The Ohio State wrestling team has a chance to send a message to the rest of the country with back-to-back ranked wins against Rutgers.
The No. 5 Buckeyes (4-1, 0-0 Big Ten) have a chance to garner their second straight high-caliber win with their first conference opponent in No. 24 Rutgers (6-0, 1-0) Friday at the Covelli Center.
“I think we’re progressing,” Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said. “Maybe not as fast as we want to, but I see progression in people, and that’s a good thing. We gotta keep getting better.”
Ohio State is riding high off a one-point win against then-No. 4 Arizona State Monday. It was the first loss of the season for the Sun Devils, who ended Penn State’s 60-match winning streak in November.
The Scarlet Knights enter undefeated and have yet to beat an opponent by fewer than 10 points. However, a Rutgers win would be its first against Ohio State in school history.
The home crowd for the Buckeyes has become a major factor in their meets at Covelli.
“The crowd helps a lot. It’s all that you hear when you’re wrestling, and it inspires you to push hard, work more, do more things, shoot more, push the pace,” redshirt sophomore Kaleb Romero said.
Several key matchups will impact the outcome of the dual.
Ohio State freshman Jordan Decatur, who wrestles at 133 pounds, is searching for another upset against Rutgers freshman Sammy Alvarez, ranked No. 11 in the weight class.
Decatur defeated Arizona State senior Josh Kramer, then-No. 15, while unranked in the Buckeyes’ previous dual meet.
“You’ll see me back here on Friday putting on another ranked guy. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to get after it,” Decatur said.
Another ranked matchup awaits at 174 pounds when Romero, No. 9 in the weight class, will likely take on Rutgers redshirt junior Joe Grello, No. 19.
Ohio State redshirt senior Kollin Moore, the No. 1 wrestler at 197 pounds, will take on Rutgers’ No. 17 redshirt senior Jordan Pagano.
No. 1 wrestler at 141 pounds Ohio State senior Luke Pletcher will be in action against either freshman JoJo Aragona or redshirt junior Zach Firestone from Rutgers.
“Right now you have two guys ranked first. You feel good about them scoring points, moving through the tournament,” Ryan said. “And then you’re looking for others.”
One of those wrestlers on the cusp of a top 10 ranking is Ohio State redshirt sophomore Ethan Smith, the No. 13 wrestler in the 165-pound weight class. Smith will square off with Rutgers redshirt junior Brett Donner Friday.
Ryan said that historically, Ohio State wrestling has not been good after its holiday break.
It had been nearly a month since Ohio State competed prior to its win Monday, but if the Buckeyes pull off another win Friday, they may just buck the trend.
The Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights face off at 7 p.m. Friday in the Covelli Center.