Ohio university wrestler holding competitor down

Bobcats Bout in Big Apple

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“It’s only a few more pounds! Come on, just get going!”

Sparty Chino sits on the edge of the new mats placed in the auxiliary gym at Madison Square Garden. He’s chirping at a group of Fighting Illini on the bikes.

There’s only one more day until competition. Chino keeps chirping at the other athletes, while lacing up his shoes, just like every other practice, dual meet or tournament, but this time he’s gearing up for some higher stakes.

Thursday, March 17, is the beginning of his last tournament, where he will step on the scales for his last weigh-in at 10:00 am, and hit the mat in the first round. He, and a record six other bobcats, will wrestle in this year’s Division 1 National Tournament.

For Chino and three of the other Ohio qualifiers, this will be the last time they’re on the mat together. The quartet has revolutionized Ohio Wrestling’s program, and plan to make an impression in their last tournament as Bobcats.

“I mean, it’s an awesome thing, Not always do you come into college and get to stick with a core four group of guys,” says senior Andrew Romanchik. “It’s a crazy thing that we get to end our careers together, especially at Madison Square Garden.”

“It’s exciting. I don’t know how many of them have been before, but I know they’ve heard about it,” says head coach Joel Greenlee.

Just like Chino, Redshirt senior and 174 lb. Cody Walters is making his fourth national tournament appearance. Although this year’s will be on a stage that even the world’s elite see as a privilege.

Walters reached All-American status as a freshman three years ago, and hopes to do the same. The past post-seasons, he hasn’t wrestled healthy. In 2013, he was recovering form a torn MCL and concussion. In 2014, he was hamstrung by a broken ankle he injured in the MAC Tournament.

“You kind of put the pain behind you, you kind of put everything behind you, once it’s about wrestling, it’s pretty good,” said Walters.

Ohio Wrestling hasn’t had a national champion since 1998, and just like the rest of the Green and White, Walters plans on changing that.

“I plan on being on that wall forever, on top of there,” says Walters. “That’s all I’ve thought about. I’m gonna throw the kitchen sink that these guys and hopefully they don’t know how to mess with it.”

On the other end of things, the Green and White will also be represent by two freshmen, Shakur Laney and Cameron Kelly, in the 125 and 133 weight classes, respectively. Both true freshman are excited about their first experience on the nationals stage.

“My mindset isn’t just making it to the National Tournament, my mindset is on what I do at the National Tournament,” says Kelly.

The first round of competition starts at 12:00 pm, as three bobcats face nationally ranked opponents. No matter the opponent, each bobcat’s focus is on a national championship, as they get closer to competition.