ESPN is unveiling its ranking of the top 100 players in college football this week, and there is no shortage of Big Ten players on the list. In total, 15 players from the league made the cut. On the Big Ten blog this week, we're highlighting each of those 15 in our player spotlight
Up next: Ohio State center Pat Elflein (No. 25 overall)
Elflein certainly isn’t lacking for competition.
The Ohio State center also still has no shortage of demanding, brutal workouts or prime opportunities to test himself with one-on-one battles in the trenches.
But even with all that keeping him busy as one of the top 100 returning players in the nation according to ESPN’s #CFBrank, from time to time Elflein will still find himself missing the mat and another sport where he stamped himself as one of the best around as a high school wrestler.
“Yeah, I do miss it,” Elflein said. “Practice wasn’t fun. Those were some of the toughest practices, toughest things I’ve ever been through. It was all worth it at the end when you got your hand raised for a win.”
That victory gesture which was so commonplace for Elflein when he was the Ohio Capital Conference wrestler of the year and a national qualifier at Pickerington (Ohio) North has been largely replaced by trophies after wins with the Buckeyes. And having already lifted the hardware after claiming a College Football Playoff crown in 2014, there was a chance that Elflein could have added life at Ohio State to the things he missed after last season.
But instead of skipping off to the NFL early like so many of his decorated teammates, the redshirt senior elected not just to return, but to take on a new challenge by sliding over to center from the guard spot where he was twice an All-Big Ten selection.
His experience wrestling certainly helped shape him into the balanced, physical and technically sound blocker he’s become with the Buckeyes. But more than that, Elflein points to the mentality developed by his time on the mat, most notably during some of the infamous 90-minute, mano a mano sessions that forged an unmistakable toughness in him.
“One of the things that we did in high school was the 'I quit' match,” Elflein said. “Line up with someone who’s near your same height and weight, wrestle until somebody says they quit. Our coach would have music blasting and it would be real intense, but when somebody quit, he’d go and blow the whistle, turn the music off and announce to the whole team that you quit. It’s pretty embarrassing if you quit, and we’d wrestle for like an hour and a half just straight going to make the other guy quit.
“My wrestling coach [Brad Harris] was legit, the real deal, and he helped me out a lot getting me to where I’m at now in my career.”
There’s no question that Elflein wound up taking the right path for his future, and he made it clear that football was always his priority with wrestling serving as useful offseason training.
But his love for the sport remains strong even if he hasn’t been back on a mat in more than three years. Elflein and his dad can be found in the stands at Ohio State meets, he’s been known to swing by his old high school to talk to the team -- and he’ll gladly talk shop about the benefits of wresting for an offensive linemen any time.
“This brings back memories,” Elflein said. “Getting your hand raised is an incredible feeling. Being on the mat, one on one with somebody else who is just as big and strong as you, that brings back some good memories.”
Elflein has one more season to pin down some more with the Buckeyes. And now more than ever, he’s at the center of Ohio State’s plans to chase down a couple more trophies.