Taylor, Ruth lead PSU to fourth straight NCAA title

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- On Saturday night, David Taylor and Ed Ruth said their farewells to college wrestling, and did so grand fashion.

The Penn State seniors both won NCAA titles and led the Nittany Lions to their fourth straight NCAA title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.

David Taylor celebrates after winning his second NCAA title (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
"Anyone that's watched David Taylor or Ed Ruth wrestle is an instant wrestling fan," said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson. "Those guys are fun to watch. Their motion, it's non-stop. They're fluid and they're tough. They wrestle with passion and fire. They're fun to watch. You need heroes and you guys like that to build the sport, and they've done that"

Taylor and Ruth finished their college wrestling careers with a combined record of 270-6, five individual NCAA titles, and four NCAA team titles.

Penn State trailed Minnesota by 2.5 points heading into the finals. Both teams had two finalists. The Nittany Lions, with Taylor and Ruth, won both their finals matches, while the Gophers lost both their finals matches, which gave Penn State the team title.

The Nittany Lions finished with 109.5 points, 5.5 points in front of runner-up Minnesota. Oklahoma State finished third with 96.5 points. Iowa (78.5) and Edinboro (62) rounded out the top five teams.

"Our kids really did a fantastic job today," said Sanderson. "We knew we had our hands full. Minnesota, they were killin' it. All of our All-Americans won their last match, and that's a big deal. It makes it easier as a coach when your guys win their last match."

Ed Ruth gets his hand raised after defeating Jimmy Sheptock in the NCAA finals (Photo/Larry Slater)
Ruth faced previously unbeaten Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland in the finals, and cruised to a 7-2 victory. He scored a takedown off a leg attack 15 seconds into the match and added another takedown late in the period to lead 4-1 heading into the second period. Sheptock chose down in the second period and was ridden out the entire period by Ruth. The Nittany Lion senior picked up a reversal in the third period and added a riding-time point to win by five.

"I never really have a game plan," said Ruth of his mindset going into the match. "As soon as the guy steps on the line and I step on the line, the first thing I'm thinking about is taking 10, 20 shots until I get to his legs. In my head I don't like to believe people can fend me off."

With the title, Ruth becomes the first three-time NCAA champion in Penn State wrestling history.

"There's a lot of respected wrestlers who came through Penn State," said Ruth. "I see them every time they come through the room and I'm like, 'wow.' It makes me proud to be one of those guys."

Taylor won his second NCAA title and became the first Penn State wrestler ever to make four NCAA finals appearances. He was also named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.

Taylor controlled his finals opponent Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State from start to finish, winning 6-0. Taylor picked up a takedown in each of the first two periods, and added an escape and riding time point for the shutout victory.

"I guess when I think about my Penn State career, I think tonight will be something I'll remember for a really long time," said Taylor.

Taylor's focus will now shift from his college wrestling career to his international wrestling career. Last year Taylor finished runner-up at the U.S. Open to Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs, and earned a spot on the U.S. National Team after his performance at the U.S. World Team Trials last summer.

"I can vividly remember telling my dad when I was 8 years old I wanted to be a four-time state champ, four-time national champ, and Olympic champion. I fell a little bit short of the second goal. The Olympic champion is something I'm looking forward to now."

Ohio State's Logan Stieber (141) joined Ruth as a three-time NCAA champion, while two others wrestlers, Illinois' Jesse Delgado (125) and Chris Perry (174) joined Taylor in the club of two-time NCAA champions.

Stieber dominated Virginia Tech's Devin Carter in the finals, 10-1. He had a takedown in the first period, added another takedown in the second period, and then blew the match up with two more takedowns in the final period. His first two NCAA titles came at 133 pounds before moving up to 141 pounds this season to claim his third NCAA title. With one season remaining at Ohio State, Stieber now has an opportunity to become just fourth four-time NCAA Division I champion, joining Pat Smith (Oklahoma State), Cael Sanderson (Iowa State), and Kyle Dake (Cornell).

"I'll treat No. 4 training-wise like I treated No. 1, 2, and 3," said Stieber. "I'm always calm. I always try to be relaxed. My coaches will have me ready. I'll be ready to go when next season comes around."

Stieber took a loss in mid-December to Penn State's Zain Retherford, but came back to defeat the Nittany Lion true freshman in the Big Ten finals and NCAA semifinals. It wasn't a loss he took lightly, but he gained something in the process.

