Anyone familiar with the sport of wrestling can tell you that it’s the most unique sport in the world of athletics.
It’s a team sport where nobody can help you. Yet, when you step on the center of the mat and face your opponent, nobody depends on you more than your teammates.
On Friday, in front of 6,000 fans at St. John Arena, The Ohio State Buckeyes exemplified what makes this sport so great. For the first time since 1966, the Scarlet and Gray defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes in improbable fashion, with a 21-9 victory.
And it all started with an expected loss at the 125 weight class.
When freshman Johnni DiJulius fought back against top national contender Matt McDonough to open the dual, it was more than enough to get the ball rolling, despite losing 5-2. In this grueling sport, if you are willing to go to war, your comrades will thrive from it.
And when you drop a touch decision, they’ll pick you up.
“The ball got rolling with Johnni,” head coach Tom Ryan told Flowrestling.org. “The beauty of the dual meet is we saw ten guys who believed the week’s slogan of win or die trying. The crowd taught our guys what is hard and what isn’t. And though Johnni lost, they came to their feet. He faught and gave all he could. He lost but he gave. Johnni got us going with a hard fought match with a great competitor.”
See that’s the beauty of the sport of wrestling. It don’t always take a win for a team to get things going. When someone leaves it on the mat, it’s more than a valiant effort.
It’s a stepping stone to victory.
The Buckeyes would go on to win seven straight matches, starting with three solid efforts from the Monroeville Trio. Following DiJulius’ opening match, Redshirt freshman Logan Stieber compiled nearly two minutes of riding time against Tony Romos — the #2 ranked wrestler in the country.
After a takedown, escape, and three point nearfall secured the match — Stieber’s younger brother Hunter took to the mat and was able to hold two time All-American Montell Marion at bay in a 4-2 victory.
Fellow High School teammate Cam Tessari followed up at 149 with an impressive 9-4 victory over Mike Kelly. Tied at 4 heading into the third, Tessari took over, grabbing an escape to open the frame. He would follow that up with a takedown and two point near-fall to end the match.
RS Freshman Josh Delmas would round out the flurry before intermission with a decisive 7-3 win over Derek St. John at 157 pounds.
In the match of the night, freshman Derek Garcia was able to hold on to #6 ranked Mike Evans at 165. Up two heading into the third, Garcia allowed Evans to escape within the first thirty seconds of the third. Behind the crowd at St. John, he was able to hang on for the victory.
Redshirt Sophomore Nick Heflin would bump up to 184 and defeat a tough Vinnie Wagner. Last year’s Big Ten runner up at 174 secured his match with a takedown with less than thirty seconds on the clock.
Freshman Andrew Campolattano would secure the victory with an 8-6 decision over Grant Gambrall at 197 pounds. Campolattano would get the dual-winning takedown with 45 seconds on the clock. Gambrall would escape, but it was too little too late.
So just how impressive was Ohio State’s feat? The Hawkeyes had won 39 straight road duals and 50 overall. The national runner up a year ago is one of the most storied programs in collegiate athletic history.
Yet on one Friday, it was seven underclassman grapplers, all buying into the Iowa standard that former Hawkeye wrestler Tom Ryan has sold to them all season — fighting to take the program to the next level.
There is no doubt, the future is bright in Columbus.
There’s no question after Friday’s victory over Iowa that the future is now.
Make sure you catch the replay of Ohio State’s dual against Iowa on the Big Ten Network today at 12 PM ET. The Buckeyes will match up against the defending national champion Penn State Nittany Lions on Sunday at 2 PM. You can catch all that action on Buckeye All Access or Big Ten Network.com.