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Stieber to compete for U.S. at World Championships in Hungary

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Dec 5, 2016 at 9:46 AM

 COLUMBUS — For Logan Stieber, close is never enough.

The ultra-competitive 2010 Monroeville graduate has placed in the top four in various U.S. National wrestling team qualifiers since 2009 — but had never claimed the top spot for a starting lineup position.

That all changed as Stieber — the most accomplished wrestler in Ohio history — buzzed through the field at 61kg (134 pounds) at the Bill Farrell International and Non-Olympic World Team Trials on Nov. 11 at the New York Athletic Club.

Stieber is among six wrestlers who will compete for the United States Saturday at the Non-Olympic Weight World championships in Budapest, Hungary. There will be two athletes in each of the three Olympic disciplines — at the World championship weights not contested at the Olympic Summer Games in Brazil back in August.

“It's been a long time for me to finally get over the hump and make a team,” Stieber said. “It's a great feeling. Now it's time to win a gold medal.”

Less than two years removed from his historic Ohio State University career, Stieber earned his first World team spot by buzzing through three opponents last month. He pinned Andrew Hochstrasser to start his day in less than a minute — then steadily outscored Jayson Ness, 13-6, to reach the finals.

He faced former Wisconsin All-American Tyler Graff in the best-of-three championship series. The two never faced each other in college despite wrestling at Big Ten schools.

Stieber earned his spot on the team at 61 kg by force. He dominated Graff in both matches, cruising to a pair of 10-0 technical fall victories. The second match didn’t last the first period as Stieber’s second takedown of the match — just 80 seconds in — ended the match.

“I felt great out there,” Stieber said. “I've been wanting and planning on putting together a tournament like that since probably 2012. It was nice to finally do it.”

At Monroeville, Stieber went 184-1 with four individual state championships while also helping the Eagles to the Division III state team title (2010) and runner-up (2009). At Ohio State, he followed that up with more dominance, finishing 119-3 with four Big Ten titles and four NCAA titles.

He's one of just four wrestlers in 87 years to win four NCAA championships — and the Buckeyes won their first-ever team title with Stieber racking up bonus-point wins in 2015.

But while competing in high school and college in folkstyle, Stieber was also faring well in freestyle.

He was fourth at the U.S. World Trials in 2009 and 2011, and finished third in 2013. In 2012, he was runner-up at the Olympic Trials for the Summer Games in London — at the age of 21, following his redshirt freshman season with the Buckeyes.

But focusing solely on freestyle, the OHSAA record holder for consecutive wins (179), narrowly missed out on competing for an Olympic spot at 65kg (143 pounds) this past summer. At the Olympic Trials in Iowa in April, Stieber finished tied with Frank Molinaro in his semifinal match — but Molinaro won on a criteria tie-breaker for having a higher-point move.

Molinaro went on to win the weight and competed for the U.S. at the Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) Summer Games in August.

“The biggest adjustment I had to make was to finish my shots cleaner so I don't get rolled,” Stieber said of the freestyle transition. “In college, it didn't matter — but with freestyle rules if I get rolled, even off my shot, they get points.

“I keep getting better so I'm not sure where I am — but I know I'm getting closer to the best in the world,” he added. “Definitely things to work on, but I know I'm close.”

Logan earning his first World team spot wasn't the only family highlight to come out of the Bill Farrell, however. Younger brother by 18 months, Hunter Stieber, saw his first action since his injury-ravaged OSU career concluded in February 2016.

Competing at 65kg — which wasn't eligible for a World team spot — Hunter, a 2011 Monroeville grad, went 3-1 in his bracket, falling by a 12-10 score in the title match.

Hunter also made the trip overseas to Budapest and will be with Logan this weekend.

“It was great to watch him healthy, competing well again,” Logan said of Hunter. “I love watching him, and by the end I wasn't nervous anymore. I was just enjoying it.”

Prior to Logan, also a 2011 Junior World silver medalist, competing at his first senior World championships — he still got to experience a part of what the Summer Games are like. He traveled to Brazil and was a training partner for Molinaro.

Along with the tourism aspect — Logan got to see his former OSU teammate, Kyle Snyder, win Olympic gold at 97kg.

“It was really awesome,” Logan said. “Brazil was beautiful, and the training was good. It really humanized everything about the Olympics to me. I can see myself there now. Really there.”

The Non-Olympic weight World championships is a two-day tournament, with three weight classes contested each day, one from each style. Stieber will compete initially at 4 a.m. Eastern time — with medal matches at noon should he advance.

“It would mean I'm the best in the world, if only for a year,” Stieber said about what winning gold Saturday would mean to him. “But still, it would be something I've been training to accomplish, so I would be very happy. If I can wrestle like I did in New York, I believe I will win gold.”

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