CLEVELAND — Bo Jordan did everything he was supposed to do to win a national championship.
It wasn’t enough.
Ohio State’s 174-pound redshirt senior changed his training regime for his final season with the hope of becoming healthier, and therefore a bigger threat to win a national championship. In seasons past, Jordan sustained nagging injuries due to overtraining and was unable to practice and compete in matches. He had just nine minutes of live wrestling under his belt in his preparation for last season’s NCAA championships.
Jordan’s accomplishments in his collegiate career include being named an All-American four times, two top-three NCAA finishes, a Big Ten championship and two conference runner-ups. His career record is now 88-13. He came to Ohio State with hopes of finishing as an undefeated four-time national champion. Jordan accomplished everything but that goal.
After his quarterfinals match with Missouri’s third-seeded Daniel Lewis, the sixth-seeded Jordan had to let his national championship dreams go. An early takedown by Lewis powered him past Jordan for a 3-1 victory, despite Jordan being persistent on offense.
“We controlled most of the match. It was one of those matches and it kind of just got stolen, in a way,” Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said. “[Lewis] shot once 10 seconds into the period and did a great job of finishing it. That was all he needed. We were in like four or five times. That’s one of those games like a soccer game. One team has 20 shots on goal and one has one and one went in.”
Jordan made his way back late Friday night in the consolation bracket, picking up two victories in an attempt for third place and his fourth and final All-American distinction. He made some ground up, but still, it was not enough to make up for the earlier defeat.
“I just feel pretty crushed,” Jordan said after the loss. “My dream has always been to be a national champ, and that can’t happen now. I just talked to coach and I have to come back for the team. The team needs me. I have to get my head straight for tonight. Kind of after the first match too. My head wasn’t really straight, that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
Winning both a team and individual national championship in his final season was always the endgame for the redshirt senior, especially with the NCAA tournament taking place in his home state of Ohio.
His plan was to pace himself until he got there. More training, with less injuries. He’d see highly ranked opponents to test himself throughout the season.
The opposite happened.
Jordan lost more matches than ever this season despite staying healthy. He was named a six seed for the NCAA tournament after starting the season ranked third in the country in his weight class. However, he still feels he had his best mental focus and training of his career this season.
“The last 365 days have been awesome,” Jordan said. “I’ve lost a lot of matches, but I’ve felt good. I’ve been able to make adjustments. Usually coming into this tournament I haven’t been tested, I’ve barely wrestled one top-10 guy. Now, I’ve wrestled Zahid [Valencia] twice, Mark [Hall] once, [Myles] Amine twice. I’ve wrestled a lot of the toughest guys in the top-10, top five. But yeah, I just didn’t get it done in the seven minutes.”
This year was just different for Jordan. Despite it all, he still believed he could win it all coming in. He yearned for another crack at the top-seeded Valencia and second-seeded Hall after losses earlier this season.
His best just wasn’t enough in the quarterfinals.
“Unfortunately, I believe I do have the potential to win a national title, but not today,” Jordan said. “Unfortunately the tournament is only over these past three days in March. It was the best I had today, I give [Lewis] credit. That was the best I had that match. I got all of my stuff out there, I feel like. I’m going to to walk away from this feeling good about it.”
A somber moment came after the quarterfinal loss. Jordan, short on words and long on disappointment, stood Ryan in the tunnel in silence. The two embraced, and Ryan told him to let the feeling of loss in for about 15 minutes, but then block it out.
He did just that in his two victories to end the night, making what now seems like a futile attempt, due to Ohio State’s 11-point deficit after the second day of the championships. Maybe it’s a microcosm of his season, or vice-versa.
Jordan leaves Ohio State with a nearly full trophy case. He gets to walk out the door with his health intact, a rarity given his recent years. What is most important, though, is not what Jordan leaves with — it’s what he’ll come home to. He’s a husband and father to two young children, with a third on the way.
“My family has only been a positive thing, it’s only helped me,” Jordan said. “My family takes stress off and makes it easier for me. It’s easier to disengage from training when I get back home.”