Ohio State is looking to send its seniors out on a high note Sunday.
The No. 6 Buckeyes (9-3 5-2 Big Ten) host No. 23 Northwestern (3-5 1-4 Big Ten) for senior night, the final home meet for a trio of wrestlers.
“With the last one, we want to send our seniors out in style,” Ohio State associate head coach J Jaggers said.
The Wildcats are coming off a tight 19-18 road loss to Illinois, but they host Michigan State Friday before making the trip to Columbus.
After dropping its second dual meet of the past four to No. 4 Nebraska this past week, Ohio State will need a win against Northwestern to stay among the nation’s elite.
Ohio State senior Luke Pletcher, the nation’s No. 1 wrestler at 141 pounds, said he feels a mix of emotions for his final dual meet at the Covelli Center.
“I’m just excited. Last dual meet, it’s a little weird feeling but, I’m excited for it,” Pletcher said.
After the loss to the Cornhuskers, Ohio State dropped from the No. 3 ranking down to No. 6.
Jaggers said he’s not too concerned about the results, and happy with the team’s steady improvement.
“I think we’ve been trending up all year, which is good, even in defeat,” Jaggers said. “All we’re looking at is progress, and we’re seeing that.”
One Buckeye who continues to trend upward is redshirt freshman Sammy Sasso, who ascended to the No. 1 spot among 149-pound wrestlers this week. His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and his 20-2 record this season has earned praise from his peers.
“He’s disciplined. The way he’s working in the room, he’s just bringing a lot of energy. He’s focused and you can tell he’s dialed in,” Pletcher said.
Jaggers said it’s that energy that separates Sasso as a wrestler.
“I think what makes Sammy so unique is just his enthusiasm for wrestling,” Jaggers said.
Sasso will be in one of four probable ranked matchups Sunday against Northwestern redshirt sophomore Yahya Thomas, the No. 16 wrestler at 149 pounds.
Ohio State redshirt sophomore Ethan Smith –– No. 13 at 165 pounds –– will go against Northwestern senior Shayne Oster, who is No. 18. Smith will look to shake off his loss from this past Sunday, which dealt the decisive blow to Ohio State against the Cornhuskers.
Ohio State redshirt senior Kollin Moore, the No. 1 197-pounder in the country, will try to remain undefeated when he matches up with Northwestern redshirt freshman Lucas Davison, ranked No. 13 in the weight class.
Another Buckeye hoping to avenge a Sunday loss is redshirt sophomore Kaleb Romero, the No. 7 wrestler at 174 pounds. He’ll take on another top 25 opponent in Northwestern redshirt sophomore Tyler Morland –– ranked No. 22 in the weight class.
There will be a few lineup changes for Ohio State going into Sunday’s meet.
Ohio State redshirt sophomore Dylan Koontz will suit up and test his mettle in the 125-pound weight class against Northwestern redshirt freshman Michael DeAugustino, who is ranked No. 11.
“I’m excited for Koontz at ,” Jaggers said. “He just competes hard the whole match. He and his brother put in a lot of time.”
Ohio State redshirt junior Elijah Cleary will receive the nod to start at 157 pounds. Redshirt freshman Quinn Kinner took over the starting job for the past two meets and posted a 1-1 record. Cleary will be back in action on Sunday against Northwestern’s redshirt junior Ryan Deakin, the No. 1 157-pounder.
“We’re looking for consistency at the weight class,” Jaggers said. “Cleary’s been pretty consistent, but he’s lost a few tight ones. We need to see him jump levels to get those wins.”
The Buckeyes will compete against the Wildcats at 2 p.m. Sunday.