Until recent weeks, Logan Stieber and Joey McKenna didn’t just train at the same place between Ohio State University and the Ohio Regional Training Center in Columbus.
They were typically training partners with each other.
In fact, when McKenna transferred to Ohio State from Stanford, part of the motivation was the ability to train with Stieber, a 2010 Monroeville graduate, on a daily basis in the wrestling room.
That’s all out the window, for now.
Stieber and McKenna will face off Saturday night in a best-of-three championship match at 65kg (143 pounds) at the World team trails challenge tournament at Penn State University in State College, Pa.
A non-Olympic year until 2020, the winner will represent the United States at the World championships beginning Oct. 20 in Budapest, Hungary at 65kg, — one of the 10 weight classes.
McKenna and Stieber never crossed paths collegiately, as McKenna started his carer at Stanford University, then sat out a year prior to his freshman season as a redshirt in 2014-15 — the year Stieber finished his star-studded Buckeye career.
None of the Ohio State coaches will be in the corner for either athlete Saturday, as to not show favoritism.
One of just four wrestlers with four NCAA individual championships, Stieber, also the Dan Hodge Trophy winner in 2015 who went 119-3 at OSU, earned the World team spot a year ago when the championships were held in Paris. He did not place.
Prior to that, he was a Junior World silver medalist in Bucharest, Romania after his true freshman season at Ohio State in the summer of 2011.
After missing out on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in Brazil in August 2016, Stieber earned medals at high-profile tournaments in Ukraine, as well as the UWW Golden Grand Prix.
In December 2016, he competed at the non-Olympic weight (61kg) senior Worlds and won a gold medal — also held in Budapest. En route to gold, he beat a former World Bronze (2015) medalist and a former 2012 Junior World champion.
In the year-plus since, Stieber, a 2015 Ohio State graduate, won the Grand Prix of Spain prior to the World team appearance last summer.
Back up from 61kg to 65kg, Stieber was upset at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas in April by Jaydin Eierman in the quarterfinals. A win would have automatically put him in Saturday’s championship best-of-three, but he instead at to compete for a spot last month, where he avenged the loss to Eierman and set up the All-Ohio State match on Saturday.
Meanwhile, McKenna won his first international medal (silver) at the 2014 Junior Worlds in Poland. While still at Stanford, he was an All-American as a freshman in 2016 — but did not make the podium in 2017.
But this past season, with the NCAA championships in Cleveland, McKenna bounced back with a run at the individual title at 141 pounds for OSU, ultimately losing a controversial 1-0 setback in the semifinals to Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith — then placed third overall at the weight.
McKenna reached Saturday’s best-of-three by winning the U.S. Open with a 7-3 win over Eierman, after the latter had upset Stieber.
The head-to-head match guarantees two wrestlers from Ohio State on the World team, as World and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder already earned his place on the team.