Ohio State wrestling’s first foray into conference competition was a success, as the Buckeyes handed Rutgers its first loss of the season Friday.
No. 5 Ohio State (5-1, 1-0 Big Ten) defeated No. 24 Rutgers (6-1, 1-1 Big Ten) 22-13, securing its second ranked victory against a ranked opponent in the past week at the Covelli Center.
Still, Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan saw room for improvement.
“There were some critical moments when [the team] was completely unfocused. Unfocused wrestling,” Ryan said. “Everybody knows that at a really high level, unfocused wrestling is going to get [the team] in trouble.”
Despite occasional lapses in focus, the win was fueled by performances from redshirt junior Gary Traub and Ohio State’s two No. 1-ranked wrestlers, senior Luke Pletcher and redshirt senior Kollin Moore.
The home crowd was alive and packed for the meet, but spectators were loudest for Traub, a heavyweight wrestler. The fan favorite pulled off a 4-2 win in the second overtime round against Rutgers redshirt junior Matt Correnti with the vocal support of the crowd.
“It’s insane. I’m sitting back in [the locker room], trying to shake the nerves, then all of a sudden hear, ‘Gary! Gary!” Traub said. “It gets me juiced up and ready to go.”
Ryan said Traub’s effort is hard not to root for.
“Why is it that the crowd loves him so much?” Ryan said. “It’s pretty simple: because he tries so hard. He competes.”
The dual started at 141 pounds with Pletcher defeating Rutgers freshman JoJo Aragona. The 12-4 win gave Ohio State an early advantage on the scoreboard.
The newest Ohio State black shirt, redshirt sophomore and No. 9-ranked 174-pound wrestler Kaleb Romero, started his night with a top 20 win. Romero bested Rutgers No. 19 junior Joe Grello with a 9-2 win.
“Kaleb is wrestling extremely well,” Ryan said. “He does a few things, and he does them well.”
At 149 pounds, No. 6 Ohio State redshirt freshman Sammy Sasso tallied a 16-7 major decision win for the Buckeyes against Rutgers redshirt freshman Gerard Angelo.
Moore also had a ranked match against No. 17 redshirt senior Jordan Pagano. Moore came out on top with a convincing 20-9 win in the 197-pound weight class.
In the dwindling moments of Moore’s match, a last-second takedown by Pagano stuck with Moore.
“I wish I didn’t give up that last takedown,” Moore said. “But it’s nothing really to me. It’d be nice to — even though I’m pretty tired from shooting all match — fend off that takedown.”
The final major decision points for Ohio State came in the 165-pound weight class. No. 13 Ohio State redshirt sophomore Ethan Smith left the mat with a 13-4 win against Rutgers redshirt junior Brett Donner.
Ohio State’s win is a statement to the rest of the ranked teams in the country, as the Buckeyes have now defeated No. 7 Arizona State and No. 24 Rutgers in back-to-back meets. The win extended the Buckeyes’ winning streak to three.
The Buckeyes have a busy upcoming weekend with an away dual in Madison, Wisconsin, against No. 8 Wisconsin at 9 p.m. Jan. 17, and a home meet at the Covelli Center against Illinois at 1 p.m. Jan. 19.