Micah Jordan had just lost his first match of the season, to Rutgers’ Anthony Ashnault at an invitational in Las Vegas, when he sat down with his brother and coach, Bo Jordan.
Bo had watched the top-ranked Ashnault turn his younger brother twice, dominating on top and exposing Micah’s weakness on bottom. At the next practice, the brothers formulated a game plan: strictly work with Micah on bottom before eventually moving him back to his feet.
“At first, I was a little hesitant just because I didn't know if I could improve,” Micah Jordan said. “It was almost like I felt like it was a lost cause, but I trusted my coaches. I always have, so I was in on it.”
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From there, Jordan continued to improve on bottom and it paid dividends. The fifth-year senior did not lose a dual the rest of the season for a 22-1 record. Now he feels ready to redeem himself not only against Ashnault — the nation's top-ranked wrestler in the 149-pound weight class — but at the Big Ten championships Saturday and Sunday at Minnesota after finishing as a runner-up in back-to-back years.
“It’s really competitive. He’ll have to be on and wrestling really well,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “But if he wrestles his best, he’s in a position to win the tournament.”
The match against Ashnault wasn't a total loss for Micah Jordan, who came back from a 10-0 deficit to lose 14-10, and it set him on the path to improving his performance.
Bo Jordan said his brother was a great wrestler who got more takedowns in high school at St. Paris Graham without being on the bottom often. Now facing stiffer competition, Micah Jordan has had to practice being on bottom so he can learn how to escape. He received some help from Logan Stieber, who capped his Ohio State career in 2015 by winning his fourth NCAA title.
“Spending time there against guys that can actually turn him has been big,” Bo Jordan said. “And against guys like Logan Stieber in practice that have turned everyone, pinning top-five guys in college. Him being able to wrestle Mic has been huge.”
For Micah Jordan, the Big Ten championships will be about proving he can finish his seven minutes for three straight duals. He reached the finals twice before falling, at 149 pounds as a redshirt sophomore and at 157 the next year. Both losses hurt, but the one at 157 pounds — Jordan moved up a weight class to help the team — stung more. He lost a 3-1 decision to Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo.
Jordan had faced Pantaleo twice during the regular season and could not best him.
“When someone beats you, you always want to be able to come back and improve on the weaknesses or mistakes that you made previously,” Jordan said.
Now back at 149 pounds, Jordan feels better prepared to take on the rest of the class. Though Ashnault is the top seed, Jordan said he anticipates facing Iowa’s Patricio Lugo, the third seed. He last faced Lugo in 2017 and won 7-3.
But Jordan doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
“We can’t do a whole lot different, or we can’t change a whole lot of things going into Big Tens,” Jordan said. “We're the most prepared we ever have this whole season, so I think we're ready to go and there's not a whole lot to work on. It's just making sure we're feeling good and ready to wrestle.”