January 20, 1999
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The way the upcoming week sets up for the Ohio State wrestling team (9-4), it could very well be the toughest of the season. The festivities begin Friday when the Buckeyes take on the four-time defending national champion Iowa Hawkeyes, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation. It gets no easier on Saturday, when OSU travels to College Station, Pa., to battle the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions. The matches kick off the Big Ten season for Ohio State.
Iowa comes into Friday night’s match ranked third in the nation and owners of a 7-1 record after a third-place showing in the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Dual Championships in Iowa City, Iowa. The Hawkeyes are looking to rebound from the dejection they felt after that result. Iowa entered this season winners of the last four national championships and 18 of the previous 24.
The National Duals, perhaps the toughest tournament in the nation other than the NCAA’s, featured eight of the top 10 teams in the nation and 13 of the top 15. The Hawkeyes defeated No. 15 Michigan State, 35-3, in the first round; No. 6 Oklahoma, 21-13, in the quarterfinals; lost to No. 2 Minnesota in the semifinals; then defeated No. 4 Iowa State, 32-7, in the third-place match. Iowa State is the one common opponent between Iowa and Ohio State. The Buckeyes matched up with the Cyclones on November 22 in Columbus, a match won by ISU, 19-13.
The Hawkeyes currently have eight wrestlers ranked by either InterMat or Amateur Wrestling News and three returning All-Americans. Leading the way is sophomore T.J. Williams at 149. The Harvey, Illinois, native is No. 1 in InterMat’s poll and No. 2 in Amateur Wrestling News’s rankings. Williams began his collegiate wrestling career at Lassen (Calif.) Community College, going 35-7 in 1997. He redshirted last year for the Hawkeyes.
Senior Lee Fulhart returns after last year saw him finish with a record of 31-4-6. He also placed second in the Big Ten and third at NCAA’s. His sophomore season was just as impressive. During that year he went 26-4-1 and won the NCAA title at 190. Currently ranked No. 2 by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News, Fullhart has compiled a 20-2 (7-1 dual) record this year. He is a three-time All-American.
Another wrestler that has impressive credentials is junior heavyweight Wes Hand. He is currently ranked second in both InterMat’s and AWN’s poll and has a record of 21-4 (7-1 dual). Like Fullhart, he participated in the NCAAs last year – finishing eighth – and was named All-American.
OSU VS. HAWKEYES – THE SERIES
Ohio State and Iowa have not met up since the 1992-93 season. In that match, the Hawkeyes beat OSU in Iowa City, 25-3. Iowa has not played Ohio State in Columbus since December 4, 1989.
Iowa leads the all-time series 25-2.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON 133
The probable matchup at 133 looks on paper to be one of the more exciting matches of the evening. In that match, Iowa’s Eric Juergens, who was a 1998 All-American and finished third at the NCAA’s, should meet up with OSU’s Robert Sessley, who is currently the team leader in wins with 24.
Juergens holds a record of 20-3 (8-0 dual) so far this season, while Sessley is 24-8. Both wrestlers also find themselves in the current rankings – Juergens at No. 3 in both InterMat’s and AWN’s poll and Sessley at No. 20 in InterMat and No. 17 in Amateur Wrestling News.
SCOUTING PENN STATE
Penn State, like Iowa, participated in the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Dual Championships last weekend. But unlike Iowa, they did not have as much success. Their first match resulted in a 23-13 loss to No. 9 Arizona State. They rebounded in their second match to defeat No. 10 Northwestern, 20-13, but fell in their final match to No. 6 Oklahoma, 22-12.
Currently ranked No. 5 in the nation, the Nittany Lions return four All-Americans from a team that finished fourth at the NCAA Championships last year. Penn State is led by senior Glenn Pritzlaff and junior Jeremy Hunter. Pritzlaff, who wrestles at 174, was an All-American selection after finishing seventh at the NCAA’s at 167. He is currently ranked No. 1 at 174 by Big Ten coaches and No. 2 by both InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News. Pritzlaff has compiled a record of 13-1 (8-0 dual) this season.
