By: Gina Ferrentino (Original Here)
The Ohio State wrestling team fought through injuries and skepticism to finish second overall at the NCAA championships March 22 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
It was the second consecutive No. 2 NCAA finish for the Buckeyes, as they let go of their first place lead late in the last day of the championship tournament.
Against the odds, senior J Jaggers, OSU’s leading man at 141 pounds, claimed his second consecutive NCAA title.
Jaggers’ ability to succeed at nationals was doubted by wrestling fans and coaches nationwide, as he sat ranked No. 13 in his weight class going into the championship. However, he was determined to come out, once again, victorious. “Individually, anything less than a national title would be a failure in my eyes,” Jaggers said.
Jaggers said that after winning the 2008 title he was referred to by some as a “one-hit wonder” and he knew he would prove the skeptics wrong.
He is one of only three Buckeyes to ever claim the NCAA title in his weight class twice.
After the Bucks were named runners-up at the NCAA tournament, Buckeye coach Tom Ryan was named National Coach of the Year by The Rev, an award presented to the nation’s best coaches across all divisions of college wrestling. Coach Tom Brands of the No. 1 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes was Ryan’s main competition, but Ryan narrowly beat him out, as he helped pull three Buckeye wrestlers to the finals in their weight classes and bring his OSU team to within just 4.5 points of the top-ranked Hawkeyes. Ryan has already been the recipient of the award twice in his three years at OSU.
Among other accomplished Buckeyes are the second place NCAA finishers – juniors Mike Pucillo in the 184-pound division and Reece Humphrey in the 133-pound division.
Pucillo overcame remarkable circumstances, as he almost severed two fingers on his left hand a week before the championships. His pinky finger and ring finger were not usable on his left hand.
“With 15 stitches in his hand, Pucillo made it to the NCAA finals. He is a warrior and a true Buckeye,” Ryan said.
Pucillo and Humphrey were also named All Americans, joining Jaggers and junior Lance Palmer.
Palmer fell in his semifinal match in the 149-pound division and battled for a fourth place NCAA finish.
“Taking fourth wasn’t my goal, but being one of four All Americans and a three time All American with Pucillo and Jaggers is inspiring to me and hopefully to others who haven’t yet accomplished that,” Palmer said.
The Buckeyes had a proficient and historical 2009 season. Jaggers joined elite Buckeye wrestlers with his two-time NCAA title, coach Ryan celebrated his 150th win and second Coach of the Year award, and OSU recorded a 7-1 Big Ten record for the first time since 1991-1992.
However, a second place finish does not satisfy the Bucks or coach Ryan.
“That 4.5 point loss to Iowa left a sharp pain in our guts. We want to bring championships to the university and Buckeye nation,” Ryan said.