The Center Circle by John Fuller The Ohio State University will miss The second largest wrestling

By John Fuller | Jan. 10, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
The Ohio State University. It is now pronounced "Thee" Ohio State University. Ever since wide receiver Tory Holt of the St. Louis Rams announced his college as "The Ohio State University" on ABC's Monday Night Football a couple of years ago, the school has picked up a new image. On Jan. 3, The Ohio State University went back to its old image and did what it does best: play football. The Buckeyes captured their first national championship in football since 1968, capping off a perfect 14-0 season. But in case anyone in Columbus, Ohio hasn't noticed, The Ohio State University also has a pretty good wrestling team. The program has only garnered four top-five finishes at the NCAA Tournament, but three of those came in the 1990's. Last year, the team finished seventh in the nation while crowning one national champion: 285-pound Tommy Rowlands. The Buckeyes also received All-American performances from Robert Sessley and Nick Preston. Next weekend, The Ohio State University will host arguably the second-largest event in college wrestling: the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Dual Championships. From the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) team rankings, nine out of the top 10 teams in the nation will be present, including the Buckeyes. Last year, The Ohio State University defeated storied programs Oklahoma AND Oklahoma State before bowing down to eventual NCAA team champion Minnesota in the finals. A buzz was created on the campus that day, mostly by Rowlands' pin over Oklahoma heavyweight Leonce Crump in overtime that gave the Buckeyes an improbable come-from-behind win. The next weekend, Buckeye fans came in droves to see what the fuss was about as another storied wrestling program, Iowa, came to town. On Jan. 18 and 19, the Buckeyes will hope to re-capture the magic that helped the team soar to a No. 2 ranking following the National Duals last year. But one thing stands in the team's way: The Ohio State University Athletics Department. A post-Fiesta Bowl celebration for students, fans, alumni and the football team is planned for Jan. 18 at Ohio Stadium, the big horseshoe on the outskirts of OSU's campus. Athletics Director Andy Geiger will be the event's master of ceremonies. Also in attendance will be university President Karen A. Holbrook, Gov. Bob Taft and Mayor Michael Coleman. But shouldn't all of these figures be glued to another national event going on just across the street? Shouldn't the university and its athletics department be working to help promote the other great sports on its campus, especially when a national dual title is at stake? Couldn't the school have used a different day, such as Jan. 25, when the wrestling and men's basketball teams will be on the road while the women's basketball team has an off day? Did I mention that the Buckeyes men's basketball team hosts defending NCAA runner-up Indiana at 8:00 p.m. on Jan. 18? In other words, the university and athletics department have completely taken away any outside fan base from this year's National Dual Championships. Outside of true wrestling fans, and let's face it, there will be some at Ohio Stadium for the celebration, the St. John Arena may be empty. Some of the most exciting matches in college wrestling this season could be happening while the sound of crickets and some wrestling journalists, not mainstream media, typing will be the only background noise. The National Duals date has been set for over a year now, and so has the men's basketball game. University officials had the power and the knowledge to help promote all of the school's athletic programs, but instead chose to ignore one major event scheduled a year in advance for a celebration scheduled two weeks ago, possibly less. How sad is this? We must be living in Bizarro World. Of course, winning a national championship in football is an unexpected thing, especially for The Ohio State University. Just ask anybody from the state of Michigan. But at the same time, Geiger, Holbrook and the rest of this crew at The Ohio State University botched this decision big time. Major wrestling events have competed with basketball for media coverage for years. The conference tournaments and NCAA Tournament often run at the same time as the NCAA basketball tournament, but now we have to compete with football as well? No one on campus will even know about the great rivalry between Rowlands and Iowa heavyweight Steve Mocco, and definitely no one will see it if a rematch happens. None of the student body will know about 157-pound Keaton Anderson's impressive run this season, which has helped him to garner two first-place votes in the latest Division I Coaches Individual Poll, nor will they be able to see 165-pound Johnny Clark and 197-pound Anton Talamantes have the opportunity to prove themselves as a major national title contenders. The great minds at The Ohio State University have made an important event for their institution and the student body insignificant.