Shane Sparks previews Penn State-Ohio State on BTN tonight
This morning was one of those very rare times when I didn’t need an alarm clock. I felt like a ten-year-old kid on Christmas morning running down the stairs in anticipation of opening the Red Ryder BB Gun that is surely wrapped and waiting for me under the tree.
When the Big Ten wrestling schedule came out, this was the match that we all circled on our calendars. Nearly 16,000 fans are expected tonight when No. 1 Penn State hosts reigning national champion Ohio State inside the Bryce Jordan Center (6 p.m. ET on BTN, watch live on BTN2Go).
How to watch
On BTN & BTN Plus (all times ET):
- Ohio State vs. Penn State, 6 p.m. BTN TV
- Michigan vs. Maryland, 7 p.m. BTN Plus
- Wisconsin vs. Rutgers, 7 p.m. BTN Plus
- Indiana vs. Iowa, 8 p.m. BTN Plus
- Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 8 p.m. BTN Plus
- Illinois vs. Nebraska, 8 p.m. BTN Plus
- N.C. State vs. Nebraska, 8 p.m. BTN Plus
This is going to be an event. I recall Penn State’s dual last year against Iowa inside BJC with all that electricity and tension. It was a fantastic atmosphere and it’s the style of wrestling that makes it a great event. The Nittany Lions score points and lots of them. Penn State has four of the top 10 guys on the NCAA’s “Most Dominant” list with Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford at Nos. 1 and 2.
Both guys average more than a tech-fall when they step on the mat. That’s crazy! They remind me of Bo Jackson and Lawrence Taylor in the video game Tecmo Bowl. Unstoppable! This is what wrestling fans crave. The Nittany Lions also don’t have one wrestler that ranks in the top 50 for stall warnings.
Right now, this young team is the college wrestling version of the “Greatest Show On Turf.”
The Nittany Lions are coming off a 35-7 win over a solid Michigan team in which they won eight of 10 matches in from of over 6,500 fans inside Rec Hall. Penn State was led by the most dominant one-two punch in the country with Retherford at 149 and Nolf at 157. Retherford built a double digit lead on then-No. 6 Alec Pantaleo before pinning him and Nolf scored a tech-fall against No. 9 Brian Murphy.
Ohio State is coming off a pair of victories at Indiana and Purdue to improve to 6-1 in conference duals. The Buckeyes bring plenty of young talent of their own. The most anticipated showdown comes at 125 pounds. The Buckeyes have the returning Big Ten and National Champion Nathan Tomasello while Penn State counters with three time All-American and two time NCAA finalist Nico Megaludis.
Tomasello brings a 33-match win streak. With Megaludis redshirting last season, this will be the first meeting between the two.
At 133 pounds a top 10 matchup with No. 5 Jordan Conaway and No. 10 Johnni DiJulius for Ohio State. DiJulius lost to Luke Welch of Purdue on Sunday and has now dropped three of his last five matches.
No. 14 Jimmy Gulibon meets No. 4 Micah Jordan at 141 pounds. An All-American last year at 133, Gulibon is still looking for that signature win at his new weight class. A win against Jordan would be big. I expect bonus points for Penn State with Retherford at 149 and Nolf at 157.
Ohio State will be the favorite at 165 pounds with No. 2 Bo Jordan. 10 of his 12 wins have come with bonus points and the Buckeyes will need him to continue that trend tonight. Another exciting match at 174 with Penn State’s top ranked Bo Nickal and No. 14 Myles Martin. Nickal beat Martin 4-3 in the finals of the Nittany Lion Open back in early December. Martin has since had his red shirt pulled and is fresh off a tough loss to Jacob Morrissey of Purdue last Sunday.
At 184 pounds Penn State expects to have No. 9 Matt McCutcheon back in the line up after missing last weekend because of injury. McCutcheon will battle No. 13 Kenny Courts, who beat him last year at the NCAA Championships en route to a memorable fifth place finish for Courts. Penn State will be another heavy favorite at 197 pounds with No. 1 Morgan McIntosh with a high possibility for more bonus points.
The tables will turn at heavyweight where Ohio State boasts No. 2 Kyle Snyder. Snyder is coming off a bronze medal finish at the Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia just last weekend as he builds towards the Olympic Trials in April. The reigning world champion Snyder has wrestled just one match for the Buckeyes this season, that coming almost three weeks ago against Nebraska.
Penn State has been so consistent all season long imposing its will on opponents. The Nittany Lions have outscored their Big Ten opponents by an average of 35 to 7, and a win tonight would all but ensure them of at least a share of the conference dual meet crown. It will take a superior effort for Ohio State to leave town with a win, but again this is why they wrestle the matches. Every match has a new set of circumstances and you have to be ready each and every time you step to the line.
I’ve been licking my chops for this night. It’s going to be a great showcase of our sport.