Everything seems to be in place for the Ohio State wrestling team — the venue, the talent, the motivation.
The NCAA wrestling championships are at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland starting Thursday, and the Buckeyes want to send their seniors out the way they started their careers.
In 2015, the Buckeyes won their only NCAA wrestling championship. They believe they are a better team than they were three years ago.
“I really do,” senior Bo Jordan said. “I think this team is a lot better than that team.”
Then he added a caveat.
“But I also think Penn State is a lot better than they were that year, and other teams as well,” Jordan said. “Even though we’re really, really good, Penn State is really good and so are other teams.”
Penn State has won six of the past seven NCAA titles and defeated Ohio State in their dual match in State College last month. The Buckeyes answered by winning the Big Ten tournament two weeks ago.
This is the final tournament for Jordan and two more decorated seniors, Kyle Snyder and Nathan Tomasello. Snyder, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, is going for his third straight NCAA title. Tomasello, who is from the Cleveland suburb of Parma, is seeking his second NCAA title after winning as a redshirt freshman.
Snyder, a heavyweight, and Kollin Moore, at 197 pounds, are the top seeds in their weight classes, but the Buckeyes are strong at almost every spot. That’s what carried them to the Big Ten title.
“We have to wrestle the way we wrestled at the Big Tens,” coach Tom Ryan said. “These guys have to fight for every point. I don’t think we need anything special. We don’t need anything more than they’re capable of. We just need them to be themselves.”
If the Buckeyes wrestle their best, they believe they can make history.
“I think we have a team that’s capable of breaking the score record and becoming the best team that has ever competed in an NCAA Tournament,” Snyder said. “I truly believe we have the individuals to do it, and we showed a glimpse of it at the Big Tens. But I think we can do even better than that. If we wrestle our best, I don’t think any team can even come within 20 points of us.”
Snyder is seeded to face Michigan’s Adam Coon in perhaps the championships’ most anticipated potential matchup. Coon handed Snyder his first loss since the 2015 NCAA finals in a dual match decision a month ago. Snyder narrowly defeated Coon at the Big Ten meet.
The heavyweight division is one of several stacked with elite wrestlers.
“If you like wrestling, you’ll be salivating all weekend,” Ryan said. “It’s a buffet of intensity.”
The Buckeyes just hope that they will be doing most of the feasting, aided by a crowd expected to give them a major boost.
“This could be one of the most dominant teams in NCAA history,” Ryan said. “On Saturday night we’re all going to know whether these guys were able to attain something that few do but they’re certainly capable of.”