Logan Stieber just might have experienced the longest 11 seconds of his life on Saturday in the 133 lb National Championship Match against undefeated Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State.
Holding onto a one point lead, the redshirt freshman saw an onslaught from who many considered the best wrestler in the country.
After escaping from bottom just 20 seconds into the third period, Oliver went on the offense, looking for numerous openings by dropping his knee to the mat and putting together several take down attempts with forward motion and hand control.
Down 4-3, everyone in the building had a feeling the defending champion would seize any small mistake made by the opposing redshirt freshman. Oliver had pinned all of his opponents on the way to the semi-finals, and cruised his way to finals mat with an 8-2 victory over Illinois’ B.J. Futrell.
For the first time though in two years, Oliver was in desperation mode.
After an early takedown from the 28-1 junior in the first, the opposing Stieber fought right back up to his feet. In the second, it took him just 8 seconds to bolt out of the bottom position for the escape to tie it at 2-2. From that point on, the best offensive wrestler in the 133 pound division was on the defensive.
Yet there was nothing that could stop the young Logan Stieber from fighting for every single point.
After somehow scrambling away from a low single scoop to the waist in the first, Oliver continued to fend off any offensive flurry in the second. Stieber went to work though, keeping low to the mat in his base to counter Oliver’s best offensive position – knees low to the mat with a hand occasionaly touching down, while looking for the double or high crotch to single.
Halfway through the second, Stieber used Oliver’s over-pursuit on offense to his advantage. After securing the high crotch, and securing the low ankle, Oliver did every thing he could to hold off the two point takedown. After switching to the high single leg, both scrambled their way to the far right edge of the mat. After going for the trip on the inside leg, Stieber maintained composure and slipped his way behind the back of Oliver for the two point lead heading into the third and final quarter.
Oliver would escape to start the third, setting up a battle of back and forth takedown attempts. With time slipping, the defending champion was getting the better of the exchanges. After nearly getting the single leg high crotch before both wrestlers rolled out of bounds, Oliver had one last chance.
With time ticking, Oliver pushed down on Stieber’s head, pulled away his arm for clearance and went all in on beautiful far leg single. After Oliver cut the corner, Stieber somehow held on — squeezing below the shoulders and sitting out away from the power of Oliver’s legs while he sprawled out with his toes to the mat to get as much leverage as possible.
As the clock expired, both men locked their eyes on the nearest official and waited for the final whistle.
While the nation rooted for Mountain Hawks and Bobcats to steal the title of Cinderella, there was one Buckeye pulling off the biggest upset of the weekend.
The State of the Buckeyes
You can not say it enough times. The future of the Ohio State Buckeye wrestling program is bright. This weekend, for the first time in school history, four grapplers finished the year as All-Americans.
Hunter Stieber watched his brother secure the first NCAA championship from a Buckeye since 2009 after finishing 6th in the 141 class. The former four time state champion met defending champion Kellen Russell in the semi-finals before losing to the back to back champion by decision. He would then drop a close one to the highly regarded Borislav Novachkov of Cal Poly. Novachkov would finish third.
Fellow Monroeville freshman Cam Tessari put together a solid fourth place run in the 149 weight class. After losing his first match, Tessari worked his way back to the consolation finals. Facing 4th seed Donald Vinson of Binghamton, Tessari would lose by a takedown in the 12-10 showdown.
Redshirt sophomore Nick Heflin won his first two matches at 174 before meeting Ed Ruth, the only wrestler to end the year undefeated in the quarterfinals. He woudl lose 11-4 but work his way to the wrestleback semis before losing to second seeded Chris Perry of Oklahoma State. 4 of Helfin’s 6 opponents were from the Big Ten conference. After losing to Perry, Nick bounced back with a solid win over the always tough Logan Storley out of Minnesota.
Ohio State placed 4 of it’s 8 wrestlers and finished 5th in the team standings.
The Buckeyes finished the year at 13-4, including a 4-0 dual record at home. Including a defeat of Iowa for the time since 1966.
The best part is every starter returns next season and the program only loses one wrestler, while adding four time Ohio State champ Chris Phillips to the roster. Phillips will train with the RTC next year before fully enrolling. Two time Pennslyvania state champ and two time world junior greco/freestyle national champion Nick Roberts will also add depth to the lightweights.
Head Coach Tom Ryan has all the pieces coming together for a solid run at the Big Ten title next year.