Feb. 12, 2003
As personally satisfying as defeating then-No. 1 Luke Becker of Minnesota to claim the top spot at the 157-pound class earlier this season is to Ohio State senior Keaton Anderson, he feels there is quite a bit of unfinished business to attend to before his final campaign as a Buckeye can truly be judged a personal success.
Many of us might be content with a wrestling resume as impressive as Anderson’s, which includes a career mark of 95 wins opposed to just 28 losses, a sparkling 42-9 record in dual matches and two-consecutive trips to NCAA championship competition.
But for Anderson, a product of Pickerington, Ohio, these accomplishments are nothing but sheir motivation to reach a higher level of competition.
“I am definitely pleased with what I have accomplished so far this year,” Anderson said. “But I will not be completely pleased with myself until we go to nationals and I, hopefully, bring back a national championship. A Big Ten title and national championship are really the only goals I am focusing on right now.”
Anderson, who fell just one win shy of All-America status in 2002, entered the season ranked between No. 7 and No. 9 in the country and used those rankings as inspiration to prove he belonged at the top of the 157-pound class.
“I try not to pay attention to the polls all that much,” Anderson said. “But I know I did not like looking at that many people in front of me. This is my first year at 157 and I can see how those rankings fell in, but I certainly used them as motivation to win and keep winning.”
Winning is something that Anderson has become accustomed to in 2003, considering that he has yet to lose since the turn of the calendar year en route to a 16-match win streak and a 28-1 overall mark, which includes an unblemished 11-0 dual record.
Anderson partially attributes his success this season to a combination of enhanced off-season training coupled with an improved mental approach. “I have focused on training a lot harder,” Anderson said. “I lifted more this summer and I think that has made a big difference this year. I have stepped up my work ethic from last year and that has paid off, as well.”
Ohio State head coach Russ Hellickson, who is in the midst of his 17th year at the Buckeye helm, agrees that Anderson has truly put forth the effort necessary to succeed at the Big Ten and national levels.
“Obviously he is very focused this year as a senior and trying to get the job done right,” Hellickson said. “He has everything structured in his mind with training, practice and preparation, which he has not deviated from one bit. His entire life is dedicated to being ready for competition. The way he eats, the way he sleeps, the way he trains is all programmed and has been done so more consistently this year.”
Anderson has intertwined his training methods and work ethic to accent his move to the 157-pound weight class after spending his previous three seasons at 149, where he claimed consecutive fourth place finishes at the Big Ten Championships in 2001 and 2002.
He feels that the move truly better suits his physical abilities on the mat.
“I think making the move from 149 to 157 has made a big difference this season,” Anderson said. “I had to cut some weight at 149 and I do not deal well with cutting weight. Now at 157, I only have to cut two or three pounds before meets and that makes a pretty big difference energy-wise and with my strength levels.”
Hellickson shares Anderson’s sentiments about making the adjustment from 149 to 157.
“I think making the move up to 157 is probably the greatest thing he ever did. He does not have to pull weight, which tends to be a negative thing in wrestling. He is one of those guys that is better suited to cut less often and moving to 157 has helped him immensely.”
Making the jump to 157 meant that Anderson would face the challenge of larger and stronger athletes that he had yet to face during his time at 149. Included in that class was reigning national champion Becker and his 113-25 career record.
Anderson knew the journey to the top traveled directly through the Minnesota senior as he welcomed his first crack at knocking Becker from the top of the hill on Dec. 7 in the championship bout of the 2002 Las Vegas Invitational.
Becker and Anderson, ranked sixth at the time, battled in a tightly contested match as Becker ultimately prevailed with an 8-5 decision to claim the Las Vegas Invite crown and prove his No. 1 ranking.
Anderson took the loss as a learning experience and adjusted his approach when the Buckeyes met the Golden Gophers Feb. 2 at St. John Arena.
Ohio State faced a daunting 20-3 deficit heading into the feature match of the afternoon between Anderson and Becker as the two combatants scrapped to a 0-0 stalemate after the first period before Anderson set the 1,515 in attendance into an eruption with an emphatic 2-point takedown midway through the second period. Anderson carried a 3-1 advantage into the third stanza and extended the lead with two strong takedowns as he had Becker on the verge of a fall on two separate occasions for a convincing 9-3 edge. Anderson recorded the dominating 10-3 decision following a 1-point addition for riding time.
Anderson attributed a combination of factors to the success of his newfound approach to defeating Becker.
“I think I was more patient in that second match,” Anderson said. “I was also more aggressive. I took more shots at better opportunities which helped me take the advantage and things just came out in my favor.”
Anderson has proved to be a rock in the heart of the Ohio State order and is depended upon from match-to-match by his OSU teammates and he has yet to let them down during the dual season. Whether in a bout against a ranked opponent or faced with a match that may ultimately decide a dual, Anderson has come through time and time again – 11 for 11 to be exact – to help the Buckeyes remain among the Top 5 teams in the nation.
“Keaton is beating the best guys in the country,” Hellickson said. “He is the No. 1 guy in the nation. So obviously he is doing it the right way with the right attitude. He is right where he wants to be heading into Big Tens and the NCAA’s.”