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Ohio State and Penn State Ready to Square Off in ‘The Dual of the Millennium’

by and on February 03, 2018 5:00 AM

A national debate has raged all season about whether Ohio State has enough talent to dethrone two-time defending NCAA wrestling champion Penn State.

The two teams have swapped places atop the polls throughout the season in several national rankings. National pundits have predicted the outcome of a dual meet between two of the sport’s titans. Some have tried to divine how many points each would score at the national tournament, too.

What some are calling “The Dual of the Millennium” will finally take place at 8 p.m. Saturday in Rec Hall.

The match will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Anyone who has even a passing interest in collegiate wrestling figures to be watching.

Count Rutgers coach Scott Goodale, whose Scarlet Knights have faced and lost to both teams, among them.

“It’s great for wrestling. It’s what wrestling needs. I’m sure (Ohio State defending NCAA 285-pound champion Kyle) Snyder will be back (from the Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia). Hopefully Nolf is back,” he said Jan. 28 following Rutgers’ loss to Penn State.

“You want to see the two best teams wrestle to decide something and that’s exactly what the sport needs. It needs days like today. As far as who wins? I wouldn’t … (predict a winner). It’s going to be a great match and I’ll tune in to watch, for sure. I’ll be a fan of it.”

As Goodale alluded, the status of Penn State 157-pounder Jason Nolf, specifically the condition of the right knee he injured Jan. 28 in an injury default loss at Rutgers, reduces the luster of the match.

Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said Jan. 29 on the Cael Sanderson Show on the Penn State Sports Network, “It’s a serious injury, but not as bad as we first thought.”

He went on to say Nolf wouldn’t be available for the Buckeye showdown, or the final two duals of the season. But, he said, Nolf would return for the Big Ten Championships in the Breslin Student Events Center at East Lansing, Mich.

Even without Nolf in the lineup, the dual meet will still feature half of the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers, three No. 2s, one No. 3, a No. 4, a No. 5, a No. 6, two No. 7s and a No. 10 — a full 15 ranked wrestlers.

All 10 of Ohio State’s wrestlers are ranked in the top 13 of their respective weights. Seven of Penn State’s 10 are ranked in the Top 10 of their weights. Four wrestlers for each team will enter the match undefeated: Luke Pletcher (133), Myles Martin (184), Kollin Moore (197) and Kyle Snyder (285) for Ohio State and Zain Retherford (149), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (184) for Penn State.

“[The dual] is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. I get to wrestle with Te’Shan Campbell. We’ve been practicing together since we’ve been 8 years old. I’m looking forward to that,” Nittany Lion 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph said.

“It’s going to be a good match either way. Whoever wins doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to win the national tournament. Duals are different than a tournament. I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure they are. Our whole team is. It’s going to be a fun match.”

Even with a returning national champion out of the lineup, Sanderson didn’t sound like he was conceding defeat on his radio show. He said his guys would have to do no more than wrestle their best. That usually hasn’t been a problem in big duals or big moments during the Sanderson era.

Buckeye coach Tom Ryan complained on Twitter last week that Penn State should have moved the dual meet to a bigger venue to accommodate fans for both teams. And, he didn’t sound pleased that his team couldn’t get any more than its allotment of 75 tickets.

Joseph, though, is happy this dual is at Rec Hall.

“I, personally, like Rec Hall better. It has more of like a homey atmosphere,” he said. “The Bryce Jordan Center — personally, I don’t like wrestling on a stage. It kind of feels weird under my feet. It’s nothing with the setup. It just kind of feels weird under my legs.”

Here’s a look at the potential matchups (Ohio State wrestlers listed first):

■ 125: No. 4 Nathan Tomasello vs. Devin Schnupp

■ 133: No. 2 Luke Pletcher vs. Corey Keener

■ 141: No. 11 Joey McKenna vs. No. 7 Nick Lee

■ 149: No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes vs. No. 1 Zain  Retherford

■ 157: No. 5 Micah Jordan vs. Bo Pipher OR Luke Gardner

■ 165: No. 13 Te’Shan Campbell vs. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph

■ 174: No. 3 Bo Jordan vs. No. 2 Mark Hall

■ 184: No. 2 Myles Martin vs. No. 1 Bo Nickal

■ 197: No. 1 Kollin Moore vs. No. 10 Shakur Rasheed

■ 285: No. 1 Kyle Snyder vs. No. 6 Nick Nevills

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Andly Elder covers Penn State wresting for The Centre County Gazette.
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