It's preview time. But we have two announcements first.
1) On Saturday, Rec Hall becomes a basketball place again, when the Lions host Princeton. Eighteen years ago - or so - freshman self sat on the wooden bleachers and watched 280lb Phil Williams set picks for a certain Mister Peter Lisicky, as Pete ran circles around the arc, coming off a series of 32 screens, in order to jack up an off balance 3-pointer. Pete made a ton of those, and Penn State nearly - nearly - went undefeated in the Big Ten that year (95/96). If you didn't catch Ryan Jones' post, or our own Timmy A's, please check them out, before packing Rec Hall one more time for a shootyhoops contest.
2) SBNation's Ohio State blog, Land Grant Holy Land, sports Dan Vest as a writer. And he's really good. I asked Dan a couple of questions pre-dual. Here is what he had to say:
Johnni DiJulius knocked off two guys in the top 8 at Cliff Keen this past weekend to win the title at 133. Are you expecting to see him on the podium in March, or were you as surprised as I was?
While DiJulius is a very legitimate talent, I’d be lying if I said I expected to see him pin a guy like Cody Brewer in 44 seconds. That being said, when I asked head coach Tom Ryan earlier in the season who he expected to make that proverbial "leap" in 2014, DiJulius’ name was the first one out of his mouth. Were it not for a baffling loss to Sam Sherlock of Clarion (Ed Note: a former Penn Stater), an unranked wrestler with a 9-4 record, I might be ready to say that he was already there. Currently, Intermat has DiJulius as its #6-ranked 133 pounder, but that might be a little bit high. His wins this weekend over Brewer and #4 Joe Colon show that DiJulius has the ability to compete with the best in the nation, but I’m going to see him do it a few more times before I reserve that spot on the podium.
I take it Josh Demas is still out? I didn’t see anyone entered at Cliff Keen for the Buckeyes at this weight (and, ahhh – Bo Jordan looks like the real deal, huh?)
Demas had surgery over the summer and will be taking a redshirt this season. Filling in at 165 is Joe Grandominico. He actually did compete at the CKLV, going 1-2, bringing his record to 5-7. Grandominico suffered a 17-2 setback to Bo Jordan in wrestle-offs, and expectations have been tempered ever since. I expect him to improve as he gains more experience, but it’s hard to imagine him giving David Taylor much of a fight. This leads me to the second part of your question; Jordan. I promise not to turn this into a 500-word monologue extolling his virtues, but since you asked… Yes, he appears to be the real deal. He was absolutely dominant at the Clarion and Michigan State Open tournaments, accumulating two first-place finishes and a 10-0 record. At Clarion, he won his finals match by tech fall, and at MSU it was a pin. Jordan, along with fellow freshman Nathan Tomasello and recent signees Micah Jordan and Kyle Snyder, are four guys with loads of talent who should form the foundation of the team in the post-Stieber era.
I thought Mark Martin started to do some nice things at 165 towards the end of last season (Ed.Note: dude's at 174 now). But I see he had a DNP in Las Vegas. What's the story from Columbus?
To be fair to Martin, his DNP at the CKLV was as much about draw as anything. After winning his first round match by fall, he went up against Andrew Howe of Oklahoma, who Intermat has its #1-ranked 174-pounder. Then he caught #14-ranked Lelund Weatherspoon of Iowa State in the wrestle-backs, dropping a very close decision 2-4. The match against Weatherspoon is one that you would like to see Martin pull out if he is going to take the next step, but it’s something he that he hasn’t shown that he can do consistently yet. Of his six losses, three are to ranked wrestlers, and one is to the #1 174 pounder in DII. There isn’t one that I would consider "embarrassing" among the other two. However, there also aren’t any wins that stand out as spectacular. The Big Ten dual season will tell us a lot about Martin. Was last year’s strong finish sustainable, or did he just get hot at the right time? The jury is still out.
Nick Heflin default. I've heard it's an ankle injury. Any update?
You are correct. Heflin forfeited his final three matches at the CKLV due to a ankle injury. So far there has been no word yet as to whether or not he will compete this Sunday. Obviously, the Buckeyes need him in the lineup. You don’t want a backup facing Morgan McIntosh.
Logan Stieber, David Taylor, Ed Ruth. You're a wrestling coach and can have one of those three in your room. Who are you taking?
