photo courtesy of Richard Immel
It was December of 2006 and I was a borderline obsessed wrestling fan coaching at the high school level. The previous year after my team wrestled in Southeastern Pennsylvania, I had taken a side trip to the second day of the Beast of the East and saw many of the top high school wrestlers of the time. One that caught my eye was the kid my friend and I called, “The Baby Faced Assassin” David Taylor. Just a freshman, at the time, Taylor looked 12 years old but wrestled like he was 22 and beat up the field while winning a Beast title. In 2005/2006 we were in a different place technologically speaking. Matches of the top middle school/high school wrestlers weren’t available at the drop of a hat, so you either needed to get your hands on videos, after the fact, or do the legwork yourself. As the 2006-07 high school season was approaching, rumors on the national message boards, as well as Ohio boards, were that there was an up-and-coming freshman named Logan Stieber that may actually be able to challenge Taylor. Both Stieber and Taylor had won Cadet Freestyle National Titles in the summer of 2006 at back-to-back weights for Team Ohio in Fargo. Even though Logan was slated to attend a small school named Monroeville, he would be attending the Walsh Ironman and wrestling 103, just like Taylor. After checking my schedule and seeing that the team I was assisting would not be competing that weekend, it was an easy decision for me to make the six-hour trek from Northern Virginia to Akron, Ohio, if for nothing else, to see these two 103 lb titans clash.
The match itself went to Taylor 7-3, but the result really didn’t matter. It was clear to anyone in the gym that evening that both Taylor and Stieber had “it” and would be terrorizing Ohio and beyond, for the foreseeable future. The loss would be the only one that Logan suffered throughout his high school career. I often like to say that in sports “the event itself rarely lives up to the hype surrounding it.” Sadly, in wrestling, that can be a common occurrence. When two great wrestlers meet in the finals of a tournament, both can be tentative and the result can be a 2-1 snoozefest. Luckily, this wasn’t one of those times. Even though I nearly fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road attempting to drive home through the night, after the tournament, I felt satisfied in my decision to make the trip to Ohio to see two wrestlers I thought were the future of our sport, go head-to-head.
In an era where high school sports, not just wrestling, are dominated by private schools that either allows recruiting or don’t discourage the practice, I was always impressed with Stieber’s loyalty to his hometown. Most parents feel that the best route for their child to take in their athletic development is to enroll them into one of these high schools that churns out multiple DI athletes each year. I’m not saying that’s the wrong way to do it either, but it wasn’t the path that Logan and the Stieber family chose. Logan and his younger brother Hunter went to Monroeville High School in tiny Monroeville, a rural town of about 1400. The school has a total enrollment of around 300 and is the same place where his father Jeff was a member of Monroeville’s 1984 state championship-winning basketball team. The Stieber’s would be joined by Chris Phillips and Cam Tessari’s, both in Hunter’s grade, to form one of the most impressive groups in Ohio high school wrestling history. Logan became the school’s first state champion and would go on to become a four-time state champion, as did Hunter, Phillips, and Tessari. Their star power carried the Eagles to a team championship, as well during Logan’s senior season. Of course, in addition to his high school practices, Logan trained with other clubs such as Erik Burnett’s All-American Wrestling Club and Jeff Jordan. Even so, it’s still hard to fathom that in 2010 the top wrestling recruit in the nation, a 125 lber, was a four-year letter winner for the Monroeville football team.
When Tom Ryan took over as head coach of the Ohio State wrestling team in the spring of 2006, the Buckeyes were a team that rarely challenged national powers Iowa and Minnesota and routinely lost top in-state recruits to schools like Michigan and Illinois. The Buckeye had some local flavor on Ryan’s first team’s with Ohio high school legends J Jaggers, Lance Palmer and they were joined by Mike Pucillo who followed Ryan back to Ohio, from Hofstra. This group would bring Ohio State to a pair of NCAA Runner-Up finishes in 2008 and 2009, which was uncharted territory and great for the program, but for the Buckeyes to overtake the Iowa’s, Minnesota’s and Penn State’s of the world they would need a spark or a little something extra. That spark ended up being the number one recruit in the high school Class of 2010, Logan Stieber. While Stieber had success at the collegiate level immediately, it still took some time for the Buckeye squad, as a whole to catch up. During his freshman season, Logan upset the defending champion Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) to capture his first national title at 133 lbs. Though the bout is best remembered for a non-takedown for Oliver at the end of the match, it was an entertaining scrap between two of the top wrestlers of the time. Stieber’s sophomore season ended in another NCAA title, and this time he would finish the year unbeaten for the first time. Up a weight for his junior season at 141 lbs, Stieber’s undefeated streak would end at the hands of a true freshman named Zain Retherford (Penn State), but Logan came back to defeat Retherford at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
Stieber’s success helped attract some of the top talent in the nation. Ryan and staff were able to sign the number one overall recruit in 2013 (Bo Jordan) and 2014 (Kyle Snyder). Jaggers, now the Ohio State Associate Head Coach, says that after Logan’s success, “subsequent high-profile recruits saw him dominate and believed more than ever that Ohio State was a place where they could reach their full potential.” Jordan sat out the 2013-14 season redshirting, but these two freshmen along with a third, Nathan Tomasello came together in 2014-15 with Stieber and helped Ohio State achieve something never done before in school history, which was to win an NCAA team title. Logan finished undefeated that season and rewrote the Ohio State record books. He became the first Buckeye to win four Big Ten titles, four NCAA titles, the Hodge Trophy and was also ended his career on a 50 match winning streak. In 119 collegiate matches, Logan was able to earn bonus points in 96 of them.
