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Wrestling: Ohio tackles obstacles on and off the mats with travel and scheduling

College wrestling has never been a sport for the faint of heart. The difficult weight programs, strenuous competition that comes in waves and having to keep up with academics are just a few of the roadblocks that would make most ordinary people throw in the towel. One of the most unnoticed aspects of sports, especially collegiate sports, is travel. For Ohio wrestling, travel is one of the aspects that can make or break an athlete. 

In total, Ohio will travel over 11,500 miles during the 2023-24 season. This figure is drawn from a calculation of miles both to and from each dual or tournament. For reference, that is less than 1,000 miles of the distance between the North and South Poles and significantly more than the distance between Athens and Sydney. The awe-inspiring distances that Ohio travels only rival the mental strength of the student-athletes to overcome travel fatigue and then perform at their highest levels. 

The schedule itself is something of a masterpiece. As anyone can attest, creating a schedule is rather exhausting. Even on the smaller scale of creating a class schedule, individuals can feel overwhelmed and frustrated. In the case of a college sports team, it falls to the coaching staff to schedule a certain number of opponents. That responsibility never truly ends, much like recruiting or instructing athletes. 

While the Mid-American Conference alleviates some of the scheduling headaches by organizing given MAC duals, the real challenge comes through nonconference scheduling.

After that, Greenlee and his coaching staff made up of former Bobcats Cody Walters and Shakur Laney, are tasked with filling in the holes in the schedule. This season, the Bobcats have 18 match days on the calendar with 13 of those being duals, three invitationals or tournaments, the MAC Championships and the NCAA Championships. 

When deciding who fills out the schedule for Ohio, Greenlee and Walters head the task, but Greenlee admits that Walters does the heavy lifting on that front. Every season, the schedule is crafted in a way that intends to challenge the athletes with strong competition while also making the most sense for the program as a whole. 

“I think a ton of things go into it,” Greenlee said. “One, we want pretty good competition. We want somebody that has some ranked guys on their team and go from there … Second, we want something we can afford. For example, if we wanted to wrestle Cal Poly and have them come here, that is an expensive trip for us. We probably don’t want them to come here if we have to return the dual. We like to try to piggyback off what West Virginia does. If they have somebody coming out from the Big 12, those guys don’t always want to come down to wrestle West Virginia in one match. We can also try to get somebody from that, and it is the same way with regards to Ohio State.”

Greenlee also factors in the quality of competition. For example, he mentioned that Penn State called Ohio to wrestle in Happy Valley. Greenlee declined the offer not because he would not want to wrestle one of the best programs in the country, but because he thinks it would do more harm than good for the team. 

The entire purpose of creating the schedule is to challenge the team. This is seen in the turnaround from the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and a dual against Navy in Jefferson, Pennsylvania. Additionally, the coaching staff took the opportunity to wrestle with a different Big Ten program, Michigan State, for an added challenge. No matter the opponent, Greenlee said that he acknowledges that the team is very equipped to take on this challenge. 

“I tell them ‘Hey we’re going to Navy and you’re going to have to wrestle, but you are getting a couple days off,’” Greenlee said. 

The other aspect that is challenging when it comes to the schedule is how the team has to travel. Greenlee reports that the team will only fly to a pair of events this season: the Las Vegas Invitational and the NCAA Championships in Kansas City, Missouri. Outside of that, Ohio will be on the bus for the entirety of its travel. Greenlee said he fondly recalls his time traveling to events. 

“I actually enjoyed back in the day when we took van rides,” Greenlee said. “There was no television, no cell phones and a lot of good team-building things happened there.” 

The camaraderie that Greenlee references is also something that happens during the season with travel. Greenlee talks about the ways the athletes pass the time on some long trips, whether that be playing cards, sharing stories or just generally enjoying the company of a teammate. 

Between all the logistics of the sport, the bottom line for Ohio is to continue winning. The team refuses to use any of the logistics, such as immense travel, as an excuse. Moreover, Ohio’s season goals rely on its ability to overcome these obstacles. With Greenlee’s expertise and tactical choices, Ohio’s hopes of winning its first MAC title since 2001 look brighter than ever.


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