One day after Ohio State football player and former wrestler Kosta Karageorge, 22, was found dead in a dumpster not far from his Columbus apartment from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the school’s head wrestling coach and some teammates shared their memories of the Buckeye big man in various media reports Monday.
“In our world, he was a giant,” Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan said of Kosta Karageorge, who wrestled heavyweight for the Buckeyes from 2011 until March 2014, in an article in the “Columbus Dispatch”. “In the wrestling world, a 6-5, 280-pound guy is a giant. In football, he’s just another big guy. So he was just a giant to us.”
“I wouldn’t think, in knowing him, that I saw anything would lead me to believe that he was hurting that much inside, that that was an option for him,” Ryan said, commenting on reports that Karageorge had he may have taken his own life. Karageorge was reported missing by his family after he left his apartment about 2 a.m. Wednesday. Shortly before he left, he sent a text to his mother, Susan Karageorge, apologizing “ if I am an embarrassment, but these concussions have my head all f—ed up.” His mother told police her son had had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused.
“When I heard of the circumstances surrounding that night, you become a little concerned,” Ryan said. “Was he experiencing pain at a level that he didn’t think would subside enough to do that? I was worried. I was definitely worried.” The Buckeye wrestling coach also told the “Dispatch” that he didn’t think that Karageorge suffered any concussions as a wrestler, saying, “I don’t think we have any documented concussions.”
In addition, Ryan was not sure if Karageorge had any concussions while playing football as a walk-on defensive lineman for Ohio State this fall. However, Ryan said he supported Karageorge trying out for the football team. He played in one game for the Buckeyes, against Penn State. After that game, Ryan went to Karageorge’s football locker and tweeted a picture of it, saying, “We were all so proud of him for making football team even if he was a third-string player. We were just proud that he chased that.”
Karageorge also played a supporting role for the Ohio State wrestling program as backup heavyweight to starter Nick Tavanello, but made significant contributions for the team, having won titles at a number of tournaments during the 2013-14 season, and racking up 35 wins. As Ryan put it, “He was the backup to the guy who’s starting now, but the matches were very close. Kosta was considered the best backup heavyweight for any team in the country last year.”
“He was important to us. He loved to lift weights and he usually pulled people along with him to lift weights. His impact would have been felt as much in the performance of others as in his performance. He was just one of those guys that you really enjoy having as part of the program.”
Ryan painted a picture of Karageorge as a gentle giant who had matured in his three seasons as an Ohio State wrestler, telling the “Dispatch”, “He grew a lot as a person through the challenges of wrestling. For as big as he was — heck, he could have put a knot on my head whenever he wanted — he was so respectful and embraced everything the program really stood for… “He was loved. He cared about others. He grew a lot as a person. He brought a lot of good to a lot of people.”
Matthew O’Hara, 174-pound Ohio State wrestler, said of his late teammate in “The Lantern” student newspaper, “I have known him for four years now. There is really only one word (that comes to mind). That is passion. Absolute passion in everything he did, whether that was wrestling or football, or his friends and family.” As a member of Athletes in Action, a Christian sports ministry group with a chapter on the Ohio State campus, O’Hara was a participant in a prayer vigil for Kosta Karageorge on the Oval on Sunday night, saying, “We are just getting together to pray for him and his family.”
“Kosta was nothing but a great friend and teammate to me,” said Matt Fee, Ohio State 157-pounder, in a tweet from his account, @MattFee4. “Please pray for his family and friends. Rest In Peace Kosta.”