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|Ohio State's Logan Stieber sets sights on second NCAA title, spot on U.S. World Team|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Logan Stieber won an NCAA title for Ohio State and placed second at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in 2012. Larry Slater photo.
Ohio State standout Logan Stieber realizes he will face different challenges as a sophomore than he encountered as a redshirt freshman.
But that’s what happens when you burst onto the scene and capture an NCAA wrestling championship on your first try.
Stieber opens this season ranked No. 1 nationally after winning the 133-pound national title in 2012. He knocked off returning champion Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State in the NCAA finals last March in St. Louis.
Even with talk already starting about him reaching the exclusive club of four-time NCAA champions, Stieber remains grounded and focused.
“I’m sure this season will be a little bit different because I really didn’t know what the college season was all about until I went through it last year,” he said. “I know nothing is going to be given to me. I have more of a target on my back this year.”
The target was squarely on Oliver during the NCAA finals last year and Stieber zeroed in on it as he pulled out a dramatic 4-3 win in the NCAA finals. Stieber avenged a late-season loss to Oliver by prevailing when it counted most.
“The key for me was getting away – he rode me for almost three minutes the first time we wrestled,” Stieber said. “I tried to dictate the pace of the match. The first match, he moved me around and rode me forever. I couldn’t get my offense going in the first match.”
Stieber said he vividly remembers the moment on the elevated platform when he won his first NCAA title.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It was such a great feeling for me, my family, my teammates, my coaches and all of my workout partners. I have been wrestling for 17 years, and it was great to win a national title. I expected to win, but it was nice to be able to do it and share it with everybody.”
While Oliver has bumped up and out of the 133 division this season, plenty of strong wrestlers remain. They include third-place NCAA finisher Tony Ramos of Iowa and fourth-place finisher Chris Dardanes of Minnesota. Dardanes handed Stieber one of his two losses last year.
“There are some tough wrestlers out there,” Stieber said. “Some people say there is pressure on me to win it again, but with the amount of work I put in and with all the sacrifices I make, I don’t really see it as pressure when I’m wrestling. It’s hard, and it’s a tough sport, but it’s a lot of fun for me.”
Just a month after winning his first NCAA title, Stieber was pursuing another lofty goal at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last April in Iowa City.
Stieber advanced to the freestyle finals before falling to eventual Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott at 60 kg/132 lbs.
“It was a great experience, but obviously I wanted to win and I was disappointed about that,” he said. “I took a lot out of that experience, and I’m hungry for another shot to make a World or Olympic Team. I know I’m not that far away, but I still have a lot of work to do. Give Coleman Scott credit – he wrestled great at the Olympics. I just have to come back strong.”
Stieber said he plans to compete at the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials in freestyle.
“I want to make that World Team,” he said. “That’s my goal.”
Following the Olympic Trials, Stieber rallied to beat Russia’s Akhmed Chakaev 1-3, 7-0, 5-4 in the Beat the Streets Dual this past June at New York City’s Times Square.
He then won a gold medal at the Ziolkowski International in Poland a week later.
"Logan is on track," U.S. National Coach Zeke Jones said. "We had him with the Olympic Team for part of the summer and put him in a couple of high-powered events. He did well too, so he’s coming along like we expect.
"Ultimately, the goal is to start getting our wrestlers who are still in college up on the podium like John Smith, Barry Davis, and others. If we’re going to make a dent in the medal count, we need to start winning medals while our wrestlers are in college. We’re positioning him to do that now."
Stieber continues to benefit from his training situation in Columbus. He works out with the Ohio State team and also trains with the athletes at the Ohio Regional Training Center.
Past World Team member Reece Humphrey and past NCAA champion Angel Escobedo are among his training partners.
“This is the best training situation I could possibly have, with great training partners and coaches,” said Stieber, a past Junior World silver medalist in freestyle. “There is no other place that would be better for me.”
Stieber is part of a close-knit family that includes his brother, Hunter, who placed sixth in the 2012 NCAAs for Ohio State as a true freshman at 141.
“It’s awesome to be able to wrestle with my brother,” Logan Stieber said. “It’s great to have his support. He came back and warmed up with me before the (NCAA) finals last year even though he was done wrestling. He continues to get better and he’s got a lot of potential. He’s getting better every day.”
The Stiebers are joined in the lineup by another Buckeye who earned All-American honors as a freshman. Cam Tessari placed fourth at the 2012 NCAAs at 149.
Ohio State is ranked fifth nationally as a team to start the season. The Buckeyes finished fifth in the NCAA tournament last season.
“We want to win it,” Stieber said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we return everybody. There are a lot of good teams, but we think we can be in the hunt to win the national title.”
Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said he loves the progression Stieber has made.
“Logan’s a bigger, strong version of last year,” Ryan said. “There is no complacency with him. He’s a very focused person, and he’s one of the most disciplined, hard-working guys on our team. He is constantly looking to improve. He sets a really high standard.”