CLEVELAND — Ohio State came into this season believing it was better than last year, and that this time, it would beat Penn State at the NCAA national championships.
It didn’t happen for them.
Though the Buckeyes had a shot at victory, several key losses from high performers dropped Ohio State below the Nittany Lions in the team standings for a second consecutive second-place finish.
The end of the season now presents an opportunity to digest the team’s season as a whole.
Losing by seven points at the 2018 NCAA wrestling championship to Penn State, the Buckeyes finds themselves in the same position it did at the end of last year: Big Ten champions and NCAA runner-ups.
Considering the lofty expectations the team entered the campaign with and the major losses the team will have to deal with, this is a disappointing end to the Buckeyes’ year despite how good Penn State is and how well Ohio State did compared to every other school at the tournament.
“We can look at a lot of matches that happened this weekend. The Ke-Shawn Hayes quarterfinal was huge,” head coach Tom Ryan said. “If Ke-Shawn Hayes gets that reversal … We can look back at points everywhere. The bottom line is it wasn’t enough.”
The Buckeyes went 14-1 during dual-meet season, with their only loss coming at Penn State on Feb. 3. Ohio State would have won that meet if top ranked Kollin Moore hadn’t fallen to Anthony Cassar 6-3.
In the dual meet between the top two schools in the country, one unlikely result changed the complexion of what the narrative would have been about this Ohio State wrestling team.
“We have to assess the things we did well as a staff, and didn’t do well as a staff. Kollin Moore wasn’t ready,” Ryan said.
The hype was built up after Ohio State dominated the Big Ten championships March 4-5, where it won for the second straight year. The Buckeyes had seven wrestlers in the Big Ten finals, with four taking home Big Ten titles.
A third Kyle Snyder national championship served as one of the lone redeeming takeaways from the national tournament for the Buckeyes, given he was the lone national champion for the Buckeyes this season. Afterwards, he felt for Myles Martin.
“When the match stops like that and you feel like you had some momentum going, that really stinks,” Snyder said. “And I love Myles. So I know he’s probably sad, but he’s a really tough kid and a really good kid.”
Ohio State set a school record with eight All-Americans in 2018, two more than the previous record set last season. But struggles similar to both of No. 1 seed Kollin Moore’s losses to Kent State’s unranked Kyle Conel contributed to the runner-up finish.
Even smaller decisions, such as Micah Jordan’s loss in the fifth-place bout at 157 pounds, slowly chipped away points for Ohio State. Since the strength of the team is its depth throughout all 10 weight classes, it is hard to overcome four national championships posted by the only other competitive team in the team score when the depth doesn’t shine bright.
For Snyder, the 2018 national championship win will be his last in scarlet and gray. The Buckeyes next season will have to find a way to replace him in their lineup. Snyder, on the other hand, will continue alone as an individual wrestler competing internationally as a professional.
In humble Snyder fashion, spending all the hours with his teammates is what Snyder will remember the most.
“We have a banquet every year at Ohio State and the seniors all get up there and speak, and I’ve wrote down some of my speech,” Snyder said. “And everytime I look back on my time at Ohio State it has nothing to do with what I’ve accomplished. It’s more so just the individual moments with my teammates and being in the practice room.”
The team is saying goodbye to two other legendary seniors: Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan. Ryan knows where his program is going to be in the future because of the foundation built by the guys that are leaving, or have already gone.
“We have five guys here in the top six that are returning,” Ryan said. “So, there’s a strong nucleus of guys back.”
The Ohio State wrestling team had an incredibly successful season by the standards of most programs. But for one that went into the season knowing it had what it took to win a national championship, it didn’t achieve its main goal when the pressure was on the line.