The No. 2 Ohio State wrestling team begins its path to another title at noon Thursday when it competes in the NCAA wrestling championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
If the Buckeyes are to win the national title, they will need every additional point possible throughout the lineup, since depth is their strength. No. 1 Penn State returns five national champions, making Ohio State’s deep roster important.
Senior Nathan Tomasello enters nationals after claiming his fourth Big Ten championship. He also won the 2015 NCAA championship and finished third the past two years. The No. 2 seed and a Parma, Ohio, native, Tomasello will be returning home for his final collegiate matches.
Tomasello is 11-1 this season and faces a comfortable path up until the quarterfinals, when he could potentially face Utah Valley freshman Taylor LaMont, the No. 7 seed with a 25-3 record.
Tomasello is expected to make a run at the finals, and could potentially win his second individual national title. To do so, Tomasello might have to defeat Iowa third-seeded freshman Spencer Lee — who handed him his only loss this season — in the semifinals. If he made the finals, Lehigh top-seeded Darian Cruz or Rutgers fourth-seeded Nick Suriano might be waiting for him.
No. 3 seed sophomore Luke Pletcher finished second at the Big Ten championship, losing in the finals to Michigan redshirt sophomore Stevan Micic. Pletcher lost his past two matches against the second-seeded Wolverine, who is 22-2 on the season. Micic beat Pletcher 11-4 on Feb. 11 and 7-4 in the Big Ten final. The two could meet again in the semifinals Friday.
The weight class’ top seed is South Dakota State redshirt junior Seth Gross, who is 24-1 on the year. Before facing Micic, Pletcher’s toughest matchup might be against Lehigh No. 6 seed Scott Parker.
Joey McKenna comes in as the No. 4 seed after winning his third straight conference championship — the first two being with Stanford — and finishing with a 16-1 record in his first season as a Buckeye. He finished third at nationals in 2016, when he lost to this year’s No. 1 seed, Bryce Meredith of Wyoming, in a 5-3 decision in the semifinals.
This year, the pair could meet in the semifinals. Meredith is 29-1 on the season.
Ke-Shawn Hayes starts this NCAA championships as the No. 5 seed. He beat Nebraska’s Colton McCrystal 7-5 to take third place in the Big Ten championship. Hayes will wrestle against Michigan’s Malik Amine in the first round. Hayes faced Amine on Feb. 11 and won 9-2.
Hayes would likely next face Virginia Tech No. 12 seed Ryan Blees, who is 22-7. North Carolina fourth-seeded Troy Heilmann would likely await in the quarterfinals.
Redshirt junior Micah Jordan is seeded seventh and looks to build off his Big Ten final appearance. In the Big Ten semifinals, Jordan pinned Iowa’s Michael Kemerer to advance to the final where he lost to Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo,.
If Penn State No. 3 seed Jason Nolf is healthy, he could walk away with another national championship. The No. 2 seed is Missouri’s Joseph Lavallee, who is 29-1 this season.
North Carolina State No. 1 seed Hayden Hidlay beat Jordan 6-3 in the Buckeyes’ last dual meet of the season.
Te’Shan Campbell qualified for nationals at the Big Ten championships by wrestling solid matches after dropping his first two of the tournament. A 9-0 major decision win for Campbell against Maryland redshirt sophomore Brendan Burnham after two losses, along with another win against Indiana redshirt junior Bryce Martin, was enough to qualify Campbell for nationals by finishing ninth in the conference.
Campbell’s first round match at the NCAA tournament is against senior Dawaylon Barnes of Oklahoma, and he would likely then face Rider No. 4 seed Chad Walsh, who is 24-1 on the season.
Bo Jordan enters his final NCAA tournament as the No. 6 seed. Last season, he won the Big Ten championship, then finished second at nationals. This year, he finished third at the conference championship after getting pinned in the semifinal, and will be facing numerous tough wrestlers in his path to the 174-pound title.
Jordan has wrestled the No. 1 seed at 174 pounds twice this season. Arizona State redshirt freshman Zahid Valencia defeated Jordan 9-4 in a dual meet to begin the year and 9-6 at the Cliff Las Vegas Invitational. They are on opposite ends of the bracket, so a rematch would only occur in the finals.
Missouri No. 3 seed Daniel Lewis is the likely quarterfinal opponent who Jordan would face Friday morning. Lewis is 29-0 this season, but Jordan has been tested the entire season, which makes this potential quarterfinal matchup interesting.
Jordan would likely face Penn State No. 2 seed Mark Hall in the semifinals should he advance past Lewis.
At the 184-pound weight class, it will likely come down to Ohio State No. 2 seed Myles Martin and his counterpart, Penn State No. 1 seed Bo Nickal. Martin’s only two losses this season came at the hands of Nickal.
The all-time series is now 6-2 in favor of Nickal, and Martin would have to ruin Nickal’s perfect 26-0 season on the way to his second national title.
Sophomore Kollin Moore is one of two No. 1 seeds Ohio State has going into the tournament, having posted a 22-2 season and claimed his second straight Big Ten championship. His only two losses this season came against significant underdogs.
No. 4 Michael Macchiavello of North Carolina State was one of two wrestlers to beat Moore this season, with the win helping to make him ranked one of the top five wrestlers heading into the tournament. The other loss was to Penn State Anthony Cassar, but the Nittany Lion was replaced in the lineup by fifth-seeded Shakur Rasheed. Moore won with an 8-4 decision against Rasheed in the Big Ten finals.
Moore would likely have a chance to face the winner of a Macchiavello-Rasheed match in the semifinals, then could take on either Cornell No. 2 Ben Darmstadt or Virginia Tech No. 3 Jared Haught in the finals, should he make it that far.
No. 1 seed Kyle Snyder avenged his first collegiate loss since 2015 when he scored a late takedown against Michigan No. 2 seed Adam Coon to win 4-2.
Coon will likely face Penn State No. 3 Nick Nevills in the semifinals. Coon beat Nevills 8-0 on Jan. 12. A Nevills’ win against Coon would mean more team points for Penn State, but also a potentially easier matchup for Snyder in the final than a third match with Coon.
Snyder should cruise to the finals, but a rubber match against Coon seems likely.