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Ohio wrestling took on Buffalo during their last dual meet of the season in The Convo. The Bobcats’ lost 9-27 with wins from Peyten Kellar, Sal Perrine and Jordan Greer.

Wrestling: Ohio gears up for NCAA Championships with a trio of wrestlers competing for national glory

Months of training, grueling matches and exhaustion all culminate in one weekend. While the majority of the country will set its focus on the beginning of March Madness, there is another national tournament happening in Kansas City, Missouri: the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

The three-day event, taking place March 21-23,  will cap off a season to remember for Ohio. The trio of Peyten Kellar, Garrett Thompson and Jordan Greer, all of whom have taken different paths to this point, will represent Ohio.

Although it ultimately fell short of a Mid-American Conference team title two weeks ago, Ohio still has hopes of securing its first top 8 individual finish at the NCAA Championships since 2016 when current Ohio Assistant Coach Cody Walters placed 7th. Kellar is the No. 7 seed in the 157-pound class, Thompson is the No. 12 seed in the 165-pound class and Greer is the No. 33 seed in the 285-pound class. 

Kellar has been on one of the most dominant runs in Ohio history. He went 22-2 this season, winning his last 14 matches en route to a MAC title, the first for Ohio since 2017. Additionally, he won Co-MAC Wrestler of the Year. His first match is against a familiar foe: Central Michigan’s No. 26, Johnny Lovett.

The two have faced off this season with Kellar winning 6-0. Despite being the lower seed, Lovett does have the advantage of being a four-time national qualifier. The head-to-head history is something that Ohio Head Coach Joel Greenlee wants to draw upon to exploit some advantages for Kellar. 

“We have the last (dual) win against (Lovett),” Greenlee said. “That's a mental thing. (Kellar) just has to go out there and wrestle in the same way he did last time. (They) have kind of conflicting styles. (Kellar) is really good on the mat, (Lovett) is not as good on the mat. (Lovett) is probably a little better on his feet, but (Kellar) is really good defensively on his feet.”

Greenlee said he just wants Kellar to go out there and wrestle hard for seven minutes no matter who is on the other side of the mat or the seedings and records. 

That sentiment goes for all of his wrestlers, including Thompson. After cruising through a season that saw little peril for him in his first year as a full-time starter, Thompson was upset in the MAC Championships 1st-place match.

Nonetheless, Thompson enters his first career match in the NCAA Championships as the favorite in terms of seeding. For the second time this season, Thompson will face Michigan State’s No. 21 Caleb Fish. The two squared off in East Lansing with Fish winning a 7-1 decision.

Thompson said he views his opponent no different than any other and looks to avenge his loss on the biggest stage. 

“I’m so excited to get a chance to get that one back,” Thompson said. “I just watched the match a few times with my coaches, broke it down, saw where I could do better and hope that I’ll get him this time.” 

One of the things that Greenlee points out about this match is the overall trend of the two wrestlers. Fish is coming off a forgettable Big Ten Championship appearance, failing to place despite being the No. 4 seed in the conference. However, Thompson has not lost a dual outside of the MAC Championships since his loss to Fish. 

“In (Thompson’s) case, (Fish) hasn’t had a great second half of the year,” Greenlee said. “I think he is going downward and (Thompson) is going up.” 

Then, there is Jordan Greer. Greer is Ohio’s biggest surprise this season as he has only gotten stronger as the season has progressed. The senior captured the third and final auto bid allocated to the MAC heavyweight class. Greer will make his first trip to the NCAA Championships. His seed, No. 33, is the lowest in the bracket.

He will face Indiana’s No. 32 Nick Willham, also making his first appearance in the NCAA Championships. The two will wrestle in the pigtail matches with the winner facing Penn State’s No. 1 Greg Kerkvliet. 

For Greer, it does not matter who awaits as he simply wants the chance to wrestle against the nation’s best. 

“I have nothing to lose,” Greer said. “I’m the last seed, but I kind of like that because, like I said, I have nothing to lose and just get to have fun. I don’t focus on where I’m at, because upsets happen every single year. That’s the mindset you have to have.” 

Greer said he wants to be the aggressor in every bout and will wrestle to win instead of not to lose. He thinks that strategy helped him immensely in the MAC Championships. Facing Willham, Greer hopes to bring that same strategy to the match. 

“I’ve watched a lot of him so far,” Greer said. “He’s a little more of a defensive wrestler. He used to be a 197-pounder like I was a couple of years ago, so it’ll be really fun. Just being aggressive, that’s the biggest thing.” 

With the enhanced attention being given to the entire weekend of wrestling, some of the lights can be blinding and cause some wrestlers to freeze in the moment. Greer, like his teammates going to Kansas City, is excited for the opportunity to compete in front of a sold-out arena. 

“I’m the type of guy that when the lights are brighter … I think that I do better because it’s exciting,” Greer said. “The opportunity to actually compete in front of a ton of people is awesome. I feel like I’ll feed off the energy so that atmosphere is probably the thing I’m looking forward to the most.” 

Ohio will send three wrestlers to the pinnacle of college wrestling in Kansas City with the hopes of sending even more in the coming years.

Having the ability to demonstrate the overall strength of the program for the entire country is the perfect launchpad for a team that looks to become the next mid-major dynasty in the Midwest. 


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