Oak Harbor was the place to be on February 1.
That Friday night, the Ohio State wrestling team made a special appearance at Oak Harbor High School, competing against Illinois in a much anticipated event before a packed house of 2,100 fans.
To the delight of the crowd, the Buckeyes, ranked fifth in the country, defeated No. 6 Illinois, 25-9, to improve to 10-2 and 4-2 in the Big Ten Conference. Needless to say, the match could go down as an historic moment in area history, perhaps ranking on par with President Obama's visit to Kozy Korner's Restaurant last summer.
|Ohio State wrestler Cody Magrum (right) faces off against
his Illinois opponent at Oak Harbor High School. (Press
photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.lifepics.com)
The match was special for area wrestling fans, but symbolic of something more. In a state filled with millions of rabid Buckeye fans, having the Ohio State wrestling team come to a village of 2,600 people was a once-in-a-lifetime event that local residents will remember for years to come. If only for a few hours, Buckeye Nation resided not in Columbus, but in Oak Harbor.
The event was especially important because Ohio State featured two Oak Harbor alums, senior C.J. Magrum and redshirt sophomore Drew Stone. Having two former Rockets compete for the Buckeyes will continue to be a huge source of pride for the community.
Magrum, a three-time state champion at OHHS, and Stone, a two-time state runner-up in high school, welcomed the trip home and competing in front of their friends and family.
“It was awesome coming back,” Magrum said. “It was a great experience for our team and the fans. You could feel the energy in the gym and it helped us get the win. It was great seeing how many people came to support me (and) I really felt at home. The atmosphere with a crowded gym really made a difference.”
Stone, whose parents, Michael and Kim, and brother, Josh, are all OSU graduates, was enthused about coming home and competing in his old gymnasium.
“It was an awesome experience,” Stone said. “There were more people than I imagined and the support they showed was great. It was something I'll never forget.
“It's really cool to be a Buckeye just like my parents and brother. And wrestling just makes it even better. (Those guys) are my second family and we have a lot of pride for our school and our team.”
With Jon Peters, a.k.a. “Big Nut,” sitting front and center, the Buckeyes competed in front of a capacity crowd against the Illini and won seven of the 10 matches. Three of the winners included Logan Stieber, Hunter Stieber and Cam Tessari, all of whom are from Monroeville, located 35 from Oak Harbor. Magrum fell just short at 184 pounds, losing, as did Stone (133), who fell, 6-4, in his match.
In the Big Ten, the Buckeyes sit in fourth place, one-and-a-half games behind Penn State and Minnesota, both of whom are 6-1, and two games behind Iowa (6-0).
In the coming weeks, the Ohio State will finish up regular-season play before competing in the NWCA National Duals in Minneapolis and then the Big Ten Championships in March.
“We have had a good season so far,” said Magrum. “The Big Ten season is a grind, so staying healthy is a big issue. We're training to peak for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAAs.”
Oak Harbor head coach George Bergman, who helped coordinate the event with athletic director Drew Grahl and Ohio State coach Tom Ryan, spoke said the event was unique.
“We couldn't have put any more people in (the gym),” Bergman said. “It's a once in a lifetime thing. I'm very confident that will never happen again in Ottawa County. We had two top 10 teams in the country. And what a treat it was (for the people). Ohio State definitely delivered. They performed very, very well. I've been there for some basketball games that had some good crowds, but I never saw anything quite like this.
“It was very nice to have Drew and Cody back. They were very nice and appreciative and their parents were, too. People couldn't get over how nice the Ohio State and Illinois wrestlers were. Drew Grahl and I, all we got were nice compliments. Everyone was gracious and complimentary.”