original photo courtesy of Cam Kramer
The Open Mat’s College Wrestler of the Week award goes to Ohio State’s freshman 149 lber Sammy Sasso. This honor is one of the least surprising of the year after Sasso had a three-day span where he upset the number one and number five ranked wrestlers in the nation. Sammy entered the week with a 16-2 record and was ranked seventh in the country, himself.
On Friday night, Sasso’s Buckeye went into a hostile environment to take on the top-ranked, undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes. His opponent was Midlands champion Pat Lugo, who had previously won all 13 of his matches during the 2019-20 campaign. Lugo was the aggressor the entire match and put Sasso in precarious positions on multiple occasions. In each predicament, Sasso was able to use his excellent scrambling skills and maneuver himself out of danger. Through a sudden victory period, the scoreboard was knotted at one point apiece. The Buckeye freshman was able to get the win after riding Lugo for the entire 30 second period and earning an escape himself. Sammy was one of only three OSU wrestlers to log wins against the mighty Hawkeyes. Though Sasso is a redshirt freshman this season, it was not the first meeting between him and Lugo. The pair met at the 2018 Midlands, while Sasso was redshirting, and he picked up the win 6-4 in sudden victory, during his run to third place. The win marks Sasso’s first over a returning All-American in the 19-20 season.
If downing the number one wrestler in the country wasn’t enough, Sasso still had work to do on Sunday evening. There he would face a fellow redshirt freshman, Brayton Lee (Minnesota). In the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Lee handed Sasso his second loss of the year. The two have a long history against each other, Sasso teched Lee in April during the finals of the UWW Junior Open. Lee returned the favor by engineering an incredible comeback on Sasso at the Junior WTT’s finals. Down 8-0 in the first match of a best-of-three series, Lee scored 11 unanswered points in the second period and got his hand raised. Their second match ended up a one-sided affair, which Lee won 8-1. They also met at the 2018 Midlands in a bout that Sasso won 6-4.
This latest meeting between Lee and Sasso came down to the last minute, with the score tied at two points apiece. Lee attempted a single leg with under 40 seconds left and was thwarted by the Buckeye. Sasso continually improved his position until he secured the winning score with about 19 seconds remaining on the clock. He rode Lee for the remainder of the match to win 4-2. Sasso’s win over Lee means that he has now avenged his only two losses on the year. At the CKLV Invitational, Sammy downed Brent Moore (Virginia Tech), 7-1. Moore had pinned him during their mid-November dual. Sasso has now won six straight matches since the Vegas loss to Lee. From a team standpoint, Sasso’s victory put the finishing touches on a win for the Buckeyes over Minnesota, 22-13.
Sasso has worked through his toughest dual stretch of the season. He now only had four dual meets remaining and none of his probable opponents are ranked higher than 14th. Be on the lookout for tomorrow’s new set of DI rankings to find just how high these two wins have catapulted the freshman from Nazareth, Pennsylvania.