Ohio Wrestling Starting Lineup Preview

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With just days to go before the 2014-15 campaign begins at the Michigan State Open, Ohio wrestling is putting the final preparations into a busy offseason and preseason training regimen.

After a little over seven months since the 2014 NCAA Championships, in which Ohio wrestled a program record six grapplers, the Bobcats are ready to hit the mats in live competition and break the record again.

“We want to get seven [or more],” 165-pounder Harrison Hightower said. "It’ll be pretty cool to set the record my senior year.”

The Green and White have a good chance to do just that, as the roster remains relatively the same from a season ago.

Six NCAA qualifiers are returning to head coach Joel Greenlee’s starting lineup. KeVon Powell, 125 pounds, qualified in for the national tournament in 2012. Tywan Claxton, 149, Sparty Chino, 157, Hightower, Cody Walters, 174, and Phil Wellington, 197, qualified for nationals last season.

Kagan Squire, 133, and Noah Forrider, 141, are also returning starters.

Gone are redshirt seniors Jeremy Johnson and Ryan Garringer, and new to the team are 14 freshmen.

Johnson’s absence is the biggest gap for head coach Joel Greenlee to fill – a 143 win gap. That’s the number of victories the heavyweight compiled in his time at Ohio. As the winningest wrestler in Ohio history, Johnson also claimed All-American honors twice to go along with two Mid-American Conference titles.

Greenlee has eight weight classes set in his mind as 125-174, and 197 pounds are essentially assured to the returning starters. Still, the Bobcats' coach said plenty of reserve wrestlers are garnering consideration to start when meet play comes around.

Claxton and Chino will start the year at 149 and 157, respectively, but Cullen Cummings and Andrew Romanchik are two reserves making moves right behind them.

Cummings redshirted last year at 149 and posted a 19-6 record in open competition last season.

“[He’s] is pretty good and you’ll see him make a little noise throughout the year,” Greenlee said.

Like Cummings, Romanchik took a redshirt last year at 157. As a freshman and sophomore, he placed twice at the MAC Championships and posted a 27-22 record.

125 is another deep class for the Bobcats, with Sebastian Pique and Sebastian Arroyo waiting in ranks behind Powell.

At 133, injuries have been an issue for Squire in his first two years with Ohio. He is finally healthy again after injuries kept him out of the lineup in the second half of the 2013-14 season, and left his class a weakness for the ‘Cats.

Sophomore Noah Forrider has a tight grip on 141 after he finished 23-14 as true freshman last year. Winning his bracket at the Michigan State Open last season propelled his year to a good start.

The Open and the subsequent tournaments will help Greenlee find his starters at 184 and heavyweight.

Zack Parker and Jesse Webb are garnering the most consideration to replace Johnson. Webb is a four-time Vermont State Champion at Mt. Anthony Union. Parker claimed two state titles in his home state of Delaware.

184 is a six-man competition of freshmen. Garrett Conner, Antonio Reynolds, Gabe Dzuro, Drew Plumlee, Travis Linton and Dakota Sizemore are all in the running. Of the group, Reynolds, a redshirt freshman, has the longest tenure at Ohio.

“[He’s] going to be dangerous,” Greenlee said. “He’s hard to wrestle. He’s tall and lanky and good on top and doesn’t really give you anything.”

Along with good depth and plenty of youth, another plus for the Bobcats’ squad is flexibility. Walters is a two-time defending MAC Champion at 174, and a former All-American, but even he might see some time at 184 this season in a dual meet situation, if needed.

Such an adjustment could allow Greenlee to put a new wrestler at 174, or even move Hightower up a class and wrestle someone new at 165.

Starting Sunday, the road to the 2015 NCAA Championships in St. Louis begins, with high hopes, the ‘Cats travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take part in the Michigan State Open. 

“We’ve been wrestling each other since last March,” Greenlee said. “It’s time to wrestle somebody else.”