The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team rode a strong and balanced performance to its fourth straight Big Ten championship this weekend, sparked by two historic individual champions. Penn State out-distanced second place Iowa by 5.5 points. Head Coach Cael Sanderson's squad took the title with 140.5 points while the Hawkeyes were close behind at 135.0.
In addition to its fourth straight team trophy, Penn State will return home with its first ever four-time individual champions as seniors David Taylor (St. Paris, Ohio) and Ed Ruth (Harrisburg, Pa.) made school and conference history with final, historic, title runs. All 10 Nittany Lion wrestlers are headed to the NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City as Penn State now sets its sights on a fourth straight NCAA crown.
Taylor was named the 2014 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, the third time he has won the honor. The Lion senior also pulled in his first Big Ten Championship Outstanding Wrestler honor as well. Sanderson won his fourth-straight Big Ten Coach of the Year award.
An epically tight team race heading into the Big Ten finals, Penn State led Iowa by just one half point (128.5 to 128.0) and each team had five finalists. While both squads picked up key points in the placing bouts, Penn State would use those consolation points and the title turns by Taylor and Ruth to roll to victory.
Taylor, the No. 1 seed at 165, took on second-seed Nick Moore of Iowa in the finals. With Penn State trailing Iowa at the time of the bout by 3.5 points, Taylor went to work. The duo traded early shots with Taylor breaking through at the 1:45 mark for an early 2-0 lead. The Lion senior then turned Moore for three back points to open up a 5-0 lead with :45 left on the clock. Taylor then rode Moore out to lead 5-0 with 1:44 in riding time after one period. Taylor took down to start the second stanza and escaped to a 6-0 lead. He added another quick takedown, cut Moore loose and then countered a Moore shot to notch a takedown of his own for a 10-1 lead. The Iowa bench challenged the call, contending that Moore and a takedown earlier in the scramble, but the Taylor points stood. Taylor then cut Moore loose and picked up another takedown. Moore countered for his own score but Taylor carried a hefty 13-5 lead with nearly 2:00 in riding time into the third period. The third stanza was all Taylor on top, clinching the riding time point and riding Moore out. The 14-5 major decision, with 3:29 in riding time, made Taylor the 12th four-time Big Ten Champion in conference history (and Penn State's first-ever). Taylor will head to the NCAA Championship with a 29-0 record on the year after his 3-0 Big Ten title run that included a pin, a tech fall and a major.
Ruth, the No. 1 seed at 184, took on Iowa's Ethan Lofthouse, the No. 2 seed, in the finals at 184. With a chance to clinch Penn State's fourth-straight team 10-2 title and become the school's second four-time Big Ten champ, the Lion senior was unstoppable. Ruth notched two first period takedowns to open up an early 4-1 lead. Taking down to start the second, Ruth quickly escaped and then turned in to the Hawkeye quickly, taking Lofthouse down again to open up a 7-1 lead. He cut Lofthouse loose and quickly took him down again to lead 9-2 with well over 1:00 in riding time after two. Lofthouse took down to start the third period but Ruth would not relent. The Lion senior simply rode the Hawkeye out for the full period and, with 3:35 in riding time, rolled to the 10-2 major. The win made Ruth the 13th four-time Big Ten Champion in conference history and, following teammate David Taylor by mere minutes, the second in Penn State history. Ruth will head to the NCAA Championship with 29-1 record thanks to his 4-0 conference title run (which included three majors).
Junior Nico Megaludis (Murrysville, Pa.), the No. 1 at 125, took on Illinois' Jesse Delgado in the title bout at 125, a rematch of last year's NCAA Championship match. Neither man could break through for any takedowns during regulation, trading escapes (Megaludis in the second and Delgado in the third). The duo then wrestled evenly for a first sudden victory period, a first tie breaker and a second sudden victory period with neither wrestler escaping. In the second tie breaker, Delgado was down first and escaped in ten seconds. Megaludis escaped but :25 seconds into his second tie breaker period, giving Delgado a 3-2 (TB2) decision on a :15 riding time edge. Megaludis posted a 3-1 record to finish as Big Ten runner-up, including a first round pin. Megaludis heads to Oklahoma City with a 26-3 record.
