COVID-19 has taken the wrestling world down.
It started with the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Division I wrestling championships. Then, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics were postponed one year.
For now, at least, Ohio State wrestlers Kollin Moore and Luke Pletcher will have to wait as they try to exchange scarlet and gray for red, white and blue.
“The next thing is to win a world title and an Olympic title,” Pletcher said.
And for that, the senior wrestlers will have to find places to train — a pressing need for wrestlers as they transition from the folk-style technique used in collegiate competition to the Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines seen on the international stage.
Ohio State has an in-house club team that has seen its share of top wrestlers come through its doors since it was founded in 2006, when Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan first came to Columbus, Ohio.
The athletes and coaches comprising the Ohio Regional Training Center train at the Jennings Family Wrestling Practice Facility, but the club is independently funded and not affiliated with Ohio State.
Former Ohio State wrestlers and NCAA champions Nate Tomasello and Myles Martin train at the facility, as does J’Den Cox, a three-time NCAA champion and two-time world champion who wrestled at Missouri.
News broke on Twitter Wednesday that Moore would become another former Buckeye to join the training center’s ranks. Moore will start training for the Olympics once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“I am already qualified for the Olympic trials,” Moore said. “That’s one less thing I have to worry about.”
Moore’s qualification comes from a runner-up finish at the 2019 Senior Nationals. Moore, who wrestled at 197 pounds at Ohio State, will compete in the 97-kilogram weight class, which translates to about 213 pounds.
“I’m trying to put on some good weight, some muscle mass,” Moore said.
A couple hours before Moore’s commitment to Ohio RTC, Pletcher, a Latrobe, Pennsylvania, native, announced on Twitter that he would return home and train at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Club Regional Training Center. While at PWC, Pletcher will be a volunteer assistant for Pitt.
Pletcher is currently spending his time lifting, jogging and searching for a place in his yard to practice wrestling with his brother, he said Friday on BASCHAMANIA, a wrestling podcast.
““[I’m] using this time to heal my body. Four years of college will give you some nice bumps and bruises,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher said that he feels training at PWC is best for his future.
“I want to be a coach, and I felt like coming home and starting some coaching responsibilities where I am comfortable at,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher will likely wrestle in the 65-kilogram weight class, which is about 143 pounds. However, the International Olympic Committee has fewer sanctioned weight classes than that of United World Wrestling, meaning that the world’s best wrestlers from neighboring weight classes could merge into Pletcher’s.
Pletcher has yet to qualify for the Olympic trials. He was hoping to compete in the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier, which would have been held March 27 and 28 and rewarded bids to first- and second-place finishers.
Should he qualify, Pletcher will compete to earn America’s lone spot at 65 kilograms against two familiar foes in Penn State junior Nick Lee and Joey McKenna, a fellow former Buckeye who graduated one year ago.
Logan Stieber, who won four national titles with Ohio State from 2012 to ’15, has also qualified at 65 kilograms, but he would have to come out of retirement to compete.
Competition is no less stiff for Moore at 97 kilograms, a weight class he’ll share with former Buckeye and Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder and Cox. This will make the road to Olympic glory even tougher for Moore.
For Moore and Pletcher, who had their chances at a collegiate national title taken away due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Olympics may be their best shot at taking back the lost opportunity.
“Can’t wait to get back on the mat and get ready for it,” Moore said.