WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team continues its Big Ten Dual schedule on Thursday, traveling to eighth-ranked Ohio State University for a 7 p.m. (ET) dual in the Buckeyes' St. John Arena. Thursday's dual will be webcast live at BigTenNetwork.com and will re-air on the BTN Friday at 4 p.m. as the Boilermakers look to improve upon their 6-5 (1-1 Big Ten) dual record.
The Boilermakers faltered their last time out, suffering their first 2011-12 conference defeat at the hands of sixth-ranked Illinois, 24-9, in Holloway Gymnasium. Purdue's three wins came from junior Tommy Churchard, freshman Braden Atwood and senior Roger Vukobratovich, who all continued their hot start to the second semester after placing at the Midlands Championships.
Purdue looks to bounce back against a very young, but extremely talented Ohio State squad, which enters the week with eight freshman projected starters, four of whom are ranked in the latest Top-20 poll. The main strength of the lineup is in the bottom half, where the Buckeyes first four wrestlers have garnered national attention. Brothers Logan and Hunter Stieber lead the way, ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, at 133 and 141 pounds, while rookie Cam Tessari is 15th at 149 pounds and fellow freshman Johnni DiJulius is 16th at 125 pounds. The other two ranked grapplers for Ohio State are 174-pound sophomore Nick Heflin and heavyweight sophomore Peter Capone, tabbed eighth and 17th in the nation, respectively.
"Ohio State is another tough Big Ten opponent, just like everyone in our conference," said Boilermaker head coach Scott Hinkel. "Being an Ohio native, I know there is a wealth of wrestling talent in that state and Coach (Tom) Ryan does a great job of keeping some of their best home to wrestle for the Buckeyes. This group should be very good for years to come, but we're just focused on Thursday and taking care of business."
The Boilermakers and Buckeyes met at all five of the lower weight classes in the early-season Eastern Michigan Open, with Ohio State getting the best of the matchups. DiJulius held off a late rally from Purdue sophomore Camden Eppert for a 12-8 decision, while Ohio State freshman Josh Demas edged out Churchard in both wrestlers' season-opener, 3-2. Logan Stieber and eighth-ranked Purdue sophomore Cashé Quiroga met in the tournament finals at 133, with Stieber taking a 15-2 major decision, and Hunter Stieber held on for a 10-8 decision over Boilermaker junior Jake Fleckenstein at 141 pounds in the championship match. Purdue junior Ivan Lopouchanski was the long Boilermaker to crack a Buckeye, going to a tie-breaker in a 3-2 victory over Tessari in the 149-pound championship match. The Boilermakers will be out for vengeance as we expect a series of rematches this week.
Purdue has had a few new editions to the national rankings over the past few weeks as Atwood joined the national elite at 184 pounds just before the holiday break, now sitting 19th in the nation, and Churchard cracked the poll for the first time in his career this week, earning the No. 20 spot at 157 pounds. Quiroga and Lopouchanski have been mainstays throughout the season, despite limited action due to injuries, and both have another opportunity to solidify their position among the nationally elite Thursday.
In addition to Thurday's webcast, live results of the action will be available via TrackWrestling.com as well as updates on the @PurdueWrestling Twitter page.