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Speaking With The Enemy: #4 Penn State at #7 Ohio State

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Penn State visits Columbus on Sunday for a big showdown. We spoke with LGHL's Dan Vest about the dual.

#8 Gulibon vs #4 DiJulius will be a key matchup
#8 Gulibon vs #4 DiJulius will be a key matchup
Galen

Fresh off of a fifth consecutive Southern Scuffle title, #4 Penn State will travel to face #7 Ohio State for a huge conference dual meet.  The Buckeyes are finally getting healthy, and will run a much stronger lineup onto the mat Sunday than the ones which netted Ohio State close losses to #5 Mizzou and #6 Virginia Tech.

(That's right, wrestling newcomers - this isn't football.  Top 10 teams face each other often in wrestling, and it's completely awesome.)

Despite his Buckeye allegiance, Land Grant Holy Land's Dan Vest is an awfully good dude, and there's no one who knows Coach Tom Ryan's squad better.  Dan and I sat down to talk about the upcoming dual.  Part one of our chat is below, and runs through the first five fights, 125 thru 157.  LGHL has the second half of the discussion, covering 165 - 285.

125 LBS

#8 Jordan Conaway (PSU) vs. #7 Nathan Tomasello

bscaff: Assuming the dual starts here, does this weight carry any extra importance for the Buckeyes? And what does Tomasello need to do to come out on top against Conaway? He's fallen just a hair short against Dance and Gilman recently.

Dan: For the team as a whole, I don't know that this match carries much more importance than any of the closely contested weights that we'll see on Sunday (133, 149, 197, etc.), but I think that it's a very important match for Tomasello. Thus far he has faced four of Intermat's top six 125 pounders and lost heartbreakers to all four. Now he's going up against Conaway, another top-ten guy. A win would be a big confidence booster for the redshirt freshman and could help him kickstart a strong second half of the season. However, should he lose to Conaway, that would be three consecutive losses, and it might mean that it's time to reevaluate expectations as far as what he can accomplish this season.. Hanging in there with the top guys is great, but eventually Tomasello is going to have to start beating them, especially if he wants to be on the podium come March.

Aside from the Gilman match, which was a snoozer between two very familiar opponents, Tomasello has shown the ability to take down and control the top guys, he'll just have that one small lapse of concentration that costs him the match. Fortunately, everything that you read about Tomasello and everything that Coach Ryan has said about his freshman captain leads me to believe that he's capable of getting back on track. He just needs to do it sooner rather than later.

PICKS

bscaff: Tomasello by DEC (0-3 Ohio State)

Dan: Tomasello by DEC (0-3 Ohio State)

133 LBS - #10 Jimmy Gulibon vs. #4 Johnni DiJulius

Dan: Johnni DiJulius and Jimmy Gulibon wrestled twice last season with DiJulius coming out on top both times (3-2, 6-1). Still, up until last week Gulibon was the higher-ranked of the two wrestlers and many people think that Gulibon may have surpassed DiJulius in the 133 pound pecking order. How do you think the two compare? Has Gulibon closed the gap? If so, what are the areas where he has improved the  most since 2013/14?

bscaff: Jimmy's not getting ridden this year like last, and he's more aggressive from neutral.  Most importantly, he's wrestling with more confidence, which seems to be the biggest difference.  The talent has always been there. 

I'm probably a dope, but I didn't think there was much of a gap between Jimmy and Johnni last year.  Part of that, I suppose, owes to DiJulius' style - he's not hanging bonus on dudes at a Logie Bear pace.  So I think this will be another very tight match.  Jimmy has to score a takedown in the first period (while not giving up the near arm far leg like Iowa's Cory Clark did 3 times last week).  If Gulibon fails to score in the first, then the match fits right into DiJulius' game plan, and we're watching the riding time clock for the last two periods. 

Unfortunately, Jimmy's favorite head snap go behind is what DiJulius defends as well as anyone.  Johnni seems perfectly happy being underneath a front headlock.  That doesn't portend good things for my Lions here.