Hunter has an equally impressive resume. He has yet to lose a match this season, going a perfect 17-0 with six falls, three technical falls and two major decisions. Hunter is ranked third by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News. The West Alexander, Pennsylvania, native has had a solid career in College Station, finishing third in the Big Ten Championships in 1997 and second in 1998. Last year, he participated in the NCAA Championships and finished fifth. In the latest Big Ten coaches poll, Hunter is ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds.
OSU VS. NITTANY LIONS – THE SERIES
The Buckeyes wrestled against Penn State last year, a match won by the Nittany Lions, 20-12, in Columbus. Penn State leads the all-time series 18-3.
OHIO STATE – LAST WEEKEND
The Buckeyes come into the Big Ten opener having gone 3-1 last weekend. They kicked off the action Saturday with a home match against No. 25 Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Ohio State, things did not go their way as Pittsburgh knifed through the lower weight classes to walk away with a 22-9 victory.
OSU bounced back the very next day, however. Competing at the Wendy’s Classic in Ashland, Ohio, the Buckeyes faced Kent, Ashland and Cleveland State and defeated each of them easily. Ohio State’s first match at the Classic against Kent was potentially their most dangerous, but they breezed through the Golden Flashes, 28-6. Fueled by the momentum from that win, the Buckeyes cruised in their other matches, defeating Ashland, 30-6, and Cleveland State, 23-10.
“I was very pleased with the way the team bounced back after the Pittsburgh match,” Ohio State head coach Russ Hellickson said. “That was a good team we wrestled in Kent, and we really beat them pretty easily. I was very happy with our effort.”
BO BETTER BLUES
The re-emergence of Bo James is a welcome sight to the Buckeye coaching staff. Since returning from his wrist injury, the sophomore from Akron has gone 5-1 with one technical fall. On the season, James has compiled a record of 16-2 (6-1 dual) with 27 takedowns and 35 back points.
Pound-for-pound possibly the strongest wrestler on the team, James has an advantage because he can usually simply overpower his opponents. This was evident in his match against Kevin Johnson of Pittsburgh, when James was able to tire out Johnson by picking him up and slamming him to the mat on several different occasions. The strength of James also shows up in his riding time, which is usually very high.
“Bo is capable of great things here at Ohio State,” Hellickson said. “He’s got a great work ethic and is a solid individual. I think he can be a real force in the nation at 174.”
KEY MATCHUP AT 174
One of the possibly more exciting matchups in the Penn State-Ohio State match will come at 174, where the Nittany Lions Glenn Pritzlaff will square off against OSU’s Bo James. Pritzlaff is ranked No. 1 by Big Ten coaches at 174 and Bo James has been one of the Buckeyes better wrestlers this year, posting a 16-2 record (6-1 dual). James was ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News before a wrist injury kept him out of action for most of December.
ITS HIS NEIGHBORHOOD
Peter Rogers stepped to the forefront of many statistical categories by going 4-0 last weekend. He starting things out with a closely fought 2-1 win over Pittsburgh’s Brian Pardini. He then proceeded to take his next two opponents behind the woodshed, pinning Kent’s John Moore and Ashland’s Greg Reamsider before finishing up with a 4-1 victory over Gerald Harris of Cleveland State.
With his perfect weekend, Rogers has now won seven straight decisions and nine of his last ten. Currently ranked No. 17 by Amateur Wrestling News, the junior from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is second on the team in wins (18) and team points (45) and first in falls (4).
“Peter is someone we see being an All-American candidate right now,” Hellickson said. “He’s someone that is easy to root for because he wrestles with so much heart.”
THE SESSLEY EXPRESS
There was a slight derailment in the Robert Sessley Express against Pittsburgh on Saturday, but the train got back on track Sunday at the Wendy’s Classic. The sophomore obviously did not like the taste of losing, because he came back to outscore his three opponents 31-12 Sunday. The victory over Kent came at 141, the first time this year he has wrestled at that weight.
The Columbus native still is the team leader in several statistical categories – wins (24), dual match wins (10), takedowns (73), team points (48.5) and majority decisions (6). For the Buckeyes to be succesful this weekend, they will need Sessley to be at his best.
PLEASE PASS THE ANTACID
All of Eric Wood’s contests should come with a disclaimer: if you do not have a strong heart, don’t watch.
