ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Behind a runner-up finish from Sammy Sasso and three All-Americans, Ohio State finished ninth at the 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championships this weekend in St. Louis.
Seven Buckeyes competed this weekend and all seven advanced to the second day and three earned All-America honors – Sammy Sasso, Ethan Smith and Tate Orndorff.
Under head coach Tom Ryan (since 2007), the Buckeyes have finished in the Top 10 at the NCAA Championships in all but one season.
Sasso had a terrific championship match with North Carolina Austin O’Connor on Saturday night in the 149-pound title bout. Neither wrestler scored in the first and Sasso was able to ride for over a minute in the second before O’Connor escaped. Sasso then escaped quickly at the start of the third and still had 1:03 riding time advantage. But O’Connor got a takedown and Sasso’s escape made the score 3-2 late in the third. Needing a takedown, Sasso seemed to get one near the edge of the mat as time was expiring. Even after a review, no takedown was awarded and Sasso had to settle for second place.
It was a tremendous year for the Buckeye sophomore. This was his only loss on the season as he finished 16-1. He earned All-America status for the first time in his career and no doubt, this will fuel him for next season.
Ethan Smith opened the day Saturday in the consolation semifinals against Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State. Smith won 4-3 in the second round on Thursday but it was Wittlake’s turn to flip the script. Wittlake scored a big reversal at the start of the second period to push his lead to 6-3. He then was able to control the riding time point and won 7-3.
In the fifth-place match on Saturday afternoon, Smith was pitted against Zach Hartman of Bucknell. It was a very good match as Smith led 2-1 after the first and Hartman had a pair of escapes and a late takedown in the second to hold a 5-4 lead into the third. Smith got his escape point and the match head to a sudden victory period. In the first extra session, Smith secured a takedown and won the match 7-5.
Smith had a great weekend, advancing to the semifinals, winning four matches, earning his first All-America honors and taking fifth overall.
Tate Orndorff finished his NCAA Tournament on Saturday morning in the heavyweight seventh place match. He took on Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet and Kerkvliet started early with a takedown and continued to push through all three periods. He won the match 13-1 and Orndorff finished in eighth place, which is fitting finish for the big man and the work he put in, not only this weekend, but throughout the season.
125 | Malik Heinselman
141 | Dylan D’Emilio
149 | Sammy Sasso
165 | Ethan Smith
174 | Kaleb Romero
184 | Rocky Jordan
285 | Tate Orndorff