via OhioStateBuckeyes.com
Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan

World’s greatest wrestler dominates again, Malik Hooker impresses without working out in Indy and more

Jeremy Birmingham

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Today is Monday, March 6, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.


Ohio State grapplers step up, win Big Ten wrestling title

No matter what the sport, it’s always a good day when the Scarlet and Gray collect a Big Ten championship. It’s becoming old hat at this point, but when you knock off the country’s best on your way to claiming your league title, it just feels right.

On Sunday, one Ohio State team did something that the Buckeyes haven’t accomplished since 1951. That is 65 years ago. The Ohio State wrestling team knocked off Iowa and Penn State – top-five teams in the country – on its way to the program’s first outright conference championship in many, many moons.

The Buckeyes had four wrestlers who won Big Ten titles on Sunday.

Kyle Snyder, the world’s best wrestler, led the way for the Buckeyes. Somehow, even with an Olympic gold medalist on their roster, the Buckeyes were able to enter the finals feeling like underdogs.

“If you would have asked anybody before the tournament started, I think few people would have said we would have won,” Snyder said. “But we knew it. We believed in ourselves. We’ve had the guys all season. It’s just about wrestling to your potential and getting the most out of yourselves. When our guys do that, including myself, we can beat any team in the country, for sure.”

Ohio State coach Tom Ryan was named the league’s coach of the year and Buckeyes 197-pound freshman Kollin Moore earned freshman of the year honors.

I don’t know much about wrestling, but I do know that if Snyder is on your side you’ve got a pretty good chance to win. The Buckeyes junior hasn’t lost this season and will be one of eight Ohio State wrestlers heading to the NCAA Tournament in two weeks. The Buckeyes were the 2015 national champions and will have a major target on their backs when that tourney kicks off.

Malik Hooker doesn’t need to run to impress

If you watched any of Malik Hooker this past season at Ohio State, you no doubt realized that you were seeing something special. The Buckeyes safety came out of nowhere to become the country’s best defensive back (I don’t care who won stupid awards) and has emerged as a top prospect for the NFL in just about a year’s time.

This weekend, Hooker took the podium in Indianapolis at the NFL combine knowing that – as he recovers from hernias and a torn labrum – he’d not be working out for the league’s brass. Still, in stationary measurements, he had people buzzing pretty much just by showing up.

What likely will impress teams more than the size of Hooker’s hands? His pain threshold. He suffered the labrum injury – to his hip – and hernias (on both sides of his groin) in the middle of the Buckeyes’ incredible 30-27 double-overtime win versus Michigan. He suffered through weeks of agonizing pain leading up the Clemson game, and played well, with the injuries.

Think about this play:

Now consider the guy making that play had a lot of stuff going pretty wrong with his legs. This dude is a freak athlete but he’s also a big-time teammate.

From Eric Seger of elevenwarriors.com:

“I put too much work in with those guys and I would have felt I was letting them down,” Hooker said about his teammates. “We went through the offseason, the grind. I feel like everything I worked for in the offseason and that we worked for as a team would have been thrown away if I didn’t go out there and compete with those guys.”

Hooker had no idea his ailments were going to cost him a chance to work out for the NFL folks, but missing the combine isn’t hurting his stock.

If he’s there, somehow, at the No. 12 pick and the Cincinnati Bengals don’t take him I will drive to the Queen City and throw jelly-filled donuts at the front door of the Bengals facilities for three or four days in a row (depending how tired my arm gets).

This guy would know …

Being a bad dude at linebacker isn’t always about how many tackles you make or how many sacks you rack up. No, being a stud at that position – especially the middle linebacker position – sometimes means slowing down the game and making sure you’re in the right spot while your teammates pile up the numbers.

So when stat-chasers see the numbers of Raekwon McMillan during the 2016 football season, some may not have been impressed by the Buckeyes middle linebacker. On Sunday at the NFL combine, the Ohio State captain went a long way toward illustrating a simple and forgotten fact: He’s not just a great leader, he’s one heck of an athlete.

McMillan showcased his speed and strength, running a faster-than-expected 4.61 in the 40-yard dash – the third-fastest time among the linebackers – and putting up 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, good for fifth. Leadership? Check. Athleticism? Check.

Even James Laurinaitis was impressed.

Looking back for a player who’s comparable to McMillan, Laurinaitis is probably a good choice. He was forced to play a totally different game late in his career at Ohio State because the Buckeyes needed the veteran leadership on the field more than an explosive playmaker. The “Little Animal” was selected 35th overall in the NFL draft and has had a solid career. McMillan is widely projected to be a second-round pick, but he definitely turned some heads this weekend.

B1G Happenings

• Why is Wisconsin the new Nebraska and what does that mean for the old Nebraska

• The Jabrill Peppers hype machine rolls on with bizarre comparison to three wide receivers rather than defensive backs

• After a disappointing junior season, Michigan State’s Malik McDowell has a big day at the NFL combine

• Saquon Barkley is a likely Top 5 pick in next year’s NFL Draft (and should sit out this upcoming season just to be safe)

• The next Elliott at Ohio State? It could be Zeke’s sister