True freshman Zain Retherford (Benton, Pa.), the No. 1 seed at 141, met second seed Logan Stieber of Ohio State in a rematch of classic in Rec Hall from earlier this year. Stieber scored early, taking Retherford down at the 2:26 mark to open up a 2-0 lead early on. Retherford escaped to a 2-1 score but Stieber had a 1:07 riding time edge. Leading by one after one, Stieber chose neutral to start the second period. Stieber connected on a low single at the :45 mark and turned it into a takedown and a 4-1 lead. The Buckeye then rode Retherford out to carry that lead into the third. Retherford chose down to start the third and was turned for two near fall points. He managed a reversal to cut the lead to 6-3 but it was not enough as Stieber, with 1:41 in riding time, posted the 7-3 win. The loss was the first for Retherford, who heads to the NCAA Championships as the Big Ten Runner-Up with a 29-1 record. Retherford went 3-1 with a major in his first Big Ten Championship run.
Sophomore Morgan McIntosh (Santa Ana, Calif.), the No. 1 seed at 197, took on second-seeded Nick Heflin of Ohio State in the finals. After a scoreless first period, McIntosh chose down to start the second stanza and worked his way to a reversal and a 2-0 lead. The Lion was able to control Heflin for a bit, but the Buckeye escaped before the period ended and McIntosh led 2-1 after two periods. Heflin chose down to start the third period and worked his way to a reversal and a 2-2 tie. The remainder of the final stanza had McIntosh pressuring Heflin and the Buckeye playing defense, stepping back and working the clock down to zeroes. The duo worked through a scoreless first sudden victory period and then each wrestler escaped in their firs tie breaker, sending the bout to a second sudden victory tied 3-3. In the second sudden victory period, Heflin countered a McIntosh shot with just :01 on the clock for the winning takedown, posting the thrilling 5-3 (sv2) win. McIntosh ended the tournament as the Big Ten runner-up with a 2-1 mark. He heads to Oklahoma City with a 27-3 record.
Junior Matt Brown (West Valley City, Utah), the No. 2 seed at 174, dominated Illinois' Tony Dallago in his consolation semifinal bout, putting on a takedown clinic on his way to a 16-5 major decision (with 3:05 in riding time). Brown then took on No. 4 Logan Storley of Minnesota in the third place match. The bout was a tight one but Brown used a strong second period ride to build up 1:11 in riding time, which would be the difference in a 2-1 victory. Brown's third place run came off a 4-1 mark with two majors and an injury default. He heads to NCAAs with a 28-4 record.
Senior James English (York, Pa.), the No. 7 seed at 149, took on Michigan's Eric Grajales in the consolation semifinals and dropped a tough 12-2 bout. The loss sent the Lion senior to the fifth place bout where he used a second period reversal and a riding time point to down Wisconsin's Ryan Lubeck, 3-2. English finished fifth in his first Big Ten tournament as the seventh-seed, posting a 3-2 record. English will roll on to his first NCAA Championships with an 11-5 record.
Junior Jon Gingrich (Wingate, Pa.), the No. 8 seed at 285, was pinned by sixth-seed Mike McClure of Michigan State in his consolation semifinal match. The eighth-seeded Lion then took on Northwestern's Mike McMullan in the fifth place bout and dropped a tough 8-2 decision. Gingrich placed sixth at his first Big Ten Championship as the eighth-seed, going 2-3 with a win over the top-seed. He will head to Oklahoma City with a 22-8 record.
Red-shirt freshman Jimmy Gulibon (Latrobe, Pa.), the No. 7 seed at 133, picked up critical bonus points in his seventh-place bout against Northwestern's Dominick Malone. Gulibon used a last second takedown and ride out to post a 9-1 major and placed seventh in his first Big Ten Championship. Gulibon went 3-2 with a tech fall and a major and heads to his first NCAA Championship with a 17-13 record.
