By Taylor Greik
Going into their two home matches this weekend, the Ohio Wrestlers knew they had two “grind-it-out” matches ahead of them. They took on #12 Central Michigan on Saturday and Eastern Michigan on Sunday in the Convocation Center.
Central Michigan was a tall task for Ohio to overcome, the Chippewas were ranked #12 in the nation and not to forget, the defending Mid-American Conference champions. The Bobcats took it on the chin Saturday, falling 23-12.
The match started with a marquee match-up at the Heavyweight division, featuring #4 Jarrod Trice and Ohio’s Jeremy Johnson, ranked #14 in the nation. Johnson found himself down early in this match and was never able to recover. Trice dominated the match by beating Johnson with a 3-1 decision. This really set the tone for the Chippewas as they started the match by beating Ohio’s best wrestler.
With the 3-0 advantage, Central Michigan was then able to rip of four more wins in a row to take the 17-0 lead. This proved to be too much of a lead to overcome for the Bobcats, despite some strong performances from their Middle-Weights.
Ohio seemed quite dead at this point, but Freshman Spartak Chino gave Ohio the jolt they needed with a 3-1 win in overtime. Spartak, aka “Sparty”, found himself down 1-0 going into the third when Lucas Smith was called for stalling with less than a minute to go. That was all the momentum Sparty needed, as he scored a thunderous take down in the extra period to put Ohio on the board.
The energy from Chino’s victory seemed to be contagious, as Harrison Hightower was able to win the very next match 9-4. This was a huge win for the team and Hightower himself because Harrison beat the defending conference champion Mike Ottinger. It’s also important to know that Ottinger came in ranked #20 in the 165 pound weight class. Hightower wrestled with fierce tenacity, as he really dominated this match, scoring two take downs and three back points.
“I’d like to think that I pumped him up a little bit, but he went out there and wrestled great. I don’t really like to think about it that I started it because he works really hard, but maybe I gave him a little bit of a spark” Spartak Chino on the Ohio momentum swing.
“Going into the match, I knew it was a big match, the kid was ranked in the top 20 so I knew I had to pull out a big win for our team” said Harrison Hightower.
After Hightower, 174 pound freshman Cody Walters remained undefeated on the season with a 5-3 overtime win. This was the third straight win, in the match, for Ohio as they cut the Chippewa lead to only eight points with two matches to go.
The teams split the last two bouts as Central Michigan finished off Ohio in the 184 bout.
Ohio had nothing to hang their heads about since they only lost by 11 to a top 15 team. Also, three of four Ohio’s victories came from freshman and the other came from Hightower, who is a sophomore.
“Going into the match, it was just about wrestling as hard as you can for seven minutes and winning or losing would take care of itself. For us wrestling seven freshman, I thought it was a great dual for us” said Ohio coach Joel Greenlee after the loss.
Sunday was a new day for Ohio, as they notched an exciting victory against Eastern Michigan. The match started at the Heavyweight bout, for the second consecutive night, and Jeremy Johnson had no problem with this match-up.
#14 Jeremy Johnson convincingly beat Chris Eggert 12-4 to pick up the four team points that come with a major victory. Johnson dominated with three take downs in the first period and one in the second and third period respectively. Johnson now moves to 10-3 on the season and looks to continue building his top 15 ranking in the weeks coming.
“You can’t think about the night before if you have a match the next day. If I came out here and said ‘oh I lost last night’ and felt sorry for myself, I wouldn’t have gotten it done. I knew I had to come out and get bonus points for my team and that’s what I did” Jeremy Johnson after going 1-1 on the weekend.
Unlike the night before, the Bobcats were not able to ride the momentum from their first win, as they dropped their next three bouts by a combined 30-16 score.
Looking to get his team back into the picture, 149 pounder Andrew Romanchik got the Bobcats going again with a close 6-4 decision victory.
“Sparty” Chino could not keep the flow from last night going as he dropped his match 3-0 to Aaron Sulzer.
As this match began to develop a “see-saw” feeling to it, Harrison Hightower picked up another huge win for Ohio, beating Jacob Dorulla 3-0. Hightower won his second match in as many nights, to cut the Eagles lead to 10-7.
Another wrestler who has caught fire for Ohio is 174 pound freshman Cody Walters. Walters gave Ohio a one point lead with a 9-2 major decision win. Walters now improves to be 12-0 on the season and starts out 2-0 in conference duals.
After Phillip Joseph gave the Eagles another lead, the stage was set for 197 pounder Phil Wellington. Wellington has been a little under the radar for Ohio in this young season, but he really put his name out there in this match. The Ohio freshman jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first and it was tied at two going into the third. This match went right down to the wire as Wellington escaped the clutches of Anthony Abro with 38 seconds left to score the final point of the match. With his win, Ohio grabbed three more team points, giving them the 17-16 victory.
“Phil’s a beast. He’s trained hard all year long, he even spent the summer here and has done everything he’s supposed to” Coach Joel Greenlee on Phil Wellington.
“Some matches got out of control, like Phil’s, but he kept his composure and was good for the win. I was pretty confident having Phil out there to go out and seal the win for us” Jeremy Johnson on Phil Wellington’s late win.
Ohio has a lot of young talent on this roster and it was evident in both matches this weekend. In the weeks to come, Ohio has their next dual match versus Appalachian State on December seventh, then a couple of tournaments around the holidays. Those include the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Southern Scuffle, before the team encounters more conference duals in January.
“I think we’re pretty good. We’re young, but we fly under the radar for most teams so we just have to gear up for App State next week and start thinking about Reno” Jeremy Johnson looking forward to the next few matches.
“In all honesty, Reno is one of the tournaments we try to peak for. Our whole early season is geared towards that. That’s a ranking tournament, as I look at it. You go there and do well, you’ll get ranked as individuals and you’ll get ranked as a team” Coach Joel Greenlee looking forward to Reno.
The Bobcats seem to be on the upswing and Bobcat fans sure do hope that they peak, as coach Greenlee mentioned, at this point in the season.