2023-24 Ohio State Wrestling

Buckeyes Banking On Basics To Get All-American D'Emilio Back On Track

Buckeyes Banking On Basics To Get All-American D'Emilio Back On Track

Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan thinks small adjustments could make a big difference for Dylan D'Emilio, who's dropped three straight bouts.

Feb 9, 2024 by Nick Corey
Buckeyes Banking On Basics To Get All-American D'Emilio Back On Track

Dylan D’Emilio has been in this position before. 

Stuck in an early-February slump after dropping three consecutive Big Ten bouts, the Ohio State All-American needs only to look back to last year as a map to a late-season turnaround. 

D’Emilio lost three straight matches last February at 141 pounds when he came up short against Penn State’s Beau Bartlett, Nebraska’s Brock Hardy and Northwestern’s Frankie Tal-Shahar — a pair of All-Americans and an NCAA qualifier. 

D’Emilio dug himself out the slump and won eight of his next 11 bouts to secure a podium spot at the NCAA Championships. 

This time around, Michigan’s Austin Gomez, Penn State’s Tyler Kasak and Michael Cetta of Rutgers have created some early-February turbulence for the Ohio State senior 149-pounder. 

“When you put your heart and soul into something and you come up short, it’s hard,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said.  

The Buckeyes aren’t hitting the panic button after D’Emilio’s recent slide, which dropped him to #13 in the national rankings. 

“This is all about fundamentals,” Ryan said. “It’s about basics. The things every wrestler learns first — the fundamentals — those things were slightly off for Dylan.

“His stance and head being out of position in certain moments. His hands were reaching too much. When you’re about to make contact and your opponent moves and you are caught leaning into him more than you should, without your hips under you and your back leg is straight instead of with a slight bend where there’s power. Small technical things that at this level really matter.

“It’s the one-degree thing, the one-degree rule. If you're off just one degree in your flight plan and you're leaving New York for Los Angeles, you end up in Alaska. Being slightly off at this level does the same thing. Dylan was a small degree off on little things and that’s all it takes. We saw what happened.”

Ryan explained his staff’s approach after their wrestlers lose matches they feel they shouldn’t have. 

“When I watch my team wrestle trying to figure out what happened in a match that didn’t go the way I think it should have for our guy, I’m not looking for big things,” Ryan said. “That’s the main thing. Nobody on our staff is looking for big things. It’s almost always little things, always something small. 

“You gotta remember these guys are really, really good; they’ve been wrestling for a long time. They’ve had success for a long time. Dylan is an All-American. He’s really, really good. He’s got great technique; he’s a competitor and he’s fit. So there’s technical stuff, for sure, but it’s really small stuff. It’s just the basics.”

How does Ryan walk his wrestlers through situations like the one D’Emilio is experiencing?

“We love them through it,” Ryan said. “We're gonna keep building Dylan up. He has a 4.0 (grade-point average). He’s a team captain.This isn’t a will thing; this isn’t a habit thing. He lives a clean life.

“We don’t look at his recent performances as catastrophic. We just look at the truth of the matter. We fundamentally break things down. We address, ‘What is it? What is causing this?’ And then we attack it. We look at the facts from a technical standpoint, and then we go to war. That’s the application part.

“This is about just walking beside him, not allowing the brain to spiral. You do that by uplifting him and methodically looking at places that logically will make a difference.”

Wrestling Hoosiers Brings Back Memories For Ryan

The Buckeyes host Indiana on Sunday for their final home dual of the season. 

Wrestling the Hoosiers always evokes a bit of reflection for Ryan.

“(Former Indiana head coach) Duane Goldman gave me my first job there,” Ryan said. "I’m forever indebted to him and the IU wrestling program. Bloomington is where I met my wife (Lyn), which, other than my faith, is the single-most profound, important relationship that’s ever happened to me. Indiana is where I got my start coaching and first realized how much I loved it.

“When I look back now, when I reflect back and see how immature and unready I was to be a coach at that time, I’m just grateful. I look back and I realize now how much I had to learn about leading people.”