Despite only being a month into the season, the Bobcats have seen several key wrestlers sidelined with minor injuries, which has made the success Ohio has already seen even more impressive.
With All-American redshirt sophomore Cody Walters on the bench for the first two tournaments of the season, redshirt sophomore Sparty Chino making an early exit from the Eastern Michigan duals and the team entering the Navy Classic with just half of its starting lineup, Ohio has still seen many of its remaining members secure strong finishes in each of the first three weekends of the year.
Now Ohio is finally healthy — just in time for their first Mid-American Conference competition of the year, a dual at No. 13 Missouri on Friday at 5:00pm.
“It’s exciting to have them back,” coach Joel Greenlee said. “But, more important than what I think is that our guys know we’re at full strength. They think of Cody and Sparty as leaders, and having them back out there is big for us.”
Several highly-touted wrestlers await the Bobcats in Missouri, presenting several high-profile matches for the conference season-opener. Junior Tywan Claxton at 149 pounds has the biggest of these matchups, as he prepares to face the Tigers’ Drake Houdashelt, who sits at number one in his class.
“Claxton’s been doing a great job for us,” Greenlee said. “He gets to wrestle the number one guy in his division. That’s awesome for him. It’s a great opportunity.”
Claxton isn’t the only Bobcat facing top-10 competition on Friday, as No. 18 Chino will face off against No. 7 Kyle Bradley in the 157-pound division, while redshirt junior Harrison Hightower will take on No. 9 Zach Toal at 165 pounds.
No. 16 redshirt sophomore Phil Wellington will get a tough test as well, slated to face No. 13 freshman J’den Cox in a 197-pound matchup.
The dual will be Ohio’s first action since placing sixth in the Navy Classic two weeks ago. Greenlee said he is optimistic his team can pick up where it left off going into the break.
“It was a much-needed weekend off,” Greenlee said. “It was a great opportunity for our guys to go home and heal up, and spend a little time with their families. I think they’re a little bit re-energized now and they’re ready to go.”