Ohio’s most recent weekend of competition could be viewed as a setback. After a narrow victory against Clarion — which has a losing record — and a loss to Old Dominion in Ohio’s final Mid-American Conference dual of the season, the momentum the Bobcats created with a 4-1 January record seems to have evaporated.
However, there are still three weeks separating the Bobcats (10-4, 4-4 Mid-American Conference) from the looming MAC Tournament in March, which means plenty of time for the team to get its feet back underneath them before then.
“We just have to stay positive and keep working hard,” coach Joel Greenlee said. “A big thing we’re going to be working on is what our go-to is when we’re behind.”
Ohio has an opportunity to grab a big win this weekend as it welcomes West Virginia (10-5, 0-3 Big 12) into The Convo on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Bobcats will once again enter the weekend with four individuals ranked in the Top 20 in the country; 197-pound redshirt sophomore Phil Wellington (27-3) jumped two spots in the rankings this week to No. 9 after claiming his seventh consecutive win on Sunday.
Heavyweight redshirt senior Jeremy Johnson (30-4) claimed his ninth straight win on Sunday, but he remained ranked at No. 11.
Although the polls finally rewarded Wellington, they also did not pull any punches, dropping two Bobcats who did not have successful weekends; Cody Walters, a 174-pound redshirt sophomore, fell four spots to No. 14 in the country after dropping a match against Old Dominion, while 149-pound junior Tywan Claxton, after also losing, fell one spot to No. 16.
It was the second consecutive weekend Walters and Claxton fell in the rankings, but 165-pound redshirt junior Harrison Hightower remains unranked, despite recording his team-leading 13th fall last weekend. His 13 pins remain tied for third among all Division I wrestlers in the country.
Hightower echoed his coach’s feelings about the team’s focus in the coming weeks.
“For me, personally, it’s about going out and wrestling my match and not worrying about the other guys,” Hightower said. “As a team, it’s about staying in good shape, and continuing to do the things we’re doing and building on the positives.”
West Virginia enters the weekend with one ranked wrestler. He is No. 16 Colin Johnston at 141-pounds, but he may not be too big of a concern for the Bobcats. Ohio’s 141-pound freshman Noah Forrider already defeated Johnston in the Navy Classic in November and again in January in the Reno Tournament of Champions.
Along with the 141-pound bout, the most intriguing matchup could be the heavyweight match between Johnson and West Virginia’s A.J. Vizcarrondo, who was named the Big 12 wrestler of the week and could be one of the toughest matches for Johnson since his last loss on January 1.
Sunday’s dual will be each school’s first shot at the other’s respective conference.