Logan’s story cannot be told without mentioning his brother Hunter’s career at Ohio State. Hunter jumped into the mix immediately without redshirting and placed sixth in the country. The next year the younger Stieber entered the NCAA Championships undefeated, after capturing a Big Ten title. He would go on to finish third at nationals in 2013. From that point, Hunter suffered a series of elbow injuries which derailed his career. Even so, Hunter was able to qualify for the NCAA Championships during the Buckeyes 2015 NCAA title-winning season. Wrestling with two elbows that would later need surgery, Hunter had to injury default out of the tournament and did not earn All-American honors. Still, both Logan and Tom Ryan called Hunter’s showing at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA’s “inspiring.” The two brothers had not only brought a state championship to tiny Monroeville High School, but also a national championship to the largest university in their home state.
The journey for Stieber did not end when his career at Ohio State concluded, it was only getting started. Logan’s eyes were always focused on making the 2016 Olympic team, in freestyle, but he fell short losing a 5-5 match on criteria to Frank Molinaro at 65 kg. After the Olympic Trials, Stieber dropped down to 61 kg and made the world team for the weight class which was not contested at the Olympics. Logan had saved one of his best performances ever for the 2016 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary when he battled his way to a world championship. That tournament remains one of my fondest memories of Stieber. At this point in his career, he lived by the motto “Shooters Shoot.” Not content to strategize his way into a tactical, low-scoring win, Logan knew that his offense was his best shot at winning any tournament he entered and he let it fly. At times it could work against him, but you knew when Stieber left the mat, he didn’t leave any bullets in the chamber. He went out and made sure that he gave opponents his best attacks and let the cards fall as they may. At the 2016 World Championships, the result was a gold medal. In both the quarterfinals and semifinals of that event, he earned takedowns in the closing seconds of each match to advance. Jaggers states that the biggest ingredient to Logan’s success has been his consistency. “I’m talking about consistency as it relates to training. His capacity to endure an extreme workload through training over such a long period of time, day in and day out, is unique.”
Logan went on to become an integral member of the 2017 World Team that was able to unseat Russia and win the first Senior freestyle team title for the United States since 1995. He was also a starter on two World Cup teams, including the title-winning squad in 2018. Though he was not able to medal again after 2016, Stieber made three world teams total, with the final one coming in 2018 at 65 kg.
Last night, through social media, Logan announced his retirement from competition. Of course, he will stay close to the sport of wrestling and close to Ohio State while coaching at the Ohio Regional Training Center. After looking back at Stieber’s illustrious career, it begs the question, what will his legacy be? There’s plenty to choose from, the small-school kid that ascended to number one in the nation and then led Ohio State to their first team title, the most recent four-time NCAA Champion and Hodge Trophy winner, the member of the select fraternity of US World Champions? All of those are worthy and impressive accomplishments, but Jaggers shared this story that encapsulates who Logan really is. “It was at the 2016 Olympic Trials. After losing a heartbreaker to end his lifelong dream of becoming a US Olympian, we were leaving the venue. Fresh off the most gut-wrenching defeat he has ever dealt with, about 20-30 youth wrestlers, oblivious to the turmoil in Logan’s head, started coming over to him and requesting autographs. He stood there, broken-hearted, for 30 minutes and took pictures and signed autographs for every single kid that asked. It was classic Logan. Although he is a transcendent athlete, his identity isn’t wrapped up in merely the sport of wrestling.”
The Open Mat would like to congratulate Logan Stieber on such a remarkable career and wish him luck in his future endeavors.