Three weeks into the season, Ohio has seen many things go well during each competition that have made a stronger case for the Bobcats’ place in the national rankings.
There’s been a few guys living up to early expectations, as well as a few pleasant surprises, that have led Ohio to strong finishes in each of its first three competitions of the season.
Looking at the Bobcats’ starters, the lineup is shaky in the lower weight classes, but steadily gets stronger as the classes get bigger. Ohio’s 125, 133 and 141-pound weight classes have a combined record of 12-18.
"We're just young and don't have much experience in those three weight classes," coach Joel Greenlee said. "We just have to keep plugging away and getting better."
Noah Forrider, a true freshman in the 141-pound class, has been the most consistent starter in these weight classes after winning the freshman-sophomore title in the season-opening Michigan State open. He also finished sixth at the Navy Classic.
It’s a quick turnaround in the 149-pound class, where senior Tywan Claxton shined brightly for Ohio. He commands a 10-1 record and is coming off of a title in the Navy Classic. Claxton also finished runner-up in the Michigan State open.
The Bobcats roll out 18
-ranked Spartak Chino in the 157-pound division, a redshirt sophomore who has seen a couple of bumps in the road early in what still looks to be a promising season. Chino was forced to exit the Eastern Michigan duals with a minor injury that also caused him to be rested for the Navy Classic. His record is 5-2 and he is expected to be healthy for the Bobcats’ next competition.
"We've wrestled three or four weekends in a row, and guys have this and that banged up," Greenlee said. "We have to have them healthy for Missouri, so this is a good chance to get our guys healed before the dual."
Ohio had a bit of a pleasant surprise out of the 165-pound class, with redshirt junior Harrison Hightower quietly bursting out of the gate with a 12-2 record to start the season, a win total that is the best on the team despite being unranked.
The 174-pound class has been hurt by the absence of All-American redshirt sophomore Cody Walters, who has seen action in just one competition this season, a 2-0 finish at Eastern Michigan against Drexel and Utah Valley.
Walters, like Chino, rested for precautionary reasons, but is expected to return to competition this week and is ranked seventh nationally in his division.
Ohio’s two heaviest classes have also been its most talented this season, with redshirt sophomore Phil Wellington and redshirt senior Jeremy Johnson performing on par with pre-season expectations.
Wellington, the 16
-ranked 197-pound competitor in the NCAA, claimed a title in the Navy Classic, part of a 10-1 start to the season. His lone loss came against Drexel’s No. 15, Brandon Palik.
Johnson, the No. 9 heavyweight, has yet to claim a title, but hasn’t been far off after placing during the top three finishers twice and owns a 10-2 record to start the season.
Ohio is currently ranked 28
in the country according to InterMat wrestling and received 37 points in the most recent NCAA poll placing them at No. 27.