Updated Fri, Feb 14, 2014 1:34 pm
Mid-American Conference competition is over, for now. The Ohio Bobcats found mixed results in the MAC after going 4-4 against conference foes. The highs included a 21-16 against rival Kent State, and two blowout victories against Northern Illinois and Buffalo. It seemed, however, just as the ‘Cats were about to reach that next level in both rankings and perception, they would suffer a disappointing loss.
Next for Ohio is a stretch of three non-conference dual against West Virginia, Gardner-Webb and Cleveland State, with a showdown with the Mountaineers starting it all off on Sunday, Feb. 16. Ohio’s final home duals come in a doubleheader with the Runnin’ Bulldogs and the Vikings on Feb. 23.
The next three weeks marks an interesting transition time for the Bobcats as they begin preparation for the MAC Tournament, held March 8-9.
“You work on specific needs for each individual,” Ohio head coach Joel Greenlee said. “You try to get them feeling good, healthy and get their bodies a lot of rest. Cut down on the amount of wrestling you do in practice.”
As important as preparation for the MAC Tournament is, Ohio cannot overlook their next three duals, or they risk suffering a letdown. The good news for Ohio is it is undefeated in six non-conference duals. An important part of that success has been Greenlee’s mentality.
“My opinion is, I want to beat the heck out of the next team I wrestle,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s a MAC school, a B1G school, a Big 12 school or whatever else. I don’t care who it is.”
Greenlee makes it rather obvious if it is up to him, Ohio will be ready in the next two weeks. The conference affiliation changes very little for Greenlee’s squad as the Bobcats will wrestle as hard as ever. The only difference might be who is wrestling in a Green and White singlet.
“You don’t have a chance to rest guys in MAC competition, but you might be able to rest them if it’s not a MAC match,” Greenlee said.
Ohio’s head coach has not decided who might sit out in the coming weeks. He first wants to see how practices go. It might benefit some wrestlers to get some rest, but Greenlee knows his team his full of competitors that will not take a seat on the bench too easily.
125 pounds, 133, 174 and 197 might make the most sense for Greenlee to sit his starters, if at all. Thomas McLaughlin, Garrett Garness and Sebastian Arroyo can wrestle at 125 and 133. 133 might be in need of a substitute after Kagan Squire suffered a concussion last week against Clarion. Marshall Willet is very capable to fill-in at heavier weights, as he saw significant time at 174 earlier in the year while Cody Walters was out with a concussion. He could also jump to 184 if needed. Finally at 197, Michael Duckworth, Beau Wenger and Kyle O’Donnell are available to step up behind Phil Wellington.
Greenlee might not make use of his backup wrestlers against the Mountaineers, but they might be more useful during Ohio’s double header on Feb. 23. Rather than wrestle the same grappler in consecutive matches, the Bobcat coach might be more apt to substitute.
Of Ohio’s next three opponents, West Virginia seems to be the biggest challenge as the Mountaineers carry a 10-5 record. They are led by senior grappler Colin Johnston. The 141-pounder is 17-5 on the season and ranked 16th at his weight.
The Bobcats’ final regular season duals against Cleveland State and Gardner-Webb will be duals against two struggling teams. As of Friday, the Vikings are just 1-10 and Gardner-Webb, though led by No. 20 Austin Trott at 165, posts a 5-14 record.
Ohio’s upcoming non-conference slate gives the Bobcats a chance to gain some momentum, gain some confidence, get healthy and hopefully get some much needed rest.