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Ohio University redshirt senior Jeremy Johnson feeds off the crowd after winning his match. The Bobcats defeated the Golden Flashes 21-16 for the first time since 2005 during their meet held at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, on Friday, January 24, 2014. (ISAAC HALE | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Wrestling: MAC champions Cody Walters and Jeremy Johnson lead a pack of Ohio national qualifiers

Heading into this weekend’s Mid-American Conference Championships, Ohio coach Joel Greenlee said that he wanted six national qualifiers.

When it was all said and done Sunday, he had five national qualifiers, one likely wild card and two MAC Champions, as the Bobcats claimed a fourth-place finish at the 2014 MAC Championships.

“There’s a couple matches that I’d like to have back throughout the two days, but for the most part, we did what we were supposed to do and wrestled to our seeds,” Greenlee said. “I’m excited that we’re going in the right direction. I think we have six guys that can go win matches at the national tournament. Our goal all year long has been to try to break into the top 20 or top 10, and I think we can do that.”

The weekend was highlighted by a pair of Bobcats winning MAC titles, as 174-pound redshirt sophomore Cody Walters (12-2) and heavyweight redshirt senior Jeremy Johnson (36-4) each captured the second championships of their respective careers.

Walters’ path to his title included taking the mat with two wrestlers who defeated him earlier this season.

First, he used six overtimes to defeat Central Michigan’s Mike Ottinger in the semifinal round, then he overcame Old Dominion’s Billy Curling in the finals.

“I went out there and knew it was going to be physical,” Walters said. “I wanted to bring it right back to (Curling), because he was very physical with me last time. That’s not my style, but I decided to fight fire with fire and came out on top.”

Walters’ title marks the third consecutive season Ohio has claimed the 174-pound title with Nick Purdue winning it in 2012 and Walters taking it last season.

Johnson went a perfect 3-0 on the weekend, capping it off with a 7-1 decision against Missouri’s Devin Mellon. He extended his win streak to 15 straight matches, and his 36 wins on the season mark a career high. He will be attending the national tournament for the fourth time.

“It’s my last hurrah, so I’m going to leave it all out there,” Johnson said. “I’m going to wrestle as hard as I can for as long as I can. It feels great to start wrestling my best at this time of year. That’s what we train for all year, to peak at MACs and peak at nationals.”

Ohio redshirt junior Harrison Hightower (165 pounds) and redshirt sophomore Phil Wellington (197 pounds) each earned second-place finishes for the Bobcats to record national tournament berths.

Hightower dominated Saturday’s competition, getting a major decision and a pin to place him in the finals, where he lost an 11-5 decision to Northern Iowa’s Cooper Moore. Wellington’s loss came against Missouri’s J’Den Cox, a wrestler Wellington beat in a dual earlier this season who ranks second among all 197-pound wrestlers in the country. This time, Cox claimed a 10-1 major decision.

Ohio redshirt sophomore Spartak Chino became the final Bobcat to clinch a national tournament spot on Sunday, capturing a fifth place finish in the 157-pound division. Sophomore KeVon Powell claimed fifth place in the 125-pound division but did not earn a national berth.

After entering the weekend as a No. 1 seed, Ohio junior Tywan Claxton went 2-3 in the tournament and will rely on a wild card berth in order to compete at the NCAA Tournament.

Missouri claimed the team title for the MAC, with Northern Iowa coming in second and Old Dominion finishing third.


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