OU wrestling grapples with Claxton’s ineligibility

Just three days before its season began, Ohio got news that its loaded roster would be missing one of its most decorated competitors. Now, as the season enters its second weekend, it will continue to look to its bench to for last-minute relief

Two-time national qualifier Tywan Claxton’s appeal for a fifth year of NCAA eligibility was denied by the collegiate athletics governing body last week, ending his Ohio career. Claxton won 56 decisions in his last two seasons at Ohio.

Before the ruling was announced, Claxton was ranked inside the top 10 in the 149-pound class in Intermat’s preseason rankings. His vacant spot on the roster leaves some big shoes to fill, but Greenlee is confident in his replacement, redshirt sophomore Cullen Cummings.

Cummings went 2-1 in the season-opening Eastern Michigan duels.

“I really think Cullen Cummings is as good as Tywan,” coach Joel Greenlee said. “He’s a guy that we’ll really look toward to step into that role. I think for him, a little bit of it is just getting some matches under his belt and gaining confidence in what he does.”

Claxton filed his appeal to the NCAA eight months ago but was kept waiting on its decision while he went through preseason conditioning and workouts with the Bobcats.

“We heard from the NCAA the other day because they wanted some clarification and more documents,” Greenlee said before the season. “It’s definitely not under a pile of papers anywhere. I think they’re gathering information. We’re just asking for a fourth year.”

Then, just three days before Ohio was scheduled to venture to Ypsilanti, Michigan, for a season-opening quad meet, Claxton posted the news of the decision on his Twitter page.

Even before Tywan published his knowledge of the decision on his own account, teammates and other wrestling media figures were jumping to support him on social media with the #FreeTClax hashtag.

Claxton was appealing for a fifth year of eligibility after he wrestled in just two matches during the 2012-2013 season, the year he redshirted for Ohio. The 149-pound wrestler had previously competed at Division II King University, where he earned All-American honors in the 141-pound class.

In his first full season in green and white, Claxton posted a 27-9 record and finished fifth in the Mid-American Conference tournament. Afterward, he was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, where he advanced to day two of competition. Last season, Claxton was even better, winning three regular season tournaments and posting a 29-7 record overall, and ending his season by advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

As for what the future holds for Claxton, he already has his sights set on a mixed martial arts career. He already fought his first amateur bout this summer and won the match in the first round. His next fight is scheduled for Nov. 25.

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