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2003-04 Ohio State Wrestling Outlook

Ohio State wrestling head coach Russ Hellickson enters his 18th season at the Buckeye helm with one of the deepest rosters in his tenure, as OSU returns two All-Americans among five NCAA qualifiers. The returnees include a stellar senior class that should provide leadership to a line up intermixed with young talent faced with the task of replacing departed seniors Keaton Anderson, an All-American in 2003, and NCAA qualifiers Casey Kapustka and Anton Talamantes. This is a challenge Hellickson feels his team is well-equipped to fulfill.

“We have experience and depth with two or three wrestlers at nearly every weight class,” Hellickson, who recorded his 250th career win at Ohio State last season, said. “This is the deepest team we have had in some time. The squad is balanced and talented at every slot. We have a motivated team that has a solid chance at a Top 5 finish in the nation.”

How they Line Up

Decorated experience intertwines with talented youth in the 2003-04 Buckeye line up as five seniors and five relative newcomers will look to fill the 10 spots.

125: One of the deepest classes on the roster. Redshirt freshman Jermaine Jones, a two-time Pennsylvania state champion, should assume the role of starter with 2002-03 starters junior Rob Rosenfeld and sophomore Nathan Costello adding depth.

133: Fifth-year senior Jesse Leng hopes to fully recover from an injury-plagued 2003 season. Leng, who is a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, looks to compete in the NCAA championships for the second time in his career.

141: Senior three-time NCAA qualifier Jeff Ratliff should vie for an individual conference title, while also seeking his first All-America honor. Ratliff also will search for his 100th career victory. Adding depth is sophomore Pasquale “Patsy” Razzano.

149: Freshmen will assume this role in the line up as three-time New York state champ Ryan Needle will battle local product Nick Harpster for the starting slot. Needle placed third at the Cadet National Freestyle Championships in 2001. Also in the mix is junior Ryan Derr, who has made the jump from 133/141.

157: A trio of freshman will look to fill the shoes of departed All-American Keaton Anderson, as redshirt freshman Ryan Rhodes and freshman James King, a Texas state champion, will hope to stake claim at 157, while Harpster also may jump a class.

165: Clark will be penciled in at 165 for the third-consecutive season. He looks to climb the OSU all-time charts in takedowns, team points and career wins while in search of his second All-America honor.

174: Kaplan may assume his slot from 2002-03 but also may jump to 184 should sophomore Anthony Magistrelli, who claimed 16 wins in Kaplan’s absence, prove to be the best fit.

184: Kaplan may be the option at 184, while Emory-Riddle transfer Nathan Augustson also will see time at the weight class. Another seeking to earn time at 184 is junior Brent Billett.

197: A freshman replacing a senior also may be the case at 197 pounds where J.D. Bergman looks to assume the role Anton Talamantes held for the last two seasons. Bergman comes to Columbus after two Ohio state titles at Oak Harbor High School and Junior National Freestyles and Greco Roman titles.

HWT: Tommy Rowlands looks to complete his collegiate career as Ohio State’s only four-time All-American, while seeking his second national title. He owns the school record for team points and aims to top the charts for career takedowns and career wins.

“We have a lot of strong individuals at each position,” Hellickson said. “We really have no weak weight classes. I see every class at .500 or better with 20 individual wins in sight for each. Six or seven have a shot at being an All-American.”

Senior Leaders

The 2003-04 class of seniors has built an impressive resume that reads four All-America honorees, a dozen national qualifiers and an excess of 360 career victories. Owning three of the All-America accolades is 2002 NCAA Heavyweight Champion Tommy Rowlands, who owns 120 of those victories. Looking to join Rowlands as a 100-match winner will be senior and 2003 All-American John Clark, who enters the season with 97 victories, and Jeff Ratliff, a 77-match winner through three seasons with the Scarlet and Gray.

Fellow senior NCAA qualifiers Blake Kaplan and Jesse Leng, who each suffered injury-shortened seasons in 2002-03, will seek their first All-America honors as well. Kaplan was held to just 29 matches last season, while Leng was limited to 15.

“All five have been leaders since their freshman seasons,” Hellickson said. “They are a group that does not need to be motivated by our coaching staff. They are a great combination of competitors. Tommy has a chance at being the first four-time All-American at Ohio State and John Clark has the chance to join the list of two-time All-Americans. Those types of goals should prove to be contagious on this team.”

Who’s New

Bergman and Needle lead an impressive first-year class of 11, including eight wrestlers who hail from the state of Ohio. Also joining the Ohio State squad is freshman transfer Augustson at 184 pounds.

“Even our recruiting class has depth,” Hellickson said. “It is a solid Top 5 in the country. It is a large group of outstanding and hard working student-athletes. I look for all of them to jump out of the box and be very tough.”

