NCAA champions don’t reach the transfer portal every day, so when the name of New Jersey and Rutgers graduate Nick Suriano surfaced as a portal participant earlier this week, it caused reverberations throughout the sport. The two-time National Finalist and 2019 NCAA Champion is one of the most talented lightweightweights of his generation, and will be a huge injection of star power for the school that will bring him.
Sources close to the Ohio State wrestling program told Eleven Warriors there was a mutual interest in bringing the four-time New Jersey high school champion to Columbus.
Suriano, who graduated from Rutgers in the spring and is the school’s only NCAA wrestling champion, spent the summer in the Southwest training with the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club in Arizona State. While the Sun Devils may have the inside track to secure his engagement, NJ.com’s James Kratch reported that “the recent NCAA changes in name, image and likeness have played a role in the Suriano’s decision to pursue a return to college competition. ”
If that’s a factor, the state of Ohio has a compelling case, both in terms of list suitability and merchantability.
How Suriano fits the list
One of the biggest holes in the Buckeye lineup over the past two seasons has been 133 pounds. Ever since Luke Pletcher turned 141 – then graduated – it’s been a tough line to pull off for true junior Jordan Decatur.
Suriano would immediately add 20 points to Buckeye’s team total in the NCAA tournament, putting Ohio State in contention for a tag team trophy. With Anthony Echemendia or Dylan D’Emilio at 141, and NCAA finalist Sammy Sasso at 149, the amount of talent the team would reach at the end of the list would be among the best in the country.
And for Suriano, the opportunity to train not only with wrestlers of this caliber, but also with Ohio State assistants Logan Stieber and J Jaggers, who have between them six NCAA Championships at 133 and 141 pounds. , is an extremely strong recruiting ground. Stieber also holds a World Freestyle Championship to accompany his four NCAA titles; Suriano was training for a spot on the Olympic team until a positive COVID-19 test held him back from his year’s trials.
The state of Ohio was recently successful in attracting transfer talent to strengthen its roster. Stanford transfer Joey McKenna came to Columbus in 2017 after winning a pair of Pac-12 championships and also won a pair of Big Ten championships; it was a controversial call away from winning the 141-pound NCAA title the same year Suriano won the 133-pound crown at Rutgers.
Four-time conference champion. Three times All-American.
– Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) June 8, 2021
Between having a need for your weight in training and the tangibles that the Buckeyes offer in terms of training, training partners and having the best facilities in the country, this seems like a potential match made in heaven, at least. On paper.
Answer the NIL question
But as the NJ.com report noted, the traditional tangibles of roster, coaching staff, and facilities aren’t the only factors recruiting elite talent in the NIL era. Since there is no professional market for wrestlers after college like there is for football and basketball players, an athlete like Suriano who might otherwise have finished college after college Graduation could now consider exploiting NCAA star status as the best way to make money in the sport of wrestling.
Talent always attracts an audience and Suriano has a big one. His Instagram account – which was essentially empty from March 23, 2020 until two days ago – has more than 104,000 followers. By comparison, there is only one wrestling program in the country with so many Instagram followers.
Ohio State does extremely well in the social media game, of course. In addition to having the most watched Big Ten track and field program in the country, according to social media analysis conducted by strategy firm SkullSparks, the Buckeye wrestling program generated the most comprehensive social media interactions of any wrestling program in the country last year.
The NCAA wrestling teams generating the most interactions on official accounts (IG + TW + FB) in 2020. pic.twitter.com/c2rLo3Nc93
– SkullSparks (@SkullSparks) February 13, 2021
Add to that the reality that Columbus is a much bigger city with more business … that is, more potential sponsors and brand partners … than programs in places like State College ( where Suriano started his career in the NCAA) or Iowa City. Between the social media presence and the size of the city and its media market, and the scales of NIL opportunities are sliding quite clearly in the state of Ohio’s favor.
Will Suriano see it that way? He and athletes like him are still in uncharted waters. Very few college wrestlers have made major sponsorship deals, although several Buckeyes have posted what appear to be sponsor / partner posts and posts since NIL became a reality.
Ohio State’s partnership with Opendorse, known as “THE Platform,” is designed to help student athletes assess the current value of their brand and create a roadmap to market it. Having these resources at his disposal could be a major incentive for an athlete of Suriano’s stature, if NIL really is a major consideration.
Several former Buckeyes are currently listed as “Team Rudis” sponsored athletes on the local clothing company’s website, with Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder headlining and most notably Myles Martin, Kollin Moore, Nathan Tomasello and Luke Pletcher. Other former Buckeyes including Ke-Shawn Hayes and Micah Jordan have frequently appeared as models in Rudis commercials, so it is no exaggeration to imagine other current and future Buckeyes featured in the media. business marketing.
Suriano probably has his choice of schools. Although he has been absent from varsity wrestling for the past two seasons in pursuit of Olympic dreams, he is a proven product on the mat and would add major production to just about any program he chooses. .
If there is a mutual interest in him coming to Columbus, it’s also fair to say Arizona State probably has the indoor track given he’s been training there for the past year or so. But when it comes to bringing home bacon opportunities, the Buckeyes stand as good a chance as anyone.