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Buckeye Insider: Injuries Piling Up On Ohio State
Tom Ryan ran into some trouble when he was putting together Ohio State’s latest wrestling lineup.  The Buckeye coach had to scratch a few names off right from the start.

“We have more guys injured than I have ever had on a single weekend,” Ryan said after the shorthanded Buckeyes beat Kent State on Sunday.

They did so without four starters who all sat out with various bumps and bruises. Following a rough and tumble Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Ohio State held out Jesse Mendez (133), Paddy Gallagher (157), Carson Kharchla (165) and Tate Orndorff (285).  Mendez and Gallagher were hurt in earlier duals while Kharchla and Orndorff used medical forfeits in Las Vegas. 

“I would call it more bad luck than anything,” Ryan said.

All are expected to return this season, some possibly as soon as this weekend when Ohio State joins Penn State, Cornell, Lehigh, N.C. State, North Carolina, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan, Lock Haven, Cal Poly and Oregon State in the Collegiate Duals in New Orleans.  Mendez will travel with the team and Ryan described him as day-to-day.

“The goal is to be healthy for that,” Ryan said. “Obviously with a healthy team, this is a great team. They need to be healthy and they need to keep scoring points.”

Ohio State will battle Lock Haven first then Northern Iowa on Monday before placement matches on Tuesday.

Thin at 165 
Ryan said the team plans to give Kharchla a bit longer of a break. He will not wrestle in New Orleans.  It’s not ideal considering freshman Carter Chase has been on the shelf since suffering an injury in the Michigan State Open on Nov. 5.  Bryce Hepner is the only other Buckeye listed at 165.

Reps Are Reps
The injuries have given Ohio State’s staff the chance to evaluate a handful of youngsters.  Coveted prospect Nic Bouzakis continues to impress with the matches he’s given. Stepping in for Mendez at 133, the former #2 overall recruit improved to 5-1 with a 5-0 win over Kent State’s Brendon Fenton.  Ryan still plans to redshirt Bouzakis, however.  With Orndorff unavailable at heavyweight, Ryan turned to redshirt freshman Mike Misita to close out the dual.  The New Jersey native, who’s wrestled opens all around the country since first pulling on a Buckeye singlet in 2021, finally wrestled his first meaningful match in front of Ohio State fans. He beat Kent State’s Jacob Cover 9-2.

“It’s great for the guys that are fighting in the room every day and never get a chance,” Ryan said. “If you’re not a starter, you could literally wrestle your entire career here and not see Covelli (Center) in a dual meet.”

Sasso’s Path Of Destruction
Since his sudden-victory loss to Virginia Tech’s Caleb Henson on Nov. 11, Sammy Sasso has been on a tear.  The Buckeye senior is 7-0 since with three falls and two technical falls. Most of his damage was done in Las Vegas where Sasso romped to the 149-pound championship.  He pinned Jayden Scott of North Carolina, Alec Hagan of Ohio and Oregon State’s Noah Tolentino before overpowering fifth-ranked Kyle Parco of Arizona State in the finals.  What’s been the key for Sasso? He’s thinking big picture and has learned to steady himself if his attacks aren’t hitting early. 

“He’s wrestling a lot more calm now, with a lot more emotional control,” Ryan said. “If he doesn’t get the big position which he’s very good at — he pins a lot of people with cradles — he’s been way more calm about the rest of the match with a lot more energy.”

On The Mend
Ethan Smith was among those Buckeyes that left Las Vegas sore and feeling unaccomplished.   The 174-pounder started with a pair of wins before falling 8-4 against Cornell’s Cristopher Foca. He medically forfeited to NC State’s Alexander Faison to end his Cliff Keen run.

“A lot of times after a weekend like we had in Vegas, it’s really hard to get back on your horse and get that momentum moving forward,” Smith said.

But after not practicing all week, and then watching Kent State earn back-to-back wins to cut Ohio State’s lead to 14-9 in Sunday’s dual, Smith couldn’t take it anymore.  It was time to get back on the mat. Minutes later he finished off Mason Karpinski 21-6 to snuff any upset ambitions Kent State wrestlers had.

“With guys out of the lineup, you’ve always got to think about the worst-case scenario,” Smith said. “That team looks at the results from Vegas and goes, ‘With their hammers out, we might be able to sneak one on them.’ So when I went out there, my goal was to score bonus points and give them zero hope of doing that.”


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