PICKS

bscaff: DiJulius by DEC (0-6 Ohio State)

Dan: DiJulius by DEC (0-6 Ohio State)

141 LBS - UR Kade Moss vs. #1 Logan Stieber

bscaff: My turn for a question, huh?   Can I trade you for 149?  I have nothing to ask about 141.  Logan's scoring at least 4, probably 5, and I won't be surprised by 6.

Dan: Some Buckeye fans who don't follow the sport in the offseason might not know that Zain Retherford is sitting out this season. Can you give us some insight as to why that decision was made? Also, have you seen anything from Kade Moss that has led you to believe that he can limit this to a regular decision?

bscaff: No, I don't see Kade Moss keeping the margin under 8 points.  Kade has talent (greco gold medalist at University Nationals last summer) and toughness.  But Logan on top is, well, he's the best.  And not just this year, but arguably in the last 10 or 15 years, across all weight classes.  If top 20-ish Randy Cruz (Lehigh) can tally 3 minutes of riding time and 3 near fall against Moss, I'm a wee bit apprehensive of what Logie Bear's arm bars are going to accomplish.

Worse, as you note, we fans are missing out on Retherford-Stieber Part 3, since Zain is redshirting this season.  Why redshirt a consensus top 4 wrestler at 141, who managed a split with Logan last year?  It's simply that redshirting is what's best for Zain.  Zain was a small 141 last year, and, to get where he ultimately wants to go - national champ, world champ on the senior level, Olympics - Zain needs to continue to improve his neutral offense, and his tilts from top.  It's difficult to work on technique during the wrestling season.

Some Penn State / Sanderson critics pan the move as "ducking" Logan, which gets under my skin.  Zain was, in my opinion, the only wrestler who managed to give Logan a tough fight in February/March, and he was definitely the only one to get his hand raised all season.  Ducking?  Afraid?   Nuts.   The other criticism - that Cael is "conceding" the team championship by putting a shirt on Zain - is harder to explain away.  Zain's floor is probably worth 12 team points in March, while Moss's ceiling might be 4 or 5 team points.  Will that 7 or 8 team points be the difference between a 5th consecutive title or a runner-up finish in March?  I don't expect that it will, but I also don't want to be within 10 miles of the innernets or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania if PSU places 2nd, six points behind a new team champ.

PICKS

bscaff: Stieber by Fall (0-12 Ohio State)

Dan: Stieber by Tech Fall (0-11 Ohio State)

149 LBS - #17 Zack Beitz vs. #6 Hunter Stieber

bscaff: I watched Hunter against Iowa's Sorensen last week, and I have to ask, what's the story?  He doesn't resemble the Hunter from his true frosh campaign, and definitely not his sophomore year.  Is it all injuries?

Dan: I think it could be a combination of a few things. First, the injury. Coach Ryan says that he's healthy and Hunter says that he's healthy, but healthy doesn't necessarily mean 100 percent. You'll notice when he wrestles that he has his elbow wrapped up and an enormous pad around that wrap. That, at least to me, looks like someone who is wrestling through some pain. The other issue is conditioning. He was beating Sorensen until the third period when he appeared to run out of gas. With the score tied up he dove in on one of the sloppiest double-legs that you will ever see at this level and got himself taken down. That was all fatigue. Hopefully having another live match (only his second of the year) and another week of practice under his belt will have Hunter back closer to 100 percent in that department.

This is another match that could tell us a lot about what to expect from the wrestler moving forward. Beitz is a guy that a healthy, in-shape Hunter Stieber should beat. If he drops this match, we might again be reevaluating our expectations for a guy who many picked to win the 149-pound championship.