"I definitely learned a lot," said Stieber. "Losing sucks. I would never, ever want to lose, but it helped me out a lot. So the undefeated season and chance at the Hodge, that diminished, but who cares? At the end of the day I'm here right now and happy."

Delgado edged Cornell's Nahshon Garrett, 3-2, to capture his second straight NCAA title at 125 pounds. The match was filled with action despite the low score. In the first period Garrett was in deep multiple times on leg attacks, but Delgado was able to scramble out of danger. Delgado took control of the match in second period, escaping and adding a takedown late in the period to lead 3-0. Garrett, with over a minute of riding time, chose neutral to start the third period. Delgado eventually gave up a stall point, but Garrett was unable to score offensively and would come up a point short after getting the additional point for riding.

Jesse Delgado and Nahshon Garrett get into a scramble (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
"I think it's always hard repeating (as NCAA champion), but they both presented their challenges," Delgado said when comparing his two titles. "He threw me off in the match a little bit. He controlled the match again. (Nico) Megaludis controlled the match last year. But I came out with a win."

Delgado has been coached by Mark Perry his entire wrestling. Perry, who serves as the associate head wrestling coach at Illinois, recruited Delgado to Cal Poly when he was coaching there. Delgado then followed Perry to Illinois when he joined the coaching staff in Champagne. It's a relationship that's deeper than athlete-coach.

"He's like family," Delgado said of Perry. "He's changed my life completely. It's more than a coach. It's a mentor. It's a brother. It's a friend. It's someone I'm going to have the rest of my life. It's family."

Interestingly, Mark's younger brother Chris Perry of Oklahoma State joined Delgado as a two-time NCAA champion on the same night.

Chris Perry rides Andrew Howe (Photo/Larry Slater)
Perry, one of four Oklahoma State wrestlers to reach the finals, topped Bedlam rival Andrew Howe of Oklahoma, 4-0. After a scoreless first period, Perry started in the second period in the down position and escaped within five seconds to go up 1-0. Then 50 seconds into the period Perry shot a high crotch and converted it for a takedown to go up 3-0. He then rode out Howe for the remainder of the period to gain over a minute of riding time. Howe elected to start in the neutral position in the third period, but neither wrestler was able to score and Perry finished with a shutout victory.

"I haven't beaten a guy like an Andrew Howe quality in an NCAA finals or an NCAA tournament," said Perry. "That's the best guy I've ever wrestled in an NCAA tournament hand downs, one of the best competitors I've ever competed against, counting even guys overseas. He's a tough dude, man. I have so much respect for Andrew."

Perry was one of two NCAA champions for Oklahoma State. The other was Alex Dieringer, who claimed his title with a 13-4 victory over three-time All-American Dylan Ness of Minnesota.

Dieringer started quickly, picking up a takedown and a tilt for three nearfall points to go up 5-0 in the first period. He added another takedown in the second period and led 8-1 heading into the final period. Ness continued to battle, but Dieringer stayed solid and continued to add to his lead to pick up the major decision.

"Winning on that big stage, there's really nothing better," said Dieringer. "I've been working so hard in the room doing extra works outs, all that. So to know it all paid off, it's a great feeling."

Dieringer, only a sophomore, has two seasons remaining and says he has his sights set on winning three NCAA titles in his college wrestling career, but plans to change weight classes next season.

"I'm a big 57-pounder," said Dieringer. "It's been hard on my body. I'm going to get big, real big, and I'm going to be 65 next year, so I'm excited."

Two freshmen, Northwestern's Jason Tsirtsis (149) and Missouri's J'den Cox (197), captured NCAA titles.

Tsirtsis, a Big Ten champion who entered the tournament seeded fifth, needed sudden victory to defeat surprise finalist Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State, 3-1. The wrestles traded escapes in the second and third periods, but neither wrestler was able to score offensively in regulation. Tsirtsis was able to score the only takedown of the match in the sudden victory period. He becomes Northwestern's first freshman NCAA champion ever.

"I don't think it's hit me yet that I'm an NCAA champ," said Tsirtsis, who finished the season with a 34-3 record. "I get to keep that claim for the rest of my life. It's what you work for as a wrestler ever since you set your goals as a little kid."

Tsirtsis' NCAA championship helped catapult Northwestern to ninth in the final team standings.

