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Stieber siblings now share prep rivalry at Ohio State
By Mike Finn
Hunter Stieber and Cam Tessari were among the Ohio State wrestlers who were happy that Logan Stieber, their old high school teammate, helped the Buckeyes capture the recent Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational when the redshirt freshman won the 133-pound championship, Dec. 3, in the Las Vegas Convention Center.
But Logan Stieber, the former four-time Ohio state champion and 2010 Junior Hodge Trophy winner from Monroeville, Ohio, knew his mates would not let him settle for a simple regular-season championship.
“We always try to out-do each other,” laughed the older Stieber. He ran his early-season record to 13-0 with a 10-5 victory over Edinboro’s Aaron Schopp in the CKLV final. Tessari finished sixth at 149 pounds and Hunter Stieber claimed second at 141 pounds.
“Right now, I guarantee (Tessari is) thinking, ‘I got a shot and need to start racking up wins,’ ” continued Logan, one week before Tessari upset Pitt’s senior All-American Tyler Nauman in a Dec. 9 dual meet win for the unbeaten Buckeyes (5-0).
“The next time he wrestles, he’s going to try to out-do me and Hunter and we will try to do the same. It’s a good friendly competition.”
This was a competition that started well before the Stieber brothers and Tessari connected on the mat at the high school in the small northern Ohio community that saw the trio collect a total of 12 individual state championships.
“We’ve all been best friends since we were small,” said Hunter — one year younger than Logan — whose Vegas highlight was a 6-5 victory over defending national champion Kellen Russell of Michigan in the quarterfinals. “My mom and Tessari’s mom were best friends in high school. We started wrestling together and things just clicked. We’ve been wrestling together ever since and we love it.”
Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan loves the healthy competition from these three that also has spread to an equally-young Buckeye team that saw seven freshmen compete for the Scarlet and Gray in Las Vegas.
The other four Ohio State freshmen leading the Buckeyes to a 13-point margin over second-place Michigan were 125-pound Johnni DiJulius, a true frosh from Walsh-Jesuit (Ohio) who finished second in Vegas; 157-pound Josh Demas, redshirt rookie from Columbus (Ohio) who claimed 6th; 165-pound true freshmen Derek Garcia, the Sedro Wooley, Wash., native, who was forced to withdraw from Vegas because of illness; and 197-pound Andrew Campolattano, a true freshman from Bound Brook, N.J. who went 2-2 after reaching the Vegas quarterfinals.
(Also among the eight Ohio State place-winners at Vegas were sophomore Nick Heflin, third at 174; junior Cody Mangrum, fifth at 184 pounds; and sophomore Peter Capone, second at heavyweight).
“In most groups of freshmen, there is usually just one who is dominant,” Ryan said. “But here, three are from the same high school and they have a very competitive relationship.”
And that competitive band-of-brother love affair reconnected just in time for the Ohio State program that suffered through one of its worst seasons last winter — a 2-11 dual meet record, an eighth-place Big Ten tournament finish and a 29th-place showing in the NCAA tournament — one year after head coach Tom Ryan’s three previous squads all finished in the NCAA’s top-10. That included back-to-back NCAA runner-up spots in 2008 and 2009.
“In 20 years of coaching, the years 19 and 20 I probably learned the most,” admitted Ryan, who is in his sixth year at OSU. “It was the low time (of last season) that taught us a lot about self-assessment. When you are finishing second and second (at the NCAAs), you think everything is running smoothly, it takes a year like last season which I believe was a blessing for us. It takes a year where you are so down that you need to assess everything and how we can be better coaches.”
That included the decision on how to deal with true freshmen … after Logan Stieber tried to wrestle for the Buckeyes as a true freshman at 125 pounds before a hand injury ended his season in early December that caused him to take a medical redshirt.
“It was rough,” Logan said. “It was not a good time for me. Everything was going wrong and I wasn’t doing things right for myself. I wasn’t cutting weight right. I was not training right. It was a bad time, but my coach and family helped me through it.”
“I think we learned a lot from Logan,” Ryan said. He came in as the Junior Hodge winner, the No. 1 kid in the country, pound for pound. You can see the struggles that true freshmen have (compared to high school). They are not used to being in close matches. They are not used to the pace of the (college) match and the physicality of with. They are not used to the daily grind in practice where there are 15 tough guys to work out it. In high school, you may not have one who can challenge you.”
Also, Logan said his 2010-11 experience will help his brother and other freshmen in 2011-12.
“I try to help him a lot … with everything from school and his schedule to everything that is going on in wrestling,” the older Stieber said. “(Hunter has) done a great job. He came to Columbus during the summer so I was able to show him the ropes.”
And while both brothers could actually complete their college eligibility the same season — since they are both listed as freshmen — Logan said he still feels like the big brother. For the first time, Logan is wrestling a lighter weight than Hunter, who was lighter than Logan during their Monroeville prep days.
“Right now I have the big brother syndrome,” laughed Logan. “He’s good and real long. There’s something about being the big brother and still (beating) him.”
Logan believes this attitude is prevalent among all the young Buckeyes.
“We just have the mentality,” Logan said.
“Last year, we were young since a lot of these guys were still in high school and didn’t know if they could win in college. Now we believe that we can win. And even if we lose, we still have confidence that we can win. Coach has done a great job of pushing us. Like coach says, ‘running sprints at 7 in the morning sucks but winning on the mat is fun.’ ”
“Coaches pushed us through some horrible stuff, but I loved it. We all loved it. We all love getting better every day,” Hunter Stieber said. “A guy like Campo (Campolatano) has guys like Tommy Rowlands and JD Bergman in the room. I have Reece Humphrey and Shawn Bunch and my brother. It’s awesome having all those guys come in.
Ryan also credits the Columbus Olympic Training Center — headed by associate head coach Lou Rosselli — for even drawing the talented Buckeyes to Ohio State.
“To get those seven special freshmen, you have to have a freestyle training program that the great ones want to be a part of,” said Ryan, who was also quick to point out that his youngsters had more than mat success on their resumes before showing up in Columbus.
“There are seven special freshmen who were the right recruits, the right kids who had the right parenting,” Ryan said. “They all had people in their lives who made the difference.”
And now they are making a difference for Ohio State.
(This story appeared in the December 23, 2011 issue of WIN magazine. Click on “Subscribe to WIN” or call our office at 1-888-303-0606 to order a subscription.)