Updated Thu, Mar 6, 2014 5:28 pm
After a successful 13-4 regular season record in dual meets, all that Ohio wrestling has left is postseason competition. The Bobcats have a trip to the 2014 NCAA Championship in Oklahoma City on their minds, but they first have to go through the Mid-American Championships in Kent, Ohio.
With two weeks of preparation since their last competition, the Bobcats are ready as ever to tackle their next challenge. One of head coach Joel Greenlee’s points of emphasis has been getting his squad healthy while still working hard.
“We’re not training as long; [instead] everything is short but intense,” he said. “We want guys’ bodies to feel good, their minds to feel fresh and all those things.”
According to Phil Wellington, Ohio’s 197-pounder, the two weeks before the MAC tournament is all about intensity.
“You still have to train to your peak level,” he said. “We’re training harder than ever but we’re not training as long. We’re training smarter.”
In an additional effort to get rested up, Greenlee says cuts back on some other team activities. In the week leading up to the MAC tournament, the team didn’t lift or condition like they normally would heading into a competition.
“In my eyes we aren’t going to get any stronger or be in better shape than we are right now,” Greenlee said. “The rest we’re going to get is going to do us more good than the workout.”
Preparation isn’t all physical. It takes a lot of focus and the right mindset to be successful at the highest level. Wellington knows what that’s all about after making a trip to the national tournament last season. Last year he earned one of the 40 at-large bids into the tournament. This year, he has his eyes set on earning a national tournament berth at the MAC Championships.
When the NCAA announced qualifying allocations, Wellington found out there would be two 197-pound spots to be earned in Kent.
Wellington, who is ranked eighth in the latest coaches poll, should be in good shape to earn one of those spots. He went undefeated in MAC competition this season, and already beat his toughest competitor, freshman J’Den Cox of Missouri.
No. 10 Jeremy Johnson, 285, should also be a safe bet to earn one of three heavyweight spots at the conference tournament. He went undefeated against MAC competition as well, and is the highest ranked heavyweight in the conference.
The MAC has five qualifying spots to award at 133, 141, 157, 174 and 184. At those weights, Ohio has three ranked wrestlers in No. 33 Noah Forrider, 141, No. 30 Sparty Chino, 157, and No. 12 Cody Walters, 174. Forrider and Chino currently look up at five, higher ranked grapplers in their respective weight classes.
Four spots are for the taking at 125 and 149. No. 17 Tywan Claxton is in good shape to grab one of those spots. He beat the No. 1 Drake Houdashelt of Missouri earlier this season.
At 165, No. 26 Harrison Hightower is looking earn one of three qualifying spots to make his first appearance at the NCAA Championships. Ranked ahead of Hightower in the rankings are Zach Toal and Cooper Moore – two wrestlers that bested him this year.
Ohio has seven ranked wrestlers vying for a national tournament slot. Greenlee hopes all seven, and maybe more, punch their tickets Oklahoma City. They get their first chance to do that