You’d think being a red-shirt freshman wrestling in an NCAA title match against one of the top competitors in the sport that Ohio State’s Logan Stieber might be a little bit rattled, but you’d be wrong.
Stieber was facing off with Oklahoma State powerhouse Jordan Oliver, who had won an NCAA title of his own just a year earlier, and had looked unstoppable in the early rounds of the competition in 2012 as well.
There was also the factor that in team competition earlier in the year, Oliver had defeated Stieber. But despite those kinds of odds against him, the Ohio native approached the match like any other, with determination to win.
“I’ve wrestled so many events in my life, I really don’t get nervous anymore. You either win or lose, but we’ve been working so hard this year. I just wanted to take it one match at a time and it all worked out well,” Stieber told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
“I had a strategy. We had wrestled earlier in the year and he kicked my butt, like 7-3. He won every position. So I had a strategy, I really wanted to get a takedown and, for me, the big thing was getting off the bottom. It was good.”
The strategy paid off as Stieber defeated Oliver 4-3 to claim the NCAA National Title at 133 pounds, the first for The Ohio State University since J. Jaggers claimed back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.
The win was a major accomplishment for Stieber, who was a four-time Ohio high school wrestling champion, and something that sets the stage for a potentially incredible run as he goes through his next several years with the Ohio State wrestling program.
“It was awesome. So many fans were there watching me on TV and online, at the arena, and my coaches have helped me so much; it just meant so much,” Stieber said about the victory.
“I think it makes me want to work harder. You don’t want to lose; you don’t want to relinquish your title. I know Jordan will be back and a lot of these red-shirt guys will be back; it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard to defend it. I’m just going to have to work really, really hard.”
During the NCAA wrestling tournament this year, beyond the hardcore fans of wrestling in and around Ohio State, Stieber also noticed a whole new crop of supporters coming from a different sport altogether.
The community of mixed martial arts has long support wrestling, and with wrestlers from all over the world moving into fighting as a profession after their amateur wrestling careers are over, the two go hand in hand these days.
Stieber admits that it was an amazing sight to see followers from Twitter or MMA websites doing coverage on the NCAA finals, all the way up to his victory over Jordan Oliver.
“I love watching MMA. It’s fun to watch and those guys are tough. In all honesty, they’re the two toughest sports out there, so it’s good that we get to support each other,” Stieber commented.
So that leads to an obvious next question: Is Logan Stieber headed to MMA one day when his wrestling career is over?
The Ohio State University has produced some legends in the MMA world from Mark Coleman to Kevin Randleman, and even recent NCAA All-American Lance Palmer has started his run in the sport and currently serves as wrestling coach for Urijah Faber on The Ultimate Fighter: Live.
Stieber for now wants to concentrate on winning a couple more national titles and leave the fighting up to the fighters, but he will definitely be watching.
“I don’t think it’s for me. I don’t think I could take a punch very well,” Stieber said with a laugh. “I think I’d get hit once and knocked out. Plus I’m not super athletic, I can’t kick very well.”
Never say never is Stieber’s attitude when it comes to MMA, but unlike some collegiate standouts who have already committed to a future in fighting once their wrestling careers are over, the Ohio State national champion has his sights set on the Olympics before anything else.
Whether he ever decides to fight or not, Stieber is still very appreciative of the support the MMA world has shown wrestling and wrestlers like himself.
“It’s great. The door’s never closed with stuff like that,” Stieber said about a potential future in MMA. “I could get crazy thinking in a couple years, so that support is awesome and I’ll definitely follow MMA forever. It’s a great sport.”