Tom Ryan had a whim, and it turned out to be the perfect ending to a good day of wrestling for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
With victory assured and a ticket to the semifinals of the NWCA National Duals clinched vs. Kent State, Ryan looked over at heavyweight Kosta Karageorge one minute before the scheduled match at that weight class and had an idea.
“There’s one minute to go in (Nick) Heflin’s match and I’m sitting next to him and I’m looking at him like, ‘You wanna wrestle tonight?’ ” Ryan, Ohio State’s head coach, said. “He had no idea he was wrestling. He didn’t have a singlet on, his shoes weren’t tied. He goes, ‘Coach, I don’t have a singlet, but I wanna wrestle.’ I said, ‘Run to the back, change into a singlet, run out and wrestle.’ ”
Karageorge posted an 18-0 technical fall in his match vs. Mimmo Kytle, capping off a 32-4 drubbing of the Golden Flashes in St. John Arena.
“That’s good,” Ryan said of the performance by Karageorge. “I was proud of that. There was no discussion of him wrestling today, but it’s interesting because I think sometimes when we know we’re going to compete, the nerves of the day and all the stress, your heart rate is up and down, you release chemicals in your body that cause you to be tired eventually.
“He didn’t have any of that. He goes, ‘Coach, I just had three sandwiches and a big Gatorade.’ He goes, ‘I wanna wrestle; I may puke, but I’m gonna wrestle.’ ”
The win, combined with a 29-10 victory earlier in the day vs. Hofstra, moved the No. 13 Buckeyes into the semifinals of the annual tournament, setting up a meeting Monday on Big Ten Network with top-ranked Minnesota.
“It was a good day,” Ryan said. “We saw some good things. I think the conditioning looks like it’s coming along, but tomorrow is a test. I don’t know if we didn’t do anything we didn’t expect to do today, but tomorrow, our toughness will be tested.”
The Buckeyes came out firing vs. the Golden Flashes, winning the first six matches to take an insurmountable lead.
Freshman Nick Roberts started the dual off right at 125 pounds with a 15-0 technical fall against Alfredo Gray. But the big win might have been at 133, where No. 9 Johnni DiJulius used a reversal in the dying seconds to post a 2-0 victory against Mack McGuire.
“I’ve wrestled him a lot and he definitely is a very smart wrestler,” DiJulius said. “Getting the victory at the end I think was not only good for me but good for the team. Being one of the first matches sets the tone and the momentum of the dual.”
From there, No. 3 Logan Stieber didn’t have much trouble at 141 with a 13-2 win vs. Tyler Small, then the Buckeyes also got wins from No. 20 Ian Paddock at 149, Randy Languis at 157 and Joe Grandominico at 165.
Mark Martin, ranked 13th at 174, didn’t wrestle because of a nagging injury, but No. 11 Kenny Courts (184), No. 8 Nick Heflin (197) and Karageorge finished things off.
In the match vs. Hofstra, the Buckeyes won seven of 10 matches. The Buckeyes again both started and finished strong, with Roberts posting a 5-2 decision over No. 17 Jamie Franco before DiJulius won via forfeit to run the lead to 9-0. Stieber then earned a 16-1 technical fall vs. 11th-ranked Luke Vaith, and Paddock made it 17-0 with a sudden-victory decision against Cody Ruggirello.
The Pride won three straight matches to make it 17-10, but Courts took a 10-3 decision vs. Victor Pozsonyl to put the Buckeyes back in command. Heflin then pinned Zeal McGrew in just 59 seconds and heavyweight Nick Tavanello won a 3-1 decision vs. Michael Hughes.
“It’s a very cool event to host, especially for people, friends, that aren’t really into wrestling, to be able to come just to watch,” DiJulius said. “It’s not just a dual meet – one mat, one team. It’s nice for them to see the atmosphere of crazy wrestling fans.”