The No. 2 Ohio State wrestling team will be traveling to State College, Pennsylvania, to face No. 1 Penn State for the biggest dual meet of the regular season at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Ohio State won the Big Ten championship last season, but Penn State took revenge by winning the national championship while the Buckeyes finished second. Ever since that bitter end to last season, the Buckeyes have been waiting for their next shot at the Nittany Lions.
“It has nothing to do with the individuals, but just the team itself. Something about when you put ‘em all together, and they wear a Penn State singlet,” Ohio State top-ranked heavyweight senior Kyle Snyder said. “I just wanna destroy them. Probably cause they’re good. I wanna beat them worse than I’ve wanted to beat any team since I’ve been at Ohio State.”
Penn State is coming off a 25-15 win against Rutgers Sunday, but will not have a completely healthy roster. No. 1 157-pounder Jason Nolf was injured in his last match and will miss the meet Saturday. No. 5 Micah Jordan will compete for Ohio State at 157 pounds against Nolf’s replacement. Nolf is expected be back for the postseason.
Ohio State holds rankings advantages in half of the 10 matches, with the remaining five being too close to call or favor Penn State. The Buckeyes dominate in the lightweight and heavyweight classes with four top-five wrestlers in those weight classes. Penn State has four top-ranked middleweights, but will be down to just three due to Nolf’s injury.
Penn State No. 2 Mark Hall will take on No. 3 senior Bo Jordan at 174 pounds in a matchup that has plenty of history going back to last season.
“We got him at the Big Ten’s, they got us at the NCAA’s, so they are 1-1 against each other. It’s gonna be a heck of a match,” head coach Tom Ryan said.
In the lightweights, Ohio State has No. 4 Nathan Tomasello at 125 pounds and No. 2 Luke Pletcher at 133. Penn State doesn’t have ranked wrestlers in these weight classes, which gives the Buckeyes opportunities to rack up bonus points.
“We gotta hold our ground in the ones that we should hold our ground in. [One hundred-twenty-five], we need bonus points. Heavyweight, we need bonus points,” Ryan said. “Pletcher has been wrestling really well at , he’s gotta continue to compete the way he’s been competing.”
The showcase match will be Penn State’s No. 1 Bo Nickal against Ohio State’s No. 2 Myles Martin at 184 pounds, Ryan said. The Buckeyes head coach said if “you polled the fan base,” the matchup between those two would be selected as the one to watch. Nickal won the national championship at 184 pounds last year.
Ohio State junior Te’Shan Campbell, who is No. 14 at 165 pounds, will attempt to knock off No. 1 sophomore and reigning 165-pound national champion Vincenzo Joseph. Campbell has dropped his last four bouts and sat out the team’s last match against Purdue.
“We need to see Campbell compete at the level that he is capable of,” Ryan said. “He has struggled lately, he’s just gotta be himself.”
Ohio StateNo. 1 sophomore Kollin Moore is favored in his match against No. 7 Shakur Rasheed at 197 pounds, and and there’s little uncertainty about what to expect from Snyder at heavyweight.
“I think we’ll quiet the crowd in a couple weights. In some of the places where we are really favored, there’s not gonna be much for them to cheer about,” Snyder said. “But then in other weights where it’s gonna be a close match or they’re favored, they’re probably gonna be getting after it pretty good.”
In the matches where the Buckeyes will be underdogs, No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes and No. 11 Joey McKenna will be forced to attempt to pull off upsets against higher-ranked wrestlers.
Hayes will battle No. 1 Zain Retherford, a senior and two-time national champion at 149 pounds. McKenna will wrestle No. 6 Nick Lee, who is 6-0 in his freshman season.
Though the pair of Buckeyes will have their work cut out for them against higher-ranked opponents, they will be heavily relied on by their teammates. The ability of one of the Ohio State wrestlers to pull off an upset would significantly improve the potential for a favorable outcome of the meet for Ohio State.
Even though this meet is not a postseason matchup, Ryan said he sees the significance of this competition.
“Under the guidelines that we’re competing in, this will determine at least a co-Big Ten championship with a dual meet standpoint,” Ryan said.
The meet will start at 8 p.m. and can be watched on Big Ten Network.