COLUMBUS, Ohio In a match that featured three overtime bouts and five lead changes, it was a pair of Buckeye juniors who lifted the sixth-ranked Ohio State wrestling team to a 23-18 win over No. 19 Northwestern Friday night in Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
Trailing 18-13 with two matches remaining, the Buckeyes received wins from Mike Pucillo at 197 pounds and Corey Morrison in the heavyweight bout to propel the Scarlet and Gray to its 15th win of the season (15-2; 6-1 Big Ten). Northwestern falls to 9-7-1 overall and 2-4-1 in the league.
Wrestling up a weight class, Pucillo faced John Schoen at 197 pounds. The Buckeye from Strongsville, Ohio, only had a 3-0 lead after two periods, but a three-point nearfall in the third turned into a pin at 6:41. Pucillo, ranked second in the nation at 184 pounds, improves his overall record to 15-0 including a 7-0 mark in the Big Ten.
Morrison recorded his second major decision of the season following his 11-2 win over Paul Rands. After a scoreless first period for both wrestlers, Morrison quickly jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second stanza. The native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, eventually tallied five more points on a two-point nearfall, takedown and a riding time of 2:41 to solidify the Buckeye victory.
It was a rough start for the Buckeyes in the 125-pound bout. Northwestern quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a 17-2 technical fall (6:21) by No. 4 Brandon Precin over Buckeye sophomore Nikko Triggas. Despite taking an early 2-0 lead in the first period on a takedown, Triggas was unable to mount any additional scoring on the 2008 All-American.
However, the Scarlet and Gray would begin to shave points on the early Wildcat advantage, beginning with junior Reece Humphrey’s 11-5 decision against Robert Joyce at 133 pounds. The Buckeye from Indianapolis, Ind., owned a slim 5-3 lead following the first period, but after choosing the bottom position entering the second stanza, he made his way out of Joyce’s grip and recorded the escape. Humphrey, No. 3 in the nation, followed that act with a pair of takedowns compared to the Wildcat’s lone escape of the period. Joyce tallied the only point in the third period, an escape after choosing bottom to begin the final period. Humphrey capped the match with a riding time of 1:03 for the extra point.
At 141 pounds, the Buckeyes took a 6-5 lead following senior J Jaggers’ 4-2 overtime victory against No. 15 Keith Sulzer. In the low scoring affair, Jaggers, a native of Northfield, Ohio, trailed Sulzer, 2-1, after the first period. Following a scoreless second period, Jaggers evened the score at 2-all when he escaped Sulzer’s hold after choosing bottom. That would be the extent of the scoring in regulation. It was a takedown in the sudden victory overtime that propelled Jaggers, 13th in the country, to the win.
Northwestern regained the lead (9-6) at 149 pounds when Andrew Nadhir major decisioned Owen Schaefer, 14-5. The Buckeye from Sandusky, Ohio, scored all of his five points on escapes in the first and second periods.
What followed for the Buckeyes was a disappointing 9-7 sudden victory loss at 157 pounds as it faced its biggest deficit of the evening (12-6). Senior Jason Johnstone was up 4-2 against No. 14 Jason Welch after the first period and 6-4 after the second. Down 7-4 in the early moments of the third period, Welch rallied with a takedown and a riding time of 1:06 to send the match to overtime. The Wildcat then scored the match-deciding takedown in the sudden victory for the win.
The Wildcats’ lead was back at two (12-10) following No. 2 Colt Sponseller’s 16-6 win over Dominic Marella in the 165-pound bout. Sponseller, who limited Marella to six escapes in the match, held just a 4-1 lead after the first period. However, Sponseller, a sophomore from Glenmont, Ohio, scored seven points in the second period to increase his lead to 11-3. Two more takedowns and a riding time of 1:53 lifted Sponseller to his 28th win of the season.
Junior Dave Rella boosted the Scarlet and Gray to a one-point lead (13-12) after the third overtime match of the evening. At the end of regulation at 174 pounds, Rella and Robert Kellogg were tied, 5-5, and after a scoreless overtime session, the two battled through two tiebreakers. With each wrestler scoring an escape, Rella and Kellogg headed into a second sudden victory overtime, where Rella scored the winning takedown for the 8-6 triumph.
With a shakeup in the OSU lineup, freshman TC Pendleton received the starting nod at 184 pounds against No. 1 Jake Herbert. A 2007 NCAA Champion at 184 pounds, Herbert pinned Pendleton, a native of Hoover, Ala., in 2:04 and Northwestern was back on top, 18-13.
Ohio State remains in sole possession of second place in the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. Iowa remains a top of the league with a 7-0 record following a 24-12 win at Indiana Friday.
The Buckeyes will conclude the regular season at 1 p.m. ET Sunday in Madison, Wis., against the No. 16 Badgers. The match will air live on the Big Ten Network. Tim Johnson will provide play-by-play analysis with Tim Gibbons serving as color commentary. Live stats of the Buckeyes vs. Badgers match will be available at www.uwbadgers.com.
With the win Friday night, junior Reece Humphrey earned his third Big Ten victory, matching his career best from a year ago. He also surpassed his career total in pins with eight this season at Michigan Feb. 13.
Senior Jason Johnstone surpassed his season-best 63 takedowns from a season ago with his 63rd, 64th and 65th Friday.
With his win Friday, sophomore Colt Sponseller moved to 28-3 on the season, including a 15-2 dual record. He also is 7-0 in the Big Ten. With 132 takedowns to lead the team, Sponseller now has five major decisions, second-best on the squad.
Solidifying the win for the Buckeyes, junior Corey Morrison has 19 wins on the season, a career best. His previous best was 13 in 2006-07. He also has tallied four Big Ten wins, which also stands as a personal high.
No. 6 Ohio State 23, No. 19 Northwestern 18
125: No. 4 Brandon Precin (NU) TF Nikko Triggas (OSU), 17-2 (6:21) (NU 5, OSU 0)
133: No. 3 Reece Humphrey (OSU) dec. Bobby Joyce (NU), 11-5 (NU 5, OSU 3)
141: No. 13 J Jaggers (OSU) dec. No. 15 Keith Sulzer (NU), 4-2 (SV) (OSU 6, NU 5)
149: Andrew Nadhir (NU) MD Owen Schaefer (OSU), 14-5 (NU 9, OSU 6)
157: No. 14 Jason Welch (NU) dec. No. 17 Jason Johnstone (OSU), 9-7 (SV) (NU 12, OSU 6)
165: No. 2 Colt Sponseller (OSU) MD Dominic Marella (NU), 16-6 (NU 12, OSU 10)
174: Dave Rella (OSU) dec. Robert Kellogg (NU), 8-6 (SV-2) (OSU 13, NU 12)
184: No. 1 Jake Herbert (NU) FALL T.C. Pendleton (OSU), 2:04 (NU 18, OSU 13)
197: No. 2 Mike Pucillo (OSU) FALL John Schoen (NU), 6:41 (OSU 19, NU 18)
285: Corey Morrison (OSU) MD Paul Rands (NU), 11-2 (OSU 23, NU 18)