Updated Mon, Feb 3, 2014 9:49 am
The Ohio wrestling team will face its toughest match of the season this weekend when it travels to Northern Iowa’s home mat to take on the undefeated Panthers and South Dakota State.
Ohio is in the midst of a three-game win streak after defeating rival Kent State and Buffalo last weekend. They are currently ranked fourth in the Mid-American Conference, with the same number of conference wins as second place Missouri and one fewer match wrestled than third place Central Michigan.
Despite this hot streak for the Bobcats, no team in the MAC is hotter than Northern Iowa. The Panthers are 7-0 overall and 5-0 within the conference. They are the eighth-ranked team in the nation, compared to Ohio at No. 31, according to InterMatWrestle.com.
Even with the chance to move ahead in the conference and give Northern Iowa its first loss since becoming a part of the MAC, the game plan for Ohio remains the same.
“You go out and wrestle seven minutes as hard as you can,” head coach Joel Greenlee said. “You do that, you fight hard, and good things are going to happen. That's what we told them all week, that's what we've told them all year.”
Northern Iowa is Greenlee’s alma mater. He wrestled as a Panther from 1986-89 and has the highest winning percentage for any wrestler in school history at 86.4 percent.
“You know I’ve never lost in that gym,” Greenlee said. “But it’s like any other match I think. It’s going to be a great environment for our guys. There’s going to be two or three thousand people there and not one of them is going to like us.”
A key match up during the Northern Iowa meet will be between Ohio’s No. 9 Cody Walters (174 pounds) and Northern Iowa’s No. 17 Cody Caldwell. Walters will look to get his first win against a ranked opponent this season after missing the majority of the season with injury and falling to Central Michigan’s eighth-ranked Mike Ottinger.
Harrison Hightower (165) takes on 11th-ranked Cooper Moore in what could also prove to be a pivotal matchup. While Moore does have the edge on Hightower in the rankings, he is only a redshirt freshman and has wrestled fewer matches than Hightower this season. Hightower’s experience could prove beneficial when the two wrestlers face one another on Saturday.
South Dakota State is also a tough team that, like the Bobcats, rides a three-match streak into Saturday.
“South Dakota State is kind of an up and coming team, so you don’t want to overlook them because you’re looking at Northern Iowa,” said Greenlee.
South Dakota State is led by 17th-ranked Cody Pack at 157 pounds.
The Bobcats will take on South Dakota State at 12 p.m. and Northern Iowa at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.