PICKS

bscaff: Beitz by DEC (3-12 Ohio State)

Dan: Stieber by DEC (0-14 Ohio State)

157 LBS - #8 Dylan Alton vs. #5 Josh Demas

Dan: Dylan Alton returned from injury to take fourth at the Southern Scuffle. I'm assuming that he'll be in the lineup Sunday. Alton is a guy who has been up and down his entire career. His pinning Realbuto and then getting pinned himself at the scuffle is a great example of what I mean. I also feel like Penn State needs a big performance out of him against Josh Demas, a guy who won't fill up the scoreboard but is hard to take down. What do you think is the key to this matchup?

bscaff:  Cael stated Tuesday that Dylan and current starter Cody Law would likely split matches this weekend (Penn State wrestles Indiana at home on Friday).  I'm with you - I think Dylan gets the nod in Columbus.  But if we see Dylan walk out there against the Hoosiers, then we should expect the freshman Law on Sunday.

Dylan's loss by fall at the Scuffle came near the seven minute mark, within an hour of day 2 weigh-ins, on the heels of his first live action in 9 months.  That's a cocktail that'll make a lot of wrestlers look "off".  The encouraging news is that he decked #4 Realbuto with a disgusting neck wrench in his next match, and outlasted #12 Parsons over 7 minutes, 5-4, to reach the consolation semis.

The key for Dylan is conditioning, which he admitted still needs some work.  My chief concern in this matchup would be that Dylan tires in the 3rd period, and gets caught by Demas' favorite inside trip, and exposed for 2 or 3 near fall.  So, if I'm Demas, I'd want to really push the pace from the opening whistle, past the 3rd period Buckeye gong, and through the final buzzer.  But I don't think we'll see that from Demas.

PICKS

bscaff: Alton by DEC (6-12 Ohio State)

Dan: Alton by DEC (3-14 Ohio State)

So - we're halfway thru, and Penn State is trailing on both scorecards.  Swing by Land Grant Holy Land to read the second half, where our Lions attempt a major comeback.

Also, be sure to check out Cari's preview of the dual, posting later.  And join us for the open thread on Sunday, as we cover the action live, make jokes, and generally have a hoot watching 10 awesome fights.  The dual is not on TV, but will be broadcast via innernets stream on BTN Plus.  Yes, that's an extra subscription.  However, the quality of the stream is much better than what Penn State offered last year via "PSU All-Access", known to all who tried to use it as "PSU No-Access".  Also, it's just $10 for an entire month.  So you'll get your eyes on this battle against #7 Ohio State, plus PSU at #24 Rutgers (which should be a slaughter), and PSU at #17 Michigan (which won't be a slaughter, but will be a severe, severe beating).  That much ass-kicking for just $10 is an incredible holiday value.

Full Lineup

Weight Penn State Ohio State
125 #8 Jordan Conaway (JR, Abbottstown, PA) #7 Nathan Tomasello (FR, Parma, OH)
133 #10 Jimmy Gulibon (SO, Latrobe, PA) #4 Johnni DiJulius (JR, Aurora, OH)
141 NR Kade Moss (FR, South Jordan, UT) #1 Logan Stieber (SR, Monroeville, OH)
149 #17 Zack Beitz (SO, Mifflintown, PA) #6 Hunter Stieber (JR, Monroeville, OH)
157 #8 Dylan Alton (SR, Mill Hall, PA) #5 Josh Demas (SR, Columbus, OH)
165 NR Garett Hammond (FR, Chambersburg, PA) #6 Bo Jordan (FR, St.Paris, OH)
174 #4 Matt Brown (SR, West Valley City, UT) #13 Mark Martin (JR, Strongsville, OH)
184 #16 Matt McCutcheon (FR, Apollo, PA) #11 Kenny Courts (JR, Harrisburg, PA)
197 #4 Morgan McIntosh (JR, Santa Ana, CA) #7 Kyle Snyder (FR, Woodbine, MD)
285 #6 Jimmy Lawson (SR, Toms River, NJ) #10 Nick Tavanello (SO, Wadsworth, OH)