Much like a leadoff hitter is responsible for kick starting a baseball lineup, the 125-weight class representative leads off dual meets for wrestling.
Penn State has one of the best in college wrestling today.
Sophomore Nico Megaludis, ranked No. 2 to Iowa’s Matt McDonoughby intermatwrestle.com, took the wrestling world by storm last year, finishing second to McDonough at the NCAA Championships as a true freshman. This year, Megaludis has picked up where he left off and currently owns a 13-1 record in his second campaign.
Megaludis said he likes starting off the dual matches for the Nittany Lions and he views his job as getting the team ready to go in order to set the tone for the matches.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway, who follows Megaludis at the 133 level, said he watches Megaludis’ matches and tries to wear opponents out like the sophomore does.
“I think it sets the pace for the dual meet with him getting a win,” Conaway said. “It also gives me the edge thinking that that’s how I should wrestle and the pace in the match itself to wrestle like that, so it helps.”
Conaway said the momentum is especially strong after Megaludis wrestles given how he starts of the meets by “beating kids, usually, pretty bad.” The Abbottstown, Pa. native added there might be a little pressure to keep what Megaludis started going.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said consistency is key for the team and fans, and Megaludis provides just that.
“He’s going to wrestle hard,” Sanderson said. “He’s intense and he’s going to use every second to his advantage. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Sanderson compared Megaludis to 2012 Hodge Trophy winner and teammate David Taylor starting off the second half of dual meets for the Lions. Sanderson also said Megaludis comes out with fire and scores points, which is how to build momentum.
Sanderson said momentum is important because it takes a strong individual to shut down an opposing team’s momentum and the Lions use that to their advantage.
Megaludis currently leads the Lions in dual takedowns with 28, five more than second place Taylor.
Megaludis said after the Lions’ 41-0 shutout of Michigan State on Jan. 13 that opponents are backing up and making him work more this year as opposed to last, but he is used to it from his high school years.
In practice, Megaludis does drills where his opponent stalls in order to get used to the style of wrestling he is seeing this year. Megaludis said it would be awesome if he can achieve the reputation of having a non-stop motor and being relentless.
“My dad, just like a month ago, he said, ‘don’t think yourself as being the hunted, think of yourself as the hunter, trying to just get after it every match and prove that you’re the best in the country,’” Megaludis said. “That’s just got to be my mind. I can’t be thinking, ‘Oh, I’m on the top,’ I got to be thinking, ‘I got to prove that I’m most dominant.’ ”