OAK HARBOR — They filled both sides of the 13-row wooden bleachers an hour before the event. They sang "Hang on Sloopy" and chanted "OH-IO!" They also grew hoarse as the wins came one after another.
The fifth-ranked Ohio State wrestling team ensured the celebration continued nearly unabated in a 25-9 victory over No. 6 Illinois on Friday night at Oak Harbor High School.
In a dual meet that appeared a toss-up, Buckeyes coach Tom Ryan called the sold-out crowd of 2,100 the "X-factor."
"The environment was a 10-plus," he said. "It was humbling, really. We know northwest Ohio loves wrestling and they proved it tonight."
Defending national champion Logan Stieber, a sophomore from Monroeville who missed the past five duals with a strained leg, returned to pin eighth-ranked Daryl Thomas in 2 minutes, 4 seconds at 133 pounds — and his teammates piled on from there. OSU (10-2, 4-2) won seven matches in its third straight conference rout.
About the only part that didn't go to plan was hometown star C.J. Magrum's 2-1 loss, though the three-time state champion from Oak Harbor produced the most stirring finish. A second stall warning on Illinois' Tony Dallago gave the 184-pound Buckeyes senior a point with nine seconds remaining, allowing Magrum the chance the force overtime by escaping from the bottom on a final restart. With the crowd standing and chanting, "Cody, Cody," Magrum (11-2) could not elude Dallago's hold.
"I've just got to keep working and getting off the bottom," he said. "It's a whole different match then."
Still, Magrum called the environment "awesome," and credited his teammates for making it so.
After OSU senior Nikko Triggas fell 8-1 to fifth-ranked Jesse Delgado at 125 pounds, Stieber (16-0) earned his 16th straight bonus-point victory to put the Buckeyes ahead for good.
"I felt good," Stieber said. "I fed off the crowd. I've been in front of bigger crowds before, but never anything this compact."
On Stieber's return, Ryan said, "Oh yeah, how nice is it for him to be back? And what a way to start."
Stieber's brother, second-ranked Hunter Stieber (24-0), followed with a 10-2 major decision over Stephen Rodrigues at 133 pounds before former high school teammate Cam Tessari completed the Monroeville sweep with a 6-1 decision over Caleb Ervin at 141 pounds.
Other OSU highlights included seventh-ranked Nick Heflin's 3-1 overtime victory over eighth-ranked Jordan Blanton at 174 pounds and Kenny Courts’ 13-9 upset of 13th-ranked Mario Gonzalez at 197 pounds.
Courts lost a wrestle off to Magrum for the starting position at 184 pounds this week, but was forced to start above his class after Andrew Campolattano scratched with an injury. He wrestled the match at 186 pounds.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.