On Sunday, arguably the most dominant Ohio State athlete since Jesse Owens will compete at home for the final time.
Heavyweight wrestler Kyle Snyder, along with highly decorated senior teammates Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan, will lead the second-ranked Buckeyes against No. 4 Iowa at the Schottenstein Center.
“I want a sellout,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said of the match billed as a white-out. “We had 15,400 for Penn State last year.
“We’re healthy right now. Hopefully, they’ll have a full lineup. It should be a great environment.”
The match will feature five bouts involving wrestlers ranked among the top six nationally.
Snyder is the headliner. That’s in part because of his stature as a two-time NCAA champion and the youngest American Olympic gold medalist and world champion.
It’s also because Snyder’s travels have limited his participation for Ohio State. He recently wrestled in Iran. Next week, he heads to Russia. This will be only his sixth OSU match this season.
There’s no way he’d miss his finale.
“It means a lot,” Snyder said. “I love my teammates. There’s been a lot of amazing wrestling moments since I’ve been here at Ohio State, and it’s just really cool to be able to share all these experiences with some of my best friends.”
Snyder will wrestle Sam Stoll, who’s 12-0. Snyder was matter-of-fact in his assessment of the match.
“Stoll is pretty good,” Snyder said. “He’s No. 3 in the country, but I think that matchup-wise, me vs. him isn’t very good.
“He doesn’t really have much offense. (He) rarely shoots, and his leg defense could use some work. So I’m going to attack a lot and try to get to his legs and hopefully beat him pretty bad.”
Another intriguing matchup is in the lightest division. At 125 pounds, Tomasello will face No. 6 Spencer Lee.
A few months ago, Ryan believed it was unlikely that Tomasello would be able to compete in his senior season after he suffered a knee injury. But Tomasello’s determination has gotten him back on the mat.
In only his second match of the season, Tomasello dominated fourth-ranked Ethan Lizak in an 18-3 technical fall last week in Ohio State’s 31-7 victory over Minnesota.
“I was going to do whatever it took to be back in March,” he said. “At this point, I didn’t think I’d be feeling this good. That’s just God’s blessing in my life, I believe, that I’m able to wrestle my senior year and be able to wrestle the way I know I can.”
Iowa has won 23 national championships and is 18-2 all-time in Columbus. Ryan is an Iowa grad. But it is safe to say the Buckeyes are not feeling the burden of history.
“Iowa won a lot of titles back in the day,” Snyder said. “But since I’ve really been around, it hasn’t been that way. Since I’ve been at Ohio State, we’ve been better than them.
“They could prove us wrong, but we’re going to be ready, and we’re going to wrestle hard, and hopefully we’re going to light them up.”
Although Ohio State rolled over Minnesota in its most-recent match, Ryan wasn’t totally pleased with the Buckeyes’ performance.
“Despite the 31-7 score, there were things that you look at like, ‘Hey, we better get this shored up, or we’re going to have problems down the road with some of these tougher opponents,'” he said.
Iowa is one of those tougher opponents, but the Buckeyes are looking to make their seniors’ finale a successful one.
“It’s a huge match for those three guys, their last time in the Schott. Nate and Bo are home-grown Buckeyes,” Ryan said. “They’ve both won four state (high school) titles in the Schott. I don’t know if they’ve ever lost in the Schott.
“I think our younger guys know: Let’s send these three guys out with a great performance. We’re looking for tough, gritty, aggressive, nonstop wrestling. Use every second of the 420 seconds you get to show your talents.”