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Nov. 5, 2003

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 10 Ohio State wrestling team (0-0, 0-0) lines up for its first event of the season as the Buckeyes travel north to East Lansing, Mich. for the 2003 Michigan State Open in Jenison Field House.

THE MICHIGAN STATE SLATE
The Michigan State Open is a two-day non-team scoring event with competition spanning from Saturday, Nov. 8 through Sunday, Nov. 9.

The tournament schedule is as follows: Saturday Session I: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Session II: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Sunday Session III: 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Finals: 1 p.m. – 3p.m.

THE MSU OPEN FIELD
Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Findlay, SUNY Brockport, Muskegon Community College and Grand Valley State.

OHIO STATE RANKED AMONG NATIONAL TOP 15
The Ohio State wrestling team, which completed the 2002-03 season with a 12-7 overall dual mark and a Top 15 finish at the NCAA championships, once again has been recognized among the Top 15 in the nation by numerous amateur wrestling publications as the team embarks on a the 2003-04 season.

The Buckeyes are slotted as high as the No. 10 position by W.I.N. Magazine, while placing 12th and 15th in the Intermat.com and WrestlingMall.com polls, respectively.

FOUR BUCKEYES RANKED INDIVIDUALLY IN NATIONAL TOP 10
Individually, four separate Buckeyes rank within the Top 10 of their weight class in at least one of the major polls. Highlighting the Ohio State lineup is 2002 heavyweight champion and three-time All-American senior Tommy Rowlands (Hilliard, Ohio/ Bishop Ready), who tops the Amateur Wrestling News rankings, while placing second in the Intermat and Wrestling Mall polls.

Fellow All-American John Clark (Sr., Canton, N.Y./ Canton), who will wrestle at 165 pounds for the third-straight season, is slotted as high as No. 4 (Intermat), while holding at No. 5 in the AWN and TWM rankings.

Two other seniors fall into the Top 10 as 141 Jeff Ratliff (Marion, Ohio/ Marion Harding) and 184 Blake Kaplan (Cincinnati, Ohio/ Sycamore) look to conclude their careers with their first honors as All-Americans. Ratliff, who is approaching the 100-win plateau, is ranked No. 8 by TWM, while posting 10th and 11th positions in Intermat and AWN. Kaplan, who wrestled at 174 in 2002-03, jumps a weight class and finds himself ranked as the No. 9 wrestler at 184 pounds by Intermat.

Another pair of Buckeyes are ranked among the Top 20. One wrestler closes out his career in 2003-04, while another enters his initial season of collegiate competition. Senior 133 Jesse Leng (Hinckley, Ohio/ Highland) accounts for a No. 19 ranking by AWN, while freshman 197 J.D. Bergman (Oak Harbor, Ohio) has penetrated the Intermat rankings at No. 17.

MSU OPEN SETS STAGE FOR DEEP SENIOR CLASS AND TOUTED FRESHMAN
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.

The event also serves as the first for a handful of OSU freshman, highlighted by 197 J. D. Bergman, a two-time Ohio state high school champion, and and three-time New York state title-winner Ryan Needle at 149.

2002 MICHIGAN STATE OPEN
Five members of the 2002 OSU squad claimed titles in the non-team scoring event. Senior 197 Antan Talamantes defended his 2001 crown with a narrow 2-1 win over host Michigan State’s Nik Fekete in the finals, scoring on a takedown with just 10 seconds remaining in the third period.

Buckeye HWT and defending NCAA Champion Tommy Rowlands captured the heavyweight title as he bested MSU’s John Wechter in the semifinal round 8-3 and defeated Northern Illinois HWT Matt Davis 14-7 in the finals to top the heavyweight class.

Keaton Anderson and Blake Kaplan also claimed titles at the open. Kaplan, who claimed second place in last year’s event as a 24-seed, took advantage of his No. 2-status in the 174 class and defeated George Kirgan of Northern Illinois in the semifinal round by a 5-2 tally and claimed the championship with a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh’s Carl Fronhoffer in the championship match.

Also capturing a crown for the Buckeyes was 165-pound junior standout John Clark, who advanced past Ohio University’s Luke Moore 9-4 in the semis and took first place with a 4-1 decision over Kent State’s Nick Nemeth in the finals.

MILESTONES SET TO FALL IN 2003
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 he could pass No. 2 Disabato and No. 1 Ed Potokar near the end of the season.

John Clark and Jeff 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.

SENIORS CLARK AND RATLIFF NARROW IN ON 100 CAREER VICTORIES
The 2003-04 season has the potential to mark the second-consecutive season that two Ohio State wrestlers register their 100th career victory.

Tommy Rowlands notched his 100th early in the dual season, while departed senior Keaton Anderson his the century mark during the Big Ten championships.

Senior John Clark and Jeff Ratliff enter this season with the 100-win plateau within their grasp as Clark heads into competition with 97 career wins, while Ratliff (77 career wins) aims for his third-straight 30-plus win season that would assure him a 100th victory as well.

TOP NOTCH SCHEDULE
The Buckeyes boast a schedule that includes competition with ranked squads on a weekly basis this season, 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.

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.

BUCKEYES EXCEPTIONAL IN EARLY TOURNAMENTS LAST SEASON
OSU kicked off the 2002-03 season in impressive fashion as the squad boasted 10 tournament titles and four runners-up performances, contributing to a combined total of 23 placers coming in the Michigan State Open, Oklahoma Gold Classic, Las Vegas Invitational and Midlands Championships.

A quartet of Buckeyes claimed multiple titles as Keaton Anderson (157), John Clark (165) and Tommy Rowlands (HWT) took titles at both the Michigan State Open and the Oklahoma Gold Classic, while Anton Talamantes (197) recorded championships at the Michigan State Open as well and combined that with a title-winning performance at the Las Vegas Invitational. Anderson added a third title as he claimed the 157-pound championship at the Midlands.

The foursome, along with fellow Michigan State Open champ Blake Kaplan (174), amassed an impressive 89-11 combined mark to start the year in tournament competition contributing to a team total of 545 takedowns, which bested the OSU opponent takedown total of 265 by an astounding 280 takedowns.

HOW THEY LINE UP IN 2003
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. Sophomore Aaron Joseph, a transfer from Eastern Michigan, also joins the mix at 125.

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. Redshirt freshman Theo Dotson adds depth to the class.

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 are Dotson and sophomore Pasquale “Patsy” Razzano.

149: 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 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 sophomore 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 Freestyle 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.

2002-03 Season Review
The 2002-03 Ohio State wrestling season marked the second-consecutive campaign that head coach Russ Hellickson guided three Buckeyes to All-American status as senior 157 Keaton Anderson and junior 165 John Clark tallied their first such honor, while junior HWT Tommy Rowlands became the fourth Buckeye to become a three-time All-American.

In the dual season, Ohio State captured wins in six of its first seven matches, including victories over No. 6 West Virginia and No. 24 Cleveland State prior to serving as host to the NWCA National Duals for the second-consecutive season, where Ohio State scored a win over No. 16 Michigan State in the quarterfinals of the event before falling to top-ranked Oklahoma State in the semifinals. Ohio State rebounded with a victory over No. 6 Cornell before dropping a decision to No. 3 Iowa in the third place bout.

The Buckeyes completed the 2002-03 dual season with a 12-7 overall mark and a 4-4 Big Ten record.

UP NEXT
Ohio State heads to Brockport, N.Y. for the 2003 Oklahoma Gold Classic Saturday, Nov. 15. The all day event features Big 12 power and national Top 5 squad Oklahoma. The Sooners narrowly edged Ohio State for first place in the event last season.