PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Ohio State senior Luke Pletcher walked around the mat inside the Rutgers Athletic Center and held up a single finger on both hands — a message to not only those in the stands watching the Big Ten wrestling meet but to the rest of the country, as well.
Two hours later, his teammate and fellow senior Kollin Moore had his hand raised on that same mat and held up three fingers toward the Buckeye contingent in the stands to mark his third career title.
Pletcher at 141 pounds and Moore at 197 won titles on Sunday to help the Buckeyes to a third-place finish in the team standings. OSU’s total of 112 points was 20 behind second-place Nebraska and 45.5 behind first-place Iowa, which won its first outright league title since 2010. Defending champion Penn State was fourth.
“I learned some good things about my team,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “We’ll be ready for the NCAA championships.”
Pletcher avenged his only loss of the 2019-20 season in the final, defeating Penn State’s Nick Lee by a 6-5 score.
Lee had beat Pletcher 8-4 in a dual last month but on Sunday, Pletcher scored a takedown midway through the third period for the final margin. He improved to 26-1 this season and likely will be the No. 1 seed at 141 at the NCAA championships in two weeks in Minneapolis.
“I was able to make the adjustment and found what I wanted to find,” Pletcher said. “I kept my butt to the center, threw some fakes in and took opportunities when they came.”
Moore, the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds, backed up his position with a dominant showing. He recorded back-to-back major decisions in his first two matches, outscoring his opponents by a combined 34-10, to reach Sunday’s final.
There, he defeated Nebraska’s Eric Schultz 4-1 thanks to a first-period takedown, a second-period escape and an additional riding-time point. The two have met six times over the past three seasons, and Moore has won each time.
“He wrestles hard and hand-fights super hard,” said Moore, now 27-0 this season. “He’s got great coaches that game plan very well. I have to really disguise what I do and get creative when I wrestle him. Sometimes it looks better than others.”
In all, Ohio State finished with eight placers. Redshirt freshman Sammy Sasso finished second at 149 pounds, losing 2-1 to Iowa’s Pat Lugo. Sasso had beaten Lugo in a January match.
Behind the three finalists, Ethan Smith (165) and Kaleb Romero (174) finished fourth, Rocky Jordan (184) fifth, Gary Traub (285) sixth and Malik Heinselman (125) took seventh.
All eight wrestlers earned automatic bids to the NCAAs, March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium. A ninth, 157-pounder Elijah Cleary, could join them on Tuesday when the NCAA wrestling committee announces the at-large qualifiers. The brackets for all 10 weights will be revealed on Wednesday.
The Buckeyes have finished third or better at the NCAA meet each of the past five years, and Ryan is excited about his team’s chances after negotiating a Big Ten that included seven of the nation’s top 15 teams.
“This is a brutal tournament,” Ryan said. “It’s a great precursor to the NCAA tournament. The toughest guys are here, and it readies you to be All-Americans and win championships.”
1. Iowa (I) 157.5; 2. Nebraska (N) 132; 3. Ohio State (OSU) 112; 4. Penn State (PSU) 107; 5. Purdue (P) 83; 6. Northwestern (NW) 79.5; 7. Michigan (MI) 73; 8. Minnesota (MN) 63.5; 9. Wisconsin 62.5; 10. Michigan State (MSU) 57; 11. Illinois 49; 12. Rutgers 21.5; 13. Indiana 14.5; 14. Maryland 0.
125 pounds: Spencer Lee (I) maj. dec. Devin Schroder (P) 16-2; 133: Sebastian Rivera (NW) dec. Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) 7-2; 141: Luke Pletcher (OSU) dec. Nick Lee (PSU) 6-5; 149: Pat Lugo (IA) dec. Sammy Sasso (OSU) 2-1; 157: Ryan Deakin (NW) dec. Kendall Coleman (P) 7-2; 165: Alex Marinelli (I) dec. Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) 3-2; 174: Mark Hall (PSU) dec. Michael Kemerer (I) 8-5; 184: Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. Cam Caffey (MSU) 3-2; 197: Kollin Moore (OSU) dec. Eric Schultz (N) 4-1; 285: Gable Steveson (MN) dec. Mason Parris (MI) 8-6.