COLUMBUS, Ohio It was well worth the four-and-a-half hour bus ride to Buffalo, N.Y., for the Ohio State wrestling team as six Buckeyes left the “Empire State” as champions of the Buffalo Open Sunday evening.
With the exception of the 125, 141, 149 and 184-pound classes, six members of the squad had promising starts to the season beginning with No. 1 seed Reece Humphrey at 133 pounds.
Humphrey, a junior from Indianapolis, Ind., decisioned Kevin Smith of host Buffalo, 9-5, in the championship bout. The 9-5 win was the smallest margin of victory for Humphrey, who dominated his opponents throughout the day. He began the 10 a.m. session with a pin of Kevin Green of Niagara in 5:50 and then followed that performance with a 25-10 technical fall over Michael Baxter of Mercyhurst College. With there always being a possibility of facing those who are regular training partners in the Steelwood Athletic Training Facility in Columbus, Ohio, Humphrey encountered that possibility in teammate Garrett Henry, the fifth-seed, in the semifinals. Humphrey made quick work of the rookie from Solon, Ohio, pinning Henry in 3:28 en route to the final.
In his first collegiate open tournament, Henry faired well, finishing fourth. He had the opportunity to snag a third-place finish, but lost a 10-3 decision to No. 6-seed Ian Paddock, who was wrestling unattached.
After making significant strides in 2007-08, senior Jason Johnstone commenced 2008-09 on a positive note, winning the 157-pound title. The product of Massillon, Ohio, recorded a 7-4 win over Darryl Cocozzo (unattached) in the final for his best finish in an open tournament since finishing third at the Eastern Michigan Open in 2007. Like Humphrey, Johnstone was the No. 1-seed and began the day with an impressive win over Mike Gresh of Niagara a pin in 5:47. Jordan Shields of Mercyhust was up next and Johnstone handed him a 13-1loss. A pair of decisions in the quarterfinals and semifinals followed for Johnstone, first downing John Martin-Cannon of Buffalo, 11-5, and James Flemming of West Mifflin, 9-6.
Although open tournaments traditionally are not team based, Johnstone’s win over Cocozzo could somewhat be thought of as redemption for the Scarlet and Gray after Cocozzo defeated Buckeye Sean Nemec, 7-2, in the semifinals. Nemec would go on to finish third, posting an 8-3 decision over Flemming.
The Buckeyes would not have to wait long for their next champion at 165 pounds. Sophomore Colt Sponseller, who came out strong during his freshman campaign last season, appears to be on another fast start this year. The No. 1-seed, Sponseller, who hails from Glenmont, Ohio, posted an 8-4 win in the final; this victory coming after a pair of technical falls and a major decision in the earlier rounds. Sponseller began the Buffalo Open with two 25-10 triumphs over Matt Coleman of Edinboro and Cory Lempka of Buffalo. It was in the semifinals that Sponseller again scored at least 20 points in his win (20-9) over Justin James of Niagara.
Like at 133 pounds, two Buckeyes would face the task of having to wrestle each other with as much menace as rivals, but with one exception this match was for the championship. Making his debut in the Scarlet and Gray, junior Dave Rella and freshman C.J. Magrum would put up a fight the more experience Rella would win (4-1). In all, Rella, the No. 1-seed, wrestled four matches after advancing to the final courtesy of a default by Tony Petrella of Gannon. The native of Akron, Ohio, won his previous three matches by a 23-6 margin, not including a pin in 1:02 against Pat Leahy of Mercyhurst in the opening match. In the second round, Rella bettered Nate Schiedel (Binghamton), 7-1, before exploding for 16 points (16-5) against Alex Dalrymple of Lock Haven in the quarterfinals.
A four-time Virginia high school state champion with 186 career victories, freshman Cody Gardner is accustomed to winning and made that clear when he captured the 197-pound title Sunday. The fourth-seed, Gardner beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 5 seeds en route to the title. A dramatic 3-1 overtime win against No. 2 Jamie Luckett (Clarion) was the result that propelled the product of Christiansburg, Va., to the win. After recording two decisions an 11-4 decision over Alex Smith (Jamestown) and 8-2 decision over Carl Korpi (Binghamton) Gardner faced No. 1 Lamar Brown of Rutgers and came out on top, 3-2.
The Buckeyes sixth and final title-winner was junior Corey Morrison at heavyweight. With two shutouts and a fall to his credit, Morrison cruised to the final where he held on for the 5-4 victory over Frank McGrath of Gannon in the championship bout. The No. 1-seed, Morrison, a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, beat Nathan Sharp of Mercyhurst, 15-9, before dropping Dan Bittner (Binghamton) in 2:58. Two-consecutive blankings of Luke Stala of Finger Lakes (4-0) and Sean Dedeyn of Rutgers (8-0) would drive Morrison to the final.
Ohio State also received Top 3 finishes from Nikko Triggas at 125 pounds and Jared Kusar at 149 pounds. Triggas, a sophomore from Moraga, Calif., was the runner-up, following an 11-1 loss to Paul Donahoe of Edinboro. The freshman Kusar from Akron, Ohio, earned a third-place finish when he decisioned Josh Roosa of Bloomsburg, 12-5.
The Buckeyes will continue the early portion of their 2008 schedule at the N.C. State Open in Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 8. The all-day tournament is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.