CLEVELAND — On an established, star-studded Ohio State wrestling team, Joey McKenna was overshadowed this season.
Some of that was by design. Although he finished third at the NCAA championships two years ago as a Stanford freshman, he knew this season as a junior he was joining a team with several wrestlers who have even gaudier resumes.
So McKenna kept his mouth shut and worked hard — a commitment that led to another third-place finish at the past week’s NCAA championships at Quicken Loans Arena.
“He blended into the team with silence and hard work, and that goes over really well with people,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “He didn't say much for a while. He just worked really hard. And he earned the respect of his team with his work rather than his words. He's been a pleasure to have.”
Fourth-seeded at 141 pounds, McKenna rolled through his first three matches of the tournament, racking up 39 points, before he was blanked 1-0 by Wyoming’s top-seeded Bryce Meredith in the semifinals Friday. He won both of his consolation-bracket matches on Saturday to finish third.
“These guys are my brothers,” McKenna said of his Buckeye teammates. “Coming in as a new junior, the vibe is a little different. The guys have been together for a little bit.
“Obviously, I was the new guy, but when I was welcomed in, it was really heartfelt. These guys accepted me with open arms and were, like, man, this guy is going to help us contend this year.”
With Kyle Snyder, Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan graduating, McKenna is eager to be a more vocal leader next season.
“Just trying to find my place in the room, I was quiet in the beginning,” he said. “I feel I’ve started to try to take more of a leadership role on this team.
“It’s going to be my senior year. Last year, I was captain as a sophomore at Stanford, so I’d like to be a captain my senior year.”
Moore finishes fourth
Top-seeded Kollin Moore got a rematch with Kent State’s unseeded Kyle Conel, who pinned him in 90 seconds Friday, but it didn’t go much better Saturday for the Buckeyes' redshirt sophomore. Conel won by a 5-3 decision in a third-place match that featured only sporadic aggressiveness.
“The first match was too short,” Ryan said. “The second match was too long with too little effort. If you don’t put that kid (Conel) under duress every second, then he’s still dangerous. If you stand around him for seven minutes, he’s as dangerous in the seventh minute as he is the first second.”
Conel led 5-1 before Moore got a late takedown, but it was too little, too late.
Bo Jordan’s career ends
Bo Jordan’s career ended with a sixth-place finish at 174 pounds. He lost in the quarterfinals Friday to Missouri's Daniel Lewis and on Saturday to Michigan’s Myles Amine 6-2 in the consolations before getting a victory by injury default in his last scheduled match.
“As of right now, my wrestling career is over,” said Jordan, who plans to move back to his hometown of St. Paris, Ohio, with his wife and two children.
Jordan’s senior season proved disappointing.
“I think my wrestling was good,” he said. “For whatever reason, this year the times I needed to figure it out, I didn’t figure it out in the seven minutes" of a match.
Next on his agenda is a break before pursuing a career as a college coach.
“I’m going on vacation with my wife without our kids,” he said. “I’ve spent two days with my wife without the kids the last two years.”