Wrestling: Season Review

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The college wrestling season is over. Ohio head coach Joel Greenlee sat down recently to assess how the Bobcats fared this season, and he was pleased with the results.

“I think it went well … we met my expectations,” he said.

As a team, the Bobcats wrestled their way to an 11-5-1 record. Ohio finished in seventh place at the Southern Scuffle and Reno Tournament of Champions and placed fourth at the Navy Classic. Its finish at the Scuffle was the best in the program’s history. 

The ‘Cats got off to a slow start and posted a 1-3 record to begin the season. Things turned around quickly, however, for Greenlee’s squad, and the Bobcats won their next two dual meets. On Jan. 27 Ohio picked up a big 22-16 win over Big Ten power Michigan State. The victory was Ohio’s second of a school record seven-game win streak to close its regular season.

“We started off maybe a little slow because we were inexperienced but we gained some steam, and really I thought got better every weekend,” Greenlee said. “(We) finished the year pretty strong … Going in with as young of a team, we were going to have our ups and downs.”

In postseason tournament play, Ohio finished fifth in the 2013 Mid-American Conference Championships, and 29th of the 66 schools represented at the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

Individually Ohio was led by Cody Walters (174 lbs.) and Jeremy Johnson (285 lbs.). Walters and Johnson finished the season with 39-5 and 38-13 records respectively. Walters — a redshirt freshman — claimed All-American Honors at the NCAA Tournament.

“He’s talked about (being an All-American) since day one … It’s awful hard to do but he did it. I was impressed with that,” Greenlee said about Walters.

 Johnson fell just short of repeating as an All-American in the round of 12.

In addition to Walters and Johnson, the Ohio sent three other wrestlers to the NCAA tournament. KeVon Powell (125 lbs.), Sparty Chino (157 lbs.) and Phil Wellington (197 lbs.) along with Walters made up a group of four Ohio freshmen that competed in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Qualifying four freshmen for the national tournament is something we’ve never done here,” Ohio’s head coach said. Greenlee also said that sending five wrestlers to the national tournament has only been done once since he started coaching at Ohio in 1997.

As successful as the Bobcats’ season was, Coach Greenlee thinks the season could have gone even better.

“Honestly, we could have even qualified more to the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I thought Harrison Hightower (165 lbs.) is a guy that had a chance at qualifying. I thought that Ryan Garringer (184 lbs.), who qualified last year, had an opportunity to qualify this year. There were four spots available at his weight. He gets hurt, can’t go (to the MAC Tournament) but his backup gets fifth.”

But with the 2012-13 season in the rearview mirror, focus shifts to 2013-14 campaign. Considering how much the Bobcats accomplished as such a young team, Greenlee likes his team’s chances in the years to come.

“The future looks bright for us but we’ve got to return everyone healthy. We’ve got to return everyone eligible,” he said. “I think when you look at who we have returning, we should have a pretty good squad returning. We should be able to improve on what we did this year.”

It’s not just getting wrestlers back to compete next season. Coach Greenlee will still have his team working hard in the offseason. After the NCAA tournament, the Bobcats got the following week off to rest, but according to their head coach, they will be back to work on Monday.

“We’ll start doing some running and lifting. We’ll stay off the mats for two or three weeks. Everyone’s body is a little beat up so we want to let their bodies heal a bit,” he said. “Our guys cannot get complacent because they have had success. I’m proud of the things they’ve accomplished. They did an unbelievable job this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s going happen again next year. You’re not going to improve just because you’re a year older.”

Ohio will be hard at work this offseason. Even if Bobcats’ next campaign does not go as well as this season’s, Greenlee will make sure that it will not be because of a lack of hard work.