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Peyten Kellar, Redshirt Freshman, fighting hard to get the victory against Kent State, at the Convo. in Athens, Ohio, on Feb. 3rd, 2023.

Wrestling: Ohio heads into MAC duals with confidence, promise to bring home MAC title

Although not the literal midpoint in the season, Ohio has gotten itself through the non-conference slate of its schedule. With all of the good for Ohio, there is palpable buzz regarding the chances for the team to capture its first conference title in 23 years.

Lightweight struggles: 

Last season, Ohio had a couple of program stalwarts anchor the team at the lower weight classes. Kyran and Alec Hagan, Oscar Sanchez and Gio DiSabato all graduated and left behind large holes in the lineup. In one case, Derek Raike has filled the void left by Alec Hagan in the 149-pound class, but the other three lighter classes have struggled. 

The primary starters for the 125,133, and 141-pound classes are Ryan Meek, Mason Brugh and Aidan Waszak, respectively. The three of them are a combined 12-25.

“I’d like to see the bottom three weights, which I think are good, get more experience,” Ohio coach Joel Greenlee said. “We have to come together a little bit, get a little tougher and then we will turn a corner. I think a lot of it has been that these guys haven't wrestled a lot… I think that (Mason) Brugh, not a freshman who was out most of last year with an injury, will come around in the second half of the year… (Ryan) Meek has been working his tail off and he’s going to be there towards the end of the year and beat some people that, on paper, he shouldn’t beat. I think (Aidan) Waszak is an eyelash away from being a guy that wins 80% of his matches.”

Greenlee’s prediction has started to come true in certain aspects as Brugh has been more competitive in his last few matches, winning his last two. Meek has also stayed in some matches against some more experienced competitors. Unfortunately, Waszak has not demonstrated some of the same improvements as his counterparts. 

Highly ranked Bobcats: 

Both Ohio and the Mid-American Conference have wrestlers that have real chances to become All-Americans. The trio of Peyten Kellar, Garrett Thompson and Sal Perrine, wrestling at the 157, 165, and 174-pound classes, all are nationally ranked and possess true chances at winning some bouts in the NCAA Championships. With the addition of Derek Raike (149-pound class) and Zayne Lehman (184-pound class), Ohio has a chance to send a large contingent to the NCAA Championships. 

The five-headed hydra for Ohio has become a strength not only during tournaments but also during duals, as having multiple wrestlers who can be counted on for points is invaluable. In the past, Ohio’s lack of team-wide depth has prevented it from winning any team titles in the conference. Greenlee spoke about the strength of his five best wrestlers and his two heaviest wrestlers, Austin Starr and Jordan Greer, saying that he would “put those seven against anyone in the country.” 

MAC Championship window: 

The MAC has not been a powerhouse for wrestling since the departure of Missouri as an affiliate member in 2021. Missouri dominated the conference, but their absence has left a power vacuum that has yet to be grabbed by any teams. Lock Haven has become one of the better programs in the conference, but Ohio has been able to rival it when it comes to overall talent on the roster. The level at which Ohio is wrestling early in the season provides it a real chance to dethrone the kings of the conference in recent years. 

Ohio has started looking to break that stranglehold and emerge as a contender for its first conference title since 2001. Moreover, the roster has held up very well in tournaments, like the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, which was a banner weekend for the program as it placed 15th overall in a loaded field. 

With a young roster, it is reasonable to look to the bright future for Ohio wrestling. However, the present is just as bright as Ohio has arguably its best shot at winning the conference and making some major noise at the NCAA Championships. For now, Ohio will shift its focus to taking care of the business in front of it during MAC duals. 


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