in February loom large. The Buckeyes will travel to meet No. 1 Penn State on Feb. 3 and head to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on the No. 4 Wolverines on Feb. 11.
Ohio State wrestles in the Schottenstein Center twice this season, once on Jan. 12 against No. 6 Minnesota, then on Jan. 21 against No. 7 Iowa.
For now, the Buckeyes are simply just ready to wrestle opponents outside of the Steelwood Training Facility.
“It’s been getting chippy in the wrestling room,” Martin said. “A couple of the bigger guys have just been pushing each other. We beat each other up all the time, we fight every day.”