With reigning Olympic champion Kyle Snyder scheduled to take the mat, the largest crowd to see an Ohio State home wrestling match is expected tonight at Value City Arena.
OSU had sold 10,360 tickets as of Thursday afternoon, and a university official said the walk-up sales could boost attendance to 12,000 for the 6 p.m. match between the fourth-ranked Buckeyes and No. 2 Penn State, the defending national champion.
“I feel like we’re going to expose the sport to maybe some people who have never seen it before,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “We’re hitting another involvement in Columbus with the sport of wrestling. It’s what we've wanted. I’ve hungered for traffic jams at wrestling matches.”
For comparison’s sake, the Ohio State men’s basketball team has averaged 12,198 for home games this season, and OSU’s record for a home wrestling match is 6,558 for a Jan. 4, 2015, dual match versus Iowa.
A chance to watch Snyder, who captured gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August, compete tonight for OSU is a reason why the crowd is expected to nearly double the university’s previous record for wrestling attendance.
Snyder, a junior from Woodbine, Maryland, is excelling at the rare feat of competing collegiately and internationally during the same NCAA season. He switches from freestyle to college folkstyle wrestling in the same week.
“It gives me an opportunity to wrestle and improve more than most people because I’m wrestling not just the best people in the United States, but the best wrestlers in the entire world,” said Snyder, the defending NCAA heavyweight champion.
Last weekend, Snyder won a gold medal in Russia at the Yarygin Grand Prix, an event that is widely considered to be the toughest open freestyle tournament in the world.
Tonight he will wrestle against Penn State’s Nick Nevills (13-1), the nation’s No. 3 college heavyweight.
“I want the team to know that they can count on me,” said Snyder, who became the youngest American wrestler to win a world title in September 2015 at age 19.
Snyder isn’t the only reason for box-office buzz. Penn State (8-0) won last year’s national title and Ohio State (8-1) won in 2015. The Nittany Lions have won five of the last six national team championships under coach Cael Sanderson, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and four-time NCAA champion who never lost a collegiate match (159-0).
Besides Snyder (6-0), the Buckeyes have the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers in Bo Jordan (174 pounds) and 2015 national champion Nathan Tomasello (133), as well as a defending national champion in No. 10 Myles Martin (184).
Penn State counters with defending NCAA champion and current No. 1 Zain Retherford (149), top-ranked Jason Nolf (157) and No. 2 Bo Nickal (184), who lost last year’s NCAA final at 174 pounds to Martin.
More than 100 Ohio State wrestling alumni are expected to attend tonight’s match, which is being televised live on the Big Ten Network. The current Buckeyes can’t wait to compete in front of what should be a record crowd.
“It’s good for the sport and for Ohio State wrestling,” Martin said. “It’s going to be fun. We want to show them a good time.”