J'den Cox became just the 14th true freshman to win an NCAA title (Photo/Larry Slater)
Cox entered the tournament seeded No. 2 and battled No. 1 Nick Heflin of Ohio State in the finals. Cox had several scoring attempts in the first period, but was unable to score and the first period ended 0-0. The two wrestlers traded escapes in the final two periods to make the score 1-1 in the final period. With 30 seconds left, after repeated attempts from Cox, Heflin was called for stalling for the second time and the Missouri freshman was awarded a point. That point from to be the difference in the match as Cox held on for the one-point victory.

"My goal is to be a four-time national champion, and this is the beginning," said Cox. "This was probably going to be one of the hardest ones just because it was trying to get the train started."

Iowa senior Tony Ramos took another step up on the NCAA podium and won an NCAA title with a 3-1 tiebreaker victory over longtime Big Ten rival Tyler Graff of Wisconsin. Ramos was third as a sophomore and runner-up as a junior.

Ramos and Graff traded escapes in the second and third periods, and the match went to sudden victory tied 1-1. Neither wrestler was able to score in the sudden victory. Ramos started the tiebreaker period in the down position, and Graff was able to ride out the Hawkeye senior for the entire 30 seconds. Then Ramos took the top position needing a rideout to stay alive. But Ramos wasn't looking to just stay alive. Instead he was able to score two nearfall points when Graff tried to roll, which won him the match.

"I knew he liked to roll," said Ramos. "As soon as he hit that roll I was just finding some way to score."

After the victory, Ramos ran off the mat and leaped into the stands to celebrate with his family.

"I wanted to see them as quick as I could," said Ramos.

Nick Gwiazdowski jumps into his coach Pat Popolizio's arms after winning the NCAA title (Photo/Larry Slater)
North Carolina State's Nick Gwiazdowski won the NCAA title, knocking off two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota, 4-2. The first period was scoreless. Gwiazdowski took the down position in the second period, and Nelson was able to ride him the entire period and gain two minutes of riding time. Gwiazdowski gave Nelson an escape in the third period to go down 1-0 on the scoreboard. The North Carolina State heavyweight then found his offense, scoring a takedown on Nelson 30 seconds into the period to go up 2-1, although Nelson had the riding time advantage. Nelson took an injury timeout after the takedown, which gave Gwiazdowski the choice of positions. He chose to resume the match in the neutral position, and secured another takedown off a leg attack with 20 seconds left to secure the win.

"I knew I could get to that shot, I just didn't pull the trigger in the beginning periods," said Gwiazdowski. "I just went after it."

The second-seeded Gwiazdowski was the lone non-Big Ten heavyweight seeded in the top seven of the tournament. He is NC State's sixth wrestler ever to win a national title. Gwiazdowski started his college career at Binghamton, where he earned All-American honors as a true freshman in 2012. After his coach at Binghamton Pat Popolizio was hired as North Carolina's State coach, Gwiazdowski followed him to Raleigh. He redshirted last season.

"The people that cared about me when I left Binghamton, even at Binghamton other students and friends, they knew what I was going for. I was going to win a national title somewhere."

Team Standings:
1. Penn State 109.5
2. Minnesota 104
3. Oklahoma State 96.5
4. Iowa 78.5
5. Edinboro 62
6. Ohio St. 57
7. Cornell 53
8. Virginia Tech 49
9. Northwestern 46
10. Oklahoma 45

Finals Results:
174: No. 1 Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 2 Andrew Howe (Oklahoma), 4-0
184: No. 2 Ed Ruth (Penn State) dec. No. 1 Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland), 7-2
197: No. 2 J'den Cox (Missouri) dec. No. 1 Nick Heflin (Ohio State), 2-1
285: No. 2 Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State) dec. No. 1 Tony Nelson (Minnesota), 4-2
125: No. 1 Jesse Delgado (Illinois) dec. No. 2 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell), 3-2
133: No. 3 Tony Ramos (Iowa) dec. No. 5 Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), 3-1
141: No. 2 Logan Stieber (Ohio State) maj. dec. No. 4 Devin Carter (Virginia Tech), 10-1
149: No. 5 Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) dec. No. 11 Josh Kindig (Oklahoma State), 3-1 SV
157: No. 3 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) maj. dec. No. 9 Dylan Ness (Minnesota), 13-4
165: No. 1 David Taylor (Penn State) dec. No. 2 Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State), 6-0


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