That is why this week the major storyline is the realization of the daunting length of the college wrestling season. More than a month remains until nationals and college wrestlers have already been working since September, if not earlier. They've punished their bodies through grueling preseason workouts, drudgerous in-season practices, and thrown themselves against rock-solid opponents time and time again. When they are not wrestling, or practicing to wrestle, they are sitting in buses for entire weekends, crisscrossing the Mid-Atlantic. Midwest, Great Plains, or who knows where else. All this and our wrestlers have grades to maintain and the occasional girlfriend to keep happy. Big-time college wrestling is an adult portion, and those who want to partake ought to be ready to open their mouths wide.
We, as fans, are thrilled by the hotly contested conference duals which take place this time of year. What we need to remember is that there is one thing that makes wrestling at this level possible in a season this long. It isn't the scholarship money, it may help but there is far too little of it, and it isn't the approbation of the fans and the rest of the student body, once more it helps but there isn't enough. The only thing that fuels the sport this late in the season is the love-love of competing, love of improving, love of winning, and plain and simple love of the sport of wrestling. This love is what gets a wrestler motivated for practice number five trillion, it is what provokes a coach to go careening across a mat to argue a call that ultimately won't matter, and it is love that keeps a wrestler going after pouring out his soul preparing for a vital match and managing his weight only to lose at the worst possible time for him and his team.
I think it is important we keep this in mind. This sport we love and cherish so much is kept alive only by the intense and resilient love felt by its participants and coaches. But for this love, we'd only have basketball to talk about and I'd have nothing about which to write.
Dual of the Week: Ohio State vs. Penn State
For a few fleeting moments this Sunday it looked like Ohio State might pull off a thrilling upset over Penn State. The Stiebers both earned pins, Cam Tessari looked the best he has this season in upending Andrew Alton (who had little answer for Cam's far-ankle ride), and Josh Demas was tantalizingly close to an upset over Dylan Alton. The Buckeyes have positioned themselves for a huge win, at least until top-ranked 184-pounder Ed Ruth took the mat. Ed and his deadly cross-face cradle bailed the necessary water out Penn State's boat, and the Nittany Lions were able to hold on for the win.
Iowa vs. Nebraska
At 157 James Green shows that he can take down anyone in the nation, but eventually he faded and allowed Derek St. John to rally and earn the victory. Mike Evans is becoming a Hawkeye superstar before our very eyes. He will never be the most fluid wrestler from his feet, but my gosh is he a fighter. He was able to make a very tough Robert Kokesh wilt and almost earn a pin with his nasty half at the end of their match.
Penn State vs. Pitt
Two observations here. First of all, against anyone not named Stieber or Ramos, Jordan Conaway is pretty danged good. Here he upsets Pitt's Shelton Mack. Second, I will admit that after the All-Star Classic I thought that Matt Wilps was simply too big and strong for Quentin Wright to handle. Apparently I was wrong and Wright, whom I feel is the most exciting wrestler in the NCAA, is more than capable of pinning anyone at any time. I hope this sets Quentin up as a No. 2 seed at the NCAAs and leads to an intriguing matchup between him and top-ranked Dustin Kilgore of Kent State.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
When I turned to this dual on my television, the guide read that "Freshman Taylor Massa leads the Wolverines ... " Massa is having a nice season and may well win a national championship or two in the future, but with the amount of experience and talent on the Michigan team, it probably is not a positive development that their leading wrestler is a true freshman currently ranked as to be outside the money at this year's NCAAs.
Ohio State's Kenny Courts has had an up-and-down season at 184 pounds, but in his short time at 197 pounds has really turned some heads. First he beats Illinois' Mario Gonzalez. Now he defeats another NCAA qualifier in Max Huntley. If Courts keeps up this form, he could end up as a Big Ten finalist.
Rutgers coaches (Photo/ScarletKnights.com)Rutgers vs. Bloomsburg
I was rooting for Bloomsburg here largely because I wanted to see them build on the fantastic success they have experienced this season.
After Rutgers won this watch, I realized that I should really have hoped for a Scarlet Knights victory. We all should. Rutgers is a program of vital strategic importance to our sport and we should celebrate every one of their program's successes and hope it helps them build themselves into the power they can become.
Harvard vs. Lehigh
Harvard beats Lehigh. When was the last time that happened?
Virginia and Virginia Tech
Showed again this week why they are wrestling's big boys in the Southeast.