In the first of two top-10 duals this weekend, The Ohio State Buckeyes will travel to Ithaca, New York to take on the No. 9 Cornell Big Red for one final contest before their respective conference tournaments. The match will be broadcasted live on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The Buckeyes and the Big Red have competed 14 times against each other throughout their histories, with Cornell holding the slight advantage in overall wins at 7-6-1. Five of the last seven duals between the two teams have fallen in Cornell's favor, with the most recent win coming on Feb. 19, 2017 in Ithaca 19-18. Veteran Buckeye, senior captain Myles Martin likely remembers the dual well as he suffered a loss to Gabe Dean in what would end up being a critical match for Cornell's team points and ultimate win over the Buckeyes.
This year, Martin holds the top spot in his weight and should rack up a victory if he wrestles to seed. He'll take on on No. 7 Max Dean in a top-10 dual, but the Buckeye has proven this year that he's a scoring machine, notching bonus points in 75 percent of his matches so far this season.
As a team, the Buckeyes are 11-2 with both losses coming against top-5 Big Ten opponents in Michigan and Penn State. The Michigan match came down to the final bout, with the Wolverines' Mason Parris earning a decision at heavyweight against Ohio State's Chase Singletary 6-3 to seal the win. Singletary will not face a ranked wrestler against Cornell, and he'll be one of four Buckeyes in such a situation. Ohio State will bring ten ranked wrestlers to Ithaca, with six in the Top 6 of their respective weight classes. Cornell counters this depth with six ranked wrestlers, creating ranked matchups in all six of Cornell's ranked weights. The Big Red come into the dual with momentum, riding an eight-match winning steak with two recent victories over No. 13 North Carolina and No. 14 Virginia Tech.
Cornell won the final nine matches to rout #13 North Carolina 29-5, with Vitali Arujau earning bonus points at 125 with a 17-4 major decision over Joe Heilman. Cornell defeated four UNC ranked wrestlers along the way. #YellCornell (📸: Gracie Smith/Virginia Tech) pic.twitter.com/LfFNbDNWCx— Cornell Big Red (@CornellSports) February 17, 2019
The Big Red have the advantage at 125 with No. 8 Vitali Arujau facing No. 17 Malik Heinselman, at 174 with No. 14 Brandon Womack facing No. 19 Ethan Smith and at 141 with defending national champion Yianni Diakomihalis facing No. 3 Joey McKenna. However, 141 will be the match to watch, as undefeated Diakomihalis faces a 16-1 McKenna who teched Michigan's No. 6 Kanen Storr earlier this season. McKenna fell to Penn State's No. 2 Nick Lee in his only loss of the season, but the Ohio State Buckeye senior put up two big wins last weekend to close out his career at home. This will be the marquee dual of the night, so here's what you need to know about this matchup and the other two top-10 ranked contests set for Friday:
141: Joey McKenna vs. Yianni Diakomihalis
In the first of three top-10 duals of the night, Ohio State Buckeye senior Joey McKenna will take on defending national champion sophomore Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell in what could be an NCAA finals preview match. Last year, McKenna missed his opportunity to wrestle Diakomihalis on Saturday night of the NCAA tournament when he lost to Wyoming's Bryce Meredith in the semifinals. Meredith went on to wrestle Diakomihalis for the title but dropped 7-4 to finish second. McKenna moved to the consolation bracket where he wrestled in the third-place match and beat Jaydin Eierman of Missouri to finish third.
Now McKenna will finally have his chance against the 2018 champion in the first meeting of these two ranked 141-pounders. The Ohio State senior is 16-1 on the year with his only loss coming against Lee in the Penn State dual. Diakomihalis, on the other hand, is 17-0 on the year with his two most recent wins coming against ACC opponents in AC Headlee of North Carolina and Mitch Moore of Virginia Tech. McKenna will be aiming to take down Diakomihalis and end his dual meet season with a win, while Diakomihalis will wrestle for his undefeated record in this ranked contest. These two athletes will not face each other in their respective conference tournaments, but they will likely wrestle again in March under the bright lights of the national tournament.
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184: No. 7 Max Dean (184) vs. No. 1 Myles Martin
Martin, like his senior teammate McKenna, will hope to end his dual meet career with a win, but unlike McKenna, he'll face a familiar opponent in Cornell's Max Dean. The Ohio State senior took down Dean at the Cliff Keen Invitational in major decision style, racking up a 17-7 victory before moving on to take the 184-pound title at the tournament. Dean comes into the rematch with 17-4 record, his other three losses coming against Dylan Wisman of Missouri, Zack Zavatsky of Virginia Tech and Louie DePrez of Binghamton. He avenged his loss against Zack Zavatsky in the Virginia Tech dual and will hope to carry that momentum into Friday's dual against Ohio State.
It’s getting to be that time of the year again...🐻💪🏼🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/tOdJ16z2rO— Cornell Wrestling (@BigRedWrestling) February 18, 2019
Martin, for his part, beat DePrez in Cliff Keen, but he has not faced either of the other two wrestlers yet this season. His undefeated record, though, demonstrates his control over the weight class, and he'll hope to display this talent on Friday. Both Dean and Martin hold All-American honors, with Dean notching his first top-8 finish last year and Martin finishing on the podium in his last three NCAA appearances. Martin also holds a 2016 NCAA title, and if he continues his dominant senior campaign into the post-season, he could rack up a second national title next month.
197: No. 7 Ben Honis vs. No. 2 Kollin Moore
Cornell senior Ben Honis will wrap up his most successful dual meet season as a Big Red wrestler on Friday, but his bout will be anything but easy. The 2017 NCAA qualifier will face two-time Big Ten champion and two-time NCAA All-American in his third top-10 dual of the year, and he'll need an upset win over Moore if he wants to keep Cornell in the team race.
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Moore most recently earned Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors last week after taking down No. 11 Christian Brunner and No. 13 Eric Schultz just one weekend after suffering a pin against No. 1 Bo Nickal. The Ohio State senior holds his No. 2 ranking tightly and should have another shot at Nickal at the Big Ten Championship. For now though, his focus will be on Honis as he'll try to take down the fellow senior.
Honis stepped into the Cornell starting spot at 197 pound early this season, his second year in this role. In 2017, he split time with Ben Darmstadt before earning the nod for the postseason and picking up his All-American honor. His only two losses so far this year have come against Noah Adams of West Virginia at the Mountaineer-Big Red dual and then Moore in the Cliff Keen tournament. He lost to the Buckeye in that first meeting 7-2 and will hope for a different outcome this round.
On paper, the Buckeyes are expected to take the win 21-9, not including bonus points, but Cornell has proven itself to be a top contender nationally this year and will work to put up a fight against the 11-2 Buckeyes.
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