Coming off one of the most successful seasons in Ohio history, expectations are high in Athens. In his 26th season at the helm for Ohio, Joel Greenlee looks to replicate some of the positivity from last season.
A season that ended with four wrestlers going to the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City was a renaissance for Greenlee and the entire program. Their momentum met a brief halt in the offseason as a physical assault charge against the coaches, Greenlee and his two assistant coaches, meant that no contact could be made by the coaches with the team.
One of the biggest questions heading into this season is how Ohio will replace some program staples who graduated. Names like Oscar Sanchez, Gio DiSabato, Kyran Hagan, Alec Hagan, Jordan Slivka and Carson Brewer will no longer don the green and white.
Nonetheless, Ohio has a number of spots to fill in its lineup. The 125-pound weight class will need a new headliner as Sanchez was the main wrestler in that class for the previous two seasons.Ohio has three wrestlers lined up to take his spot, but little experience between the three.
Malachi O’Leary went 2-3 with one major decision as a freshman. He is joined by Bryce Skinner and Ryan Meek, who was ranked as the No. 13 wrestler in his weight class in the Mid-American Conference Preseason Poll. Although it appears as if Meek has the inside track to being the regular starter, there will likely be points in the season where each of the three wrestlers gets an opportunity.
While DiSabato had an injury-riddled season last year, he occupied the slot for the better part of two (inconsecutive) seasons as a Bobcat. In his place, Paul Woo started but had some rather rough results. Mason Brugh will get a good amount of action this season and, like Meek, is ranked at No. 13 in the Preseason Poll.
In addition, Logan Cravatas and Kaleb Ramirez can expect to see the mats this season. Each of the four wrestlers in this weight class for the Bobcats are sophomores, so finding a starter and sticking with one will be critical for not only this season but the next ones moving forward.
At the 141-pound weight class, Kyran Hagan left behind a legacy of durability. In his five seasons in Athens, he competed in a staggering 78 matches. With large shoes to fill, Aidan Waszak looks to be the next in line at this weight class. He was ranked as the No. 8 wrestler in the conference before the season. However, Pierce Taylor will likely see some chances to prove himself, too.
Like his brother, Alec Hagan was vital for Ohio and was equally dominant as he was dependable. Alec made the NCAA Championships twice in his career and was one of the best wrestlers in recent program history.
He will leave behind a massive set of shoes to fill. With only two wrestlers currently weighing in at 149-pounds, Ohio will be relying on health and durability from the two wrestlers on the roster. Derek Raike should be the main wrestler for Ohio in place of Hagan. Like Hagan, he is a highly touted wrestler on a national level, earning a spot at No. 19 nationally according to Flo Wrestling and No. 9 in the Preseason Poll for the MAC.
The next couple of weight classes should be more familiar for the Bobcats as this is where the returning talent comes to shine. At 157-pounds, Peyten Kellar made the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career after a 19-6 season that included a 3rd-place finish at the MAC Championships. Kellar was ranked as the No. 2 wrestler in his class prior to the season.
At 165-pounds, Slivka’s absence will be felt, but in his place, Garrett Thompson emerged as a true star. While Slivka dealt with injuries, Thompson stepped in and amazed by going 10-5 with three falls and six major decisions. As he is granted the full load of being the starter, he is no longer an unknown commodity. He is ranked as the No. 23 wrestler in the country according to Flo Wrestling and the No. 3 wrestler in the conference.
At 174-pounds, Sal Perrine is back for another big season. In each of his first two seasons for Ohio, Perrine has made the NCAA Championships and will look to add a third appearance to his mantle. Perrine had a terrific year last season, going 17-5 and enters the season ranked as the No. 4 wrestler in the MAC.
The final NCAA Tournament qualifier from last season, Zayne Lehman, came out of nowhere to shock everyone, likely including himself, by making The Big Dance.
However, he will not be surprising anyone this season as he enters this season as the No. 1 wrestler at 184-pounds. He will be expected to lead by example and be the vocal and emotional leader on the mats and in the locker room, a role that was previously held by some of the departing athletes.
The final two weight classes are a bit uncertain, however, for different reasons. At 197-pounds, it appears as though Austin Starr will take over for Brewer. In his final season with the Bobcats, Brewer nearly made the NCAA Championships himself as he made a magical run at the single bid, falling just short in the final match. Starr enters the season as the No. 5 wrestler in the MAC but like many others filling a new role, remains mostly unproven.
Finally, at heavyweight, Ohio had immense struggles last season. The combination of Drew Harris and Jacob Padilla went a combined 3-23. They are both back, but added to the mix will be Jordan Greer, who sat out last season as he made his way from the 197-pound weight class to the heavyweight class.
Greer was ranked as the No. 6 wrestler at heavyweight for this season, but he has yet actually to wrestle at this weight and it will be very interesting to see how he fares in an entirely different division.