I knew a question like this might come and, as much as I've thought about it, it’s still an incredibly tough question to answer. I’ll start off by saying, these are the three best wrestlers in the country, and it’s not all that close. Stieber and Ruth have both won consecutive NCAA titles, and Taylor has destroyed everyone not named Kyle Dake that he has come up against. Between Ruth and Taylor, I’ll give Ruth the nod based on the 68 straight wins and the consecutive national titles. However, as good as Ruth and Taylor are, only one of the three has a shot at ending his career with four national titles, and that’s Logan Stieber. While he did have two losses his freshman year (to Chris Dardanes and Jordan Oliver), Stieber avenged both in the 2012 NCAA tournament. Since then, he hasn’t lost a match.
Of course, what all of this means is that picking between the three is splitting the finest of hairs. And since that’s the case, I’m taking our guy: Stieber. He has that freshman national championship and he’s a more accomplished international wrestler than Ruth. Also, I hate to say it, but when it’s this close, the suspension factors into the decision. I have to say, I feel bad for not including Taylor in the final two, as you could easily argue that he’s the most talented of the three, so I’m offering a consolation prize for the Taylor fans. Here’s video of Taylor handing Logan Stieber his only loss as a high school wrestler.
Give me one potential upset.
This is tough. Penn State is stacked this year, and the Buckeyes are arguably redshirting the best guy at four different weight classes (Nathan Tomasello (25), Bo Jordan (65), Hunter Stieber (49), and Demas (57)). I was all ready to pick Ian Paddock over a returning Andrew Alton, but it looks like Alton won’t be back this week. I think that the Buckeyes can potentially sweep 133 through 149, but the upper weights should belong to Penn State. If I have to pick one, I guess I’ll go with a hopefully healthy Heflin over McIntosh at 197.
Before I go, I would like to thank everyone at BSD for having me. This should be an outstanding season of Big Ten wrestling and I’m looking forward to discussing it with all of you.
[Round of manly head nods for Dan Vest, everyone. Check out Dan's wrestling columns at Land Grant Holy Land.]
#3 Nico Megaludis vs. #19 Fr. Nicky Roberts
Nicky is a tough kid, and multiple time PIAA champ, and freestyle wizard, if I'm remembering correctly. But - no.
Line: Nico minus 8
133 LBS - Match of the Meet #1
#11 Jimmy Gulibon vs. #6 So. Johnni DiJulius
So Jimmy gets ridden out by BU's Dane Harlowe, and then can't go against Pitt. If Jimmy is going to do anything this year, he needs to beat DiJulius. And a major wouldn't hurt.
Line: Pick 'Em - no, this line doesn't make sense.
141 LBS - Match of the Meet #2
#8 zPain Retherford vs. #1 Logan Stieber
This is it, right? Logi-bear is a fully certified, 2x National Champion, hammer. Dude beat #1 in the world over the summer in freestyle (...and, he got smoked by Tyler Graff, too - but whatever). zPain has the same, exact style, as Logi-bear. Both guys love to inflict pain with the arm bar series. How does zPain hold up against the champ?
Line: zPain plus 8
Zach Beitz vs. #19 Sr. Ian Paddock
Paddock was the heir apparent - 5 years ago. Blah, blah, blah, here he is as a 6th year senior - and his head is screwed on straight. He's better than his #19 Intermat rank.
Line: Zach plus 4.5
Jim Vollrath vs. Randy Languis
Randy is a scholar. So is Jim - but Jim can wrestle, too.
Line: Jim minus 6
Stretch, fart, drink, eat, take a short nap - do whatever it is that you want, that doesn't involve exercise or cutting weight. You've earned it by reading this far.
#1 Dave Taylor vs. Joe Grandominico
Line: Dave minus 15
#3 Matt Brown vs. Mark Martin
See above. Hulk Hands isn't much different than #1 Howe. HOWEVER - Hulk hasn't enjoyed wrestling long, quick, no-tie-up dudes. And that's Martin to a TEE.
Line: Hulk Hands minus JUST 4.5
#1 Ed mutha f'in RUUUUUUUUUUUUTH (I'm pretty sure Ed's back)
vs. his former childhood friend, #12 lil' Kenny Courts
I mean - this could be fun. Does Ed lay the smack? Or is Ed just having fun?
#3 Morgan McIntosh vs. #5 Nick Heflin Probably Kenny Courts. Unless Tom Ryan puts my buddy's buddy's son, Josh Fox, out there.
Who. Knows. Even God may not know the lineup this morning.
#12 Jimmy Lawson vs. Nick Tavanello
Jimmy is 2x better than last year, and I don't care if you weren't happy with his match against Tasser. He's a ton better. Seriously.
Line: Jimmy minus 4.5
This is a tough one, just like last year's dual at OSU. But Dan is right - OSU is sitting 3, maybe 4, starters.