The fifth-year senior had two matches decided by one point and one decided by two points last weekend. For the year, Wood has had 17 of his 27 matches decided by three points or less. Wood’s nerves have proven solid even if his fans’ have not. His record in those matches is 11-6.
One of the more solid performers this year for Ohio State has been fifth-year senior Matt Fratta. Wrestling at 125, Fratta has been called upon many times this dual match season to get the Buckeyes off to a good start, and more times than not he has come through. The Willard, Ohio, native is 4-1 when leading off matches for the Buckeyes.
After an Ohio State career record of 31-25 entering this season (he spent his freshman year at Hofstra University), Fratta has stepped up to post a 16-6 mark in his senior campaign. Included in that record is an impressive 8-2 dual match ledger.
“Matt is hard to move because he is so strong,” Ohio State assistant coach Ken Ramsey said. “He is an incredibly strong worker that is hard to score on. Plus, being a fifth-year senior, he provides us with great leadership.”
JUST WATCH SESS
When Robert Sessley wins his dual match, that usually bodes well for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 9-1 this year when Sessley wins his dual match. However, when Sessley loses, OSU has a record of 0-3.
Ohio State’s best weight class this year has been 125 pounds. Between Matt Fratta and Kore Sharpley, that position has gone 11-2 in dual matches. The next best weight class is 157 pounds. The Buckeyes have gone 10-3 in dual matches at that position.
Three Buckeyes – Robert Sessley (133), Peter Rogers (165) and Eric Wood (HWT) – have wrestled in every dual match this season. They have fared very well as of late, going a combined 21-5 in their last nine dual matches. Sessley is the only wrestler of the three to not wrestle all of his dual matches in the same weight class. He moved up to 141 against Kent on January 17 and defeated Steve Daugherty, 4-2.
I’M FROM P-TOWN
Freshman Keaton Anderson has had quite a first season as a Buckeye. The Pickerington native has a record of 13-2 (4-0 dual) while racking up a team-high 67 back points. Anderson has had to battle some injuries in the last month, which has kept him out of some competition. He is hopeful of seeing his first action on the mat since January 9 this weekend.
BIG TEN DOMINANCE
The Big Ten currently has eight teams ranked in the top 25 by Intermat Magazine. Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State – all teams the Buckeyes face this year – are ranked second, third and fifth, respectively. Iowa State, who Ohio State wrestled in their first match of the season, is ranked No. 4.
Twenty-nine wrestlers from the Buckeye state dot the Ohio State roster entering the 1998-99 season. Eight of those wrestlers hail from the Columbus area.
PRIZED RECRUITING CLASS
Three high school wrestling All-Americans highlight the list of OSU’s newcomers this season. Joel Walker (Upper Arlington, Ohio), Nick Preston (Columbus, Ohio), and Keaton Anderson (Pickerington, Ohio) – all Columbus-area natives – each gained All-America honors last season and were Ohio state champions at some point in their career.
NEW HOME FOR THE BUCKEYES
With the addition of the Jerome Schottenstein Center to house the OSU hockey and basketball teams, the Ohio State wrestling team will now have complete access to St. John Arena. All home meets will be held in St. John this year, which has a capacity of 13,276.
Two new faces can be seen on the Ohio State coaching staff this year. Miron Kharchilava, a 1995 graduate of the University of Findlay, is an assistant coach on this year’s squad. Kharchilava, a former member of the Soviet National Team, comes to OSU from Indiana University where he was an assistant coach for the past three years.
Former Buckeye Mitch Clark also joins this year’s staff as an undergraduate assistant coach. Clark captured both National and Big Ten Championships last season, and finished his OSU career with an overall record of 119-27.
Ohio State is 9-0 when the 157 pound weight class wins … Peter Rogers has won seven matches in a row dating back December 20 against Bucknell … Kore Sharpley has amassed a 4-0 record when substituting at 125 for Matt Fratta … Ohio State defeated all three of their opponents at the Wendy’s Classic by a combined score of 81-22 … Four of Ohio State’s next five opponents are ranked at the moment – Iowa (No. 3), Penn State (No. 5), Purdue (No. 17) and Minnesota (No. 2) … With two more victories, the Buckeyes will match their season win total for last year (10).