CLEVELAND — Ohio State’s path to the NCAA wrestling team championship opened and closed in a flash at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.
One second, it appeared that Myles Martin had taken command of the match the Buckeyes needed to put their chances where they wanted — in the hands of Kyle Snyder.
In the next few, Martin found himself on the wrong side of a pin against Bo Nickal of Penn State that prevented the Buckeyes from denying the Nittany Lions their seventh championship in eight years.
The Buckeyes’ chances to overtake Penn State for the team title were fading until Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia defeated the Nittany Lions’ Mark Hall at 174 pounds. If Hall had won, Martin and Snyder would have needed to win and get hard-to-get bonus points for the Buckeyes to prevail.
Now simple victories were all that was needed.
“Valencia helped us just enough,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said.
Martin started the match aggressively, which is what Ryan wanted.
With about 30 seconds left in the first period, Martin got a takedown. He was in the process of adding back points, which would have given him a 4-0 lead, and looked for an instant as if he was in position for a pin. But then Martin made a small, but crucial mistake, Ryan said.
“He jumps high to get the fall and his hips came up higher than he should have been,” he said. “Nickal initially bailed on the position because he was giving up (back points), but he feels Myles come back over the top. He comes back to the position. Myles’ hips were about six inches too high.”
Nickal took advantage and turned on Martin to get the pin.
“That was the tournament,” Ryan said.
It was particularly painful because Ryan was so pleased with how the match had gone to that point.
“We don’t know what would have happened, but the way Myles was wrestling, he was going to beat him,” he said.
“He was ready to compete and wrestle. After you get some points on him — if you’re up 4-0 or 6-0 — you can ease off on the risky positions and go to more fundamental basics. Credit to Nickal. He did a great job. I’m proud of Myles Martin for going after it and trying to put a team in position to win.”
Martin defeated Nickal for the NCAA championship at 174 pounds two years ago. They have wrestled several times since, with Nickal winning most. Martin was the second seed. The undefeated Nickal was the top seed.
“It’s heartbreaking for Myles, but I’m proud of him,” Ryan said.