Junior Dylan Alton (Mill Hall, Pa.), the No. 5 seed at 157, suffered a tough 13-4 loss to Illinois' Zac Brunson in the seventh place bout and took eighth. Alton went 2-3 at the tournament with a major and heads to Oklahoma City with an 18-5 mark.
Penn State went 29-14 overall, collecting two pins, two tech falls, ten majors and an injury default for 21 bonus points. Penn State becomes the fifth team in conference history to win four straight team titles, the first since Iowa from 1995-1998.
Sanderson's squad will send 10 automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Championships two weeks from now in Oklahoma City. This marks the second straight year that Penn State has sent its full line-up to nationals. It is also the fifth time that Sanderson has qualified all 10 of his wrestlers as a head coach. The NCAA announces the full and final NCAA brackets and seeds on Wednesday night.
Taylor and Ruth became Penn State's first four-time Big Ten Champions are 12th and 13th four-time champions in Big Ten history. The senior tandem is now owners of eight individual and four Big Ten team titles. They head to Oklahoma City still unbeaten against any Big Ten opponent during their careers. They are a combined 112-0 against conference foes (56-0 each).
Taylor is now 29-0 on the year with 13 pins, eight tech falls and seven majors. He is 129-3 all-time with 50 pins, 42 techs and 29 majors and is 56-0 all-time against Big Ten competition. His 50 pins is three shy of Penn State's all-time record of 53.
Ruth is now 29-1 on the year with ten pins, eight tech falls and nine majors. He will head to Oklahoma City with a 131-3 record, including 45 pins, 24 techs and 32 majors. He is 56-0 all-time against Big Ten competition as well.
With Taylor's honors and Sanderson award, Penn State has collected quite a bit of conference hardware during its current run. The Lions have had the last four Big Ten Wrestlers of the Year (Taylor three times, Ruth once), Sanderson has won four straight Coach of the Year honors, Penn State has claimed four tournament OWs as well (Taylor, Ruth, Quentin Wright and Frank Molinaro) and one Freshman of the Year (Taylor).
The Nittany Lions now head to Oklahoma City for the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Penn State will be seeking its fourth-straight National Championship during the three-day event, which runs March 20-22, in Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena. The tournament begins on Thursday morning at 12 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. Central). All six sessions will air live on ESPNU and/or ESPN, with ESPN3 offering full tournament multi-mat coverage online.
Penn State Fans are encouraged to follow Penn State wrestling via twitter at www.twitter.com/pennstateWREST and on Penn State Wrestling's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pennstatewrestling. The 2013-14 Penn State Wrestling season is presented by The Family Clothesline.
1: PENN STATE, 140.5
2: Iowa, 135.0
3: Minnesota, 118.5
4: Ohio State, 86.5
5: Nebraska, 79.0
6: Illinois, 78.5
7: Wisconsin, 73.0
8: Michigan, 71.5
9: Northwestern, 58.0
10: Indiana, 37.0
11: Purdue, 34.5
12: Michigan State, 21.5
125: Jesse Delgado ILL dec. Nico Megaludis PSU, 3-2 (TB2; 0:15 RT)
133: Tony Ramos IOWA dec. Tyler Graff WIS, 2-1
141: Logan Stieber OSU dec. Zain Retherford PSU, 7-3
149: Jason Tsirtsis NU dec. Jake Sueflohn NEB, 6-2
157: James Green NEB dec. Derek St. John IOWA, 7-4
165: David Taylor PSU maj. dec. Nick Moore IOWA, 14-5
174: Robert Kokesh NEB dec. Mike Evans IOWA, 6-4
184: Ed Ruth PSU maj. dec. Ethan Lofthouse IOWA, 10-2
197: Nick Heflin OSU dec. Morgan McIntosh PSU, 5-3 (SV2)
285: Tony Nelson MINN dec. Adam Chalfant IND, 2-1 (TB)