Ohio’s had one motto during its regular season: “Wrestle as hard as possible, and the rest will follow.”
That motto describes how the Bobcats ignited an eight-match win streak, the longest in five years.
Ohio (13-3, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) finished its regular season with an 18-16 win over American University. The win featured wrestlers such as Cameron Kelly, Phil Wellington and Jesse Webb picking up individual wins.
The win wasn’t pretty, but it was still a win, and a win the Bobcats could take in stride heading into the Mid-American Conference Championships.
“We lost some battles, but we won the war,” coach Joel Greenlee said after the match.
The Mid-American Conference Championships will take place on March 5.
The Bobcats have lost three dual meets this season, but all of them were against the MAC’s elite teams: Kent State, Missouri and Central Michigan.
But as the Bobcats head into the postseason, they see nothing stopping them from potentially beating the MAC’s elite.
Missouri (14-2, 8-0 MAC) is like the MAC’s version of the Golden State Warriors, Kent State (15-3, 7-1 MAC) is beatable and the Bobcats barely lost to the Chippewas on Jan 10 because of criteria. Central Michigan had more points scored on a match-by-match basis, winning 15-15.
The Bobcats said they are capable of winning the MAC Championships, but their ‘wrestle hard’ mentality will need to be unrelenting in order to do so.
“I think if you sit down and look at it, I think we could win the tournament,” Greenlee said. “We’re probably a better tournament team than we are a dual meet team.”
A better tournament team? The Bobcats have already won eight straight dual meets. How could they possibly break that ceiling?
At this point in the season, the Bobcats’ ceiling appears to be limitless. As Ohio heads into the postseason, it has had more days off. Ohio will have almost two weeks of rest from its meet with American.
This keeps Ohio fresh, but with time off, it’s important for the wrestlers to pay even closer attention to their weight.
“If your weight is a little bad, you got to go work out,” Kelly said. “But these days off are really good for recovery, just resting your body and getting some time off.”
The “Freshmen Campaign” of Kelly and Shakur Laney are arguably the team’s backbone. Whenever Kelly and Laney win in a dual meet, Ohio is 6-1.
“Everyone wants to be the individual best on the team,” Kelly said. “We try to outdo each other each tournament.”
Ohio will need its hard wrestling out of its entire starting lineup if it wants to win the MAC Championships, however. Ohio will need assistance from Central Michigan and Kent State to beat Missouri, as well.
But with a solid starting lineup, Ohio should have no problem controlling its destiny.
The Bobcats have one of the best starting lineups in the MAC. The starting lineup has a combined 100 wins on the season.
This season hasn’t been ruled by the team’s collective dominance, either. Redshirt senior Cody Walters (174 lbs) is one of the team’s best wrestlers. With a dual meet record of 14-2, Walters is looking to win his fourth MAC title.
Only six other wrestlers in the history of the MAC have won four MAC titles at their respective weight classes. Two of the wrestlers — Russ Johnson and Jake Percival — wrestled for Ohio.
“It’s pretty cool to think about, but I also don’t want to be that guy to not do it,” Walters said regarding winning his fourth MAC title. “I know I’m a really good wrestler, and I just have to focus this week on what my goals are.”
The stakes are high for Ohio at the 2016 MAC Championships. Seniors like Walters are trying to cement their place in MAC history. Freshmen like Kelly and Laney are looking to start their own legacies.
If the Bobcats continue to focus, if they continue to wrestle with grit and passion, winning the MAC Championships won’t seem like a lofty goal.
“If we place 10 guys, we’ll be awful hard to beat in that tournament,” Greenlee said.