In just one swift move, Andrew Alton ignited the crowd. With his dramatic pin in the 149-pound final, Alton set the tone for the No. 1 Lions at the Nittany Lion Open Sunday afternoon.
He would be the first of five Lions to win the individual title in their weight class. The Lions were represented in seven of the 10 finals, going 5-for-7.
Of the team’s 30 wrestlers that entered the tournament, 17 were still around in the quarterfinals. After getting off to a hot start to the season, the team showed no signs of slowing down.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said head assistant coach Casey Cunningham has helped the wrestlers in their success early on.
“He’s a student of the game, he’s humble,” Sanderson said. “He’s about the athlete and not so much himself, and the kids see that.”
The team showed its depth in particular during the semifinals. Of the 13 wrestlers that the team sent to the round, 10 advanced to the finals: including an all-Penn State final at 197 between Morgan McIntosh and Quentin Wright, which Wright won.
The tournament also allowed for some of Penn State's younger wrestlers to get experience. Luke Frey, a redshirt freshman, made a deep run in the 149-pound bracket, reaching the quarterfinals before losing 6-0 to Augustus Sako of Virginia. He picked up three wins on the day before being eliminated.
At 133 pounds, freshman Jimmy Gulibon stormed through the competition to reach the finals. In the finals, he had a close, hard-fought match before losing 3-2 on riding time. For the freshman whom Sanderson said he looks to redshirt this season, open tournaments are the main way for him to get experience.
While the tournament showcased 500 wrestlers from over 30 schools, some of Penn State's more experienced wrestlers also put in good performances.
Alton got the crowd excited as he started the finals with his win. The sophomore had three pins on his run to the individual crown at 149, taking the title in a field that included fellow Lions James English and Seth Beitz, who both reached the semifinals.
Ed Ruth, who made the shift in weight class from 174 pounds to 184 pounds, won the individual title with an 11-4 decision in the final.
Sanderson said Ruth has looked comfortable at 184 so far.
“He’s fast enough, big enough and strong enough to fight at whatever weight class he wants to,” Sanderson said.
David Taylor was equally dominant at 165, picking up a technical fall in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and in the final to cap off the Lions’ performance.
“I’m a better wrestler than I’ve ever been,” Taylor said. “As the season progresses it’ll definitely be able to show.”
Finally, sophomore Matt Brown went 5-0 to win the 174 weight class, capping his run by beating No. 11 Greg Zannetti from Rutgers.
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