The following is a list of Ohio State’s 2003-04 additions and their possible weight classes:

133 – T.J. Enright (Galloway Westland, Ohio) 141 – Ryan Needle (Burt, N.Y.) 141 – Joe Warner (Powell, Ohio) 149/157 – Johnny Vogel (Grandview Heights, Ohio) 157 – James King (Rockwall, Texas) 165 – Kevin Petrella (Columbus, Ohio) 174/184 – Nathaniel Augustson (Jr. Transfer/ Embry-Riddle) 174/184 – Zachary Craiglow (Lancaster, Ohio) 174/184 – Alex Picazo (Grandview Heights, Ohio) 197 – J.D. Bergman (Oak Harbor, Ohio) HWT – Josh Bartholomew (Grandview Heights, Ohio) HWT – Grant Miller (Rockton Hononegah, Ill.)

Top Notch Schedule

The Buckeyes boast a schedule that includes competition with ranked squads on a weekly basis, including early season meets and tournaments featuring the third and fourth place teams from the 2003 NCAA Championships – Oklahoma and Lehigh – before heading into the Big Ten slate, where the Buckeyes will face six opponents who placed in the Top 18 at the 2003 NCAA tournament. The season climaxes as the Buckeyes play host to the 2004 Big Ten Championships in St. John Arena.

“I like our schedule. It is challenging from beginning to end,” Hellickson said. “The Big Ten meet adds a motivating factor for our guys this season. It allows them a stage to prove themselves in front of the home crowd.”

As in 2002-03, Ohio State will open its season with trips to the Michigan State Open in East Lansing, Mich. (Nov. 10 -11), The Oklahoma Gold Classic in Brockport, N.Y. (Nov. 15), featuring Oklahoma, which has placed third at each of the last two NCAA championships, and the Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 6 – 7) before adding the Clarion Duals (Dec. 14) two weeks prior to the 41st annual Midlands in Evanston, Ill. (Dec. 29-30).

The Buckeyes return home following the New Year and serve as host of the 2004 Buckeye Duals (Jan. 3). Highlighting the field will be a visit by Lehigh, the defending Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association champions. Other teams wrestling will be Eastern Illinois, Bloomsburg, Buffalo and Big Ten foe Indiana.

Ohio State will take on its second Top 20 opponent, Missouri, at the Chattanooga Tri-Duals (Jan. 10), which also features the host Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs. The Tigers placed just behind the Buckeyes at the 2003 NCAA Championships in 16th place.

The host of the NWCA National Duals the last two seasons, Ohio State gives way to Cleveland State University as host of the event Jan. 17-18 in CSU’s Convocation Center, where the Buckeyes will compete among the top programs in the country before running the Big Ten gauntlet as OSU will spar five of the Top 11 teams in the country in less than a month.

The Buckeyes first play host to Penn State (Jan. 25), who took sixth at the national tournament, before heading to West Lafayette, Ind. (Jan. 30) in hopes of avenging a tight home loss last season to Purdue. The Boilermakers also edged Ohio State at the national tournament by a mere point.

OSU will play host to its only Friday-Sunday home stand of the season Feb. 6-8 as Michigan and Northwestern invade Columbus. The Wolverines fell just shy of Penn State at the nationals in seventh.

Ohio State hits the road again for another Top 10 contest vs. Illinois (Jan. 13) before completing the home slate Jan. 15 against Michigan State prior to closing the season with a challenging trip to Iowa for bouts with the Hawkeyes (Feb. 20) and Northern Iowa (Feb. 21). The back-to-back bouts feature the ninth and 11th ranked teams at the national tournament.

“This season’s schedule is as good as we can have,” Hellickson said. “This schedule will give our seniors and newcomers everything they need to peak by the Big Ten Championships.”

Milestones Set to Fall

2002-03 saw numerous milestones set by Ohio State coaches and athletes as Russ Hellickson claimed his 250th win as Buckeye head coach, while Tommy Rowlands eclipsed the 100-victory plateau and also assumed the top spot in OSU career team points. He will become the first Buckeye to pass the 500-point ceiling early this season.

Rowlands also will seek to claim the No. 1 slot in career takedowns in 2003-04. He currently stands 180 shy of Adam DiSabato (1989-1993). Another 30-plus win campaign will lead Rowlands to the No. 1 position in career wins as well as he could pass No. 2 Disabato and No. 1 Ed Potokar near the end of the season.

Clark and Ratliff also will be in pursuit of high marks in the Ohio State all-time charts in takedowns and team points, while Clark will seek to improve upon his 163 takedowns in 2003-04, the fourth-highest season total in OSU history. In fact, each member of the trio of Clark, Ratliff and Rowlands could possibly reach a Top 5 spot in season takedowns in 2003-04.