After a strong Saturday performance that meant all ten Penn State wrestlers qualified for the national tournament, the Lions were set up in good position for their third straight title as they entered the final day with a 10.5 point lead over Minnesota.
Using that advantage, the Lions would hold off Minnesota’s early charge on Sunday to win their third straight conference title, 151-139.
Junior David Taylor started a string of four straight semifinal victories Saturday night to put the Lions in position for Sunday.
“It’s just how we are,” Taylor said to GoPsuSports.com after the team’s semifinal performance. “We’re a tough team, we’re resilient, we’ve had guys this year that went through some struggles and we had guys that maybe didn’t have the best quarterfinal round but they battled back.”
On Sunday, the team’s upper weight classes of 165 pounds through 197 pounds, led by Taylor, dominated like they had done all season, going 4-0 in the finals to clinch the Big Ten Championship..
After earning a first round bye on Saturday, Taylor breezed into the finals with two technical fall victories. The 165-pound wrestler defeated Mark Martin of Ohio State, 20-5 and No. 12 Nick Moore of Iowa with a 15-0 victory.
Entering the 165-pound final, Penn State and Minnesota were tied at 134 points in the team score. Taylor’s 9-1 victory over Illinois’ Conrad Polz in the final allowed for the Lions to grab a lead they would not let go of.
“These two days really give you a pretty good idea just how tough you are,” head coach Cael Sanderson said to the Big Ten Network. “The lead kept changing and our guys kept battling.”
After not starting last season due to Ruth in his weight class, Brown won his first title at 174 pounds with a 7-3 victory over Iowa’s Mike Evans. After falling behind 1-0 early due to grabbing Evans’ sock, Brown came back with a six-point second period, including a five-point move that saw Brown take command of the dual. In the third period, Brown would ride out for his first Big Ten title.
“It’s fun when I get to wrestle,” Brown said. “Last year I came to Big Ten’s and watched Ed win it all. I thought to myself ‘I want to do that’ so that was my goal and I wrote that down a year ago.”
Ruth stepped up to the mat against Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota for Penn State’s third final. The 184-pound wrestler would not be denied his undefeated Big Ten season. While it was a battle for Ruth, who went 25-0 in the regular season, he would eventually prevail 5-3 as he held off Steinhaus’ late takedown attempt.
Ruth’s victory meant that Minnesota would need to earn pins in its last two matches to clinch a share of the title.
“When somebody comes out and makes the whole match a nail-biter like that, I really appreciate that,” Ruth said to the Big Ten Network. “I love the fact that somebody wants to beat me, dominate me just as much as I do. It just adds more to how valuable this sport is. You have two guys out there giving it their all and those are the matches you come away from winning feeling just so proud of it.”
In Penn State’s fourth final, Wright stepped into a familiar position at 197 pounds. In the 2011 Big Ten tournament, the now-senior clinched Penn State’s team title with a win over Steinhaus. He would clinch another title for the Lions with a three-point third period to win 5-3 over No. 9 Scott Schiller.
Wright said being in the position to win the title for his team is a lot of pressure but that the Big Ten championship was a team effort.
“It’s a lot of responsibility and everyone on the team has really got to do their job, including me,” Wright said in a television intervew. “They expect me to go out there and win just like everybody else, but for our All-Star type guys, we have to go out there and carry a little bit more weight. That’s about being a team.”