CLEVELAND — There was a point when a senior season for Nathan Tomasello seemed unlikely.
Thanks to good news at a few doctor visits and sheer force of will, the redshirt senior 125-pounder was able to wrestle 18 matches for Ohio State this season and finish third at the NCAA championships after a knee injury in October that was originally believed to be season ending.
“I was going to do all that I could to get back here,” Tomasello said. “I wasn’t sure how healthy I’d be. It’s a blessing that everything feels good. My knee feels strong and to be able to wrestle as hard as I could and I feel like I’m pretty much close to 100 percent. I’m just grateful for that because even if I was going to have to wear a big brace or something, I was going to compete. No matter what.”
Tomasello returned to the mat in January after he received a positive diagnosis on his knee and had his right meniscus scoped and trimmed. Rehab landed the Buckeye ahead of schedule, and allowed the redshirt senior to close his career on the podium with a win in sudden victory against Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak in the NCAA third-place match.
The winning takedown in the 8-6 sudden victory came with around 12 seconds remaining. After making it out of regulation and the majority of overtime with the score knotted up, Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan yelled from the corner, telling Tomasello he had to act. He was out of time.
“I gotta score,” Tomasello said. “I gotta score with that minute to go. I didn’t want to go back down. [Lizak’s] an unbelievable top rider and he’s a warrior, man. He’s tough. I figured it was going to be a good battle again. He gets to his best position and it was just a battle.”
While Ryan was impressed with Tomasello’s performance in the wrestlebacks, a part of him wanted Tomasello to win his second individual national championship after his title as a freshman. Ryan even said this week that he’d personally feel less satisfied on his deathbed if Tomasello didn’t prevail again. Instead, the redshirt senior completed his third third-place finish.
“Bittersweet, you know, obviously he’s meant a lot to the program,” Ryan said. “He is what he said he was: a true warrior. And I’m just really proud of him. You know he was first, and to come back for third once is something, twice is really something, and to do it three times in a row it really I think epitomizes who he is. So one, three, three, three. Pretty good college career, so I’m really proud of him and he’s a four point student, so he’s the real deal.”
Following his last collegiate match, Tomasello expressed that the feeling of no longer being a Buckeye wrestler had not hit him yet. He believes it will with more down time next week as he takes some rest before preparing to compete internationally. He said it felt bittersweet to him just like it did for Ryan. He loves being a leader and member of the Ohio State wrestling team.
What Tomasello can take with him is an unheard of feat that was accomplished this weekend by he and two of his fellow seniors — Bo Jordan and Kyle Snyder. The trio became the first teammates in NCAA history to be named four-time All-Americans together. Other accolades of Tomasello’s include four individual Big Ten championships, a team national championship and three team Big Ten championships.
His one loss at the 2018 NCAA wrestling championships in Cleveland, just down the road from his hometown of Parma, Ohio, came in the semifinals against a wrestler that Ryan called a “buzz saw.” Spencer Lee of Iowa pinned Tomasello and ended his hopes of a national title.
“Spencer just beat me,” Tomasello said. “He was a better wrestler that night and I just give him a lot of props. I felt like overall, I wrestled really hard and gave all that I could, all my effort into this last tournament. I don’t feel like I have much regret.”
Anyone who enters the Ohio State wrestling room in the future will know of Tomasello. A picture of him from his freshman national championship victory is already featured in the room.
But there’s a word that comes up often with Tomasello and those around him that won’t be featured on any wall or trophy: warrior.
With blood making its way out of a large cut in his left cheek that he suffered from a headbutt in the third-place match, he explained that’s the word by which he wants to be remembered.
“Someone that battles and goes through adversity, but always brings everything he has and attacks and goes out there as a warrior,” Tomasello said.