Sophomore Matt Brown is a humble man, and he did not place much emphasis on claiming his first Big Ten championship.
Junior teammate David Taylor, however, said otherwise.
“His weight class is very deep and he had a lot of really competitive matches where he was right there,” Taylor said. “He wrestled really well against a couple of those guys, so that was really good for him and his confidence.”
Brown was one of four Nittany Lions to capture an individual title at the 2013 Big Ten championships — the others being Taylor, junior Ed Ruth and senior Quentin Wright — but Brown was the only one to capture his first championship on March 10.
Brown marched through the 174-pound bracket with ease as the No. 5 seed with wins against Indiana’s Cheney Dale, Ohio State’s Nick Heflin and Michigan’s Dan Yates en route to a rematch from earlier in the season against Iowa’s Mike Evans in the finals.
Evans defeated Brown, 4-3, on Feb. 1 in front of a sold-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but Brown had Evans’ number in Champaign, Ill.
Brown said it was a “satisfying” 7-3 victory because he could help Penn State in the team race and to capture its third-straight Big Ten championship.
“It lets me know that I’m going in the right direction,” Brown said. “It was an important step for me and just another step in my progression.”
Brown said the victory improved his confidence because of the tough competition associated with the Big Ten championships, but the NCAA championship is a completely new tournament.
Brown also said he did not think he proved anything with his march through the Big Ten bracket, but he said hopefully it exposed what he already knew.
Taylor reflected on his first Big Ten individual title, which came in 2011 in the 157-pound bracket, and noted the similar reactions between his first win and Brown’s first conference championship.
“I can remember back…I didn’t even remember really what to think when I got hand raised. I think that’s kind of how Brown was, too,” Taylor said. “I could just see him let out a deep breath like he was relieved.”
Taylor also said he was happy for Brown and the victory is going to make Brown’s life easier at the NCAA championships in Des Moines, Iowa on March 21-23 as Brown is the No. 2 seed in the 174-pound bracket. Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry holds the weight class’s No. 1 seed.
Ruth said that when he won his bracket in the Big Ten championships, which he did in 2011, 2012 and 2013, he felt like it meant he had a good shot at taking the NCAA crown and Brown should feel the same way.
“It makes all the difference at the end of the year,” Ruth said. “It’s the end of the year [and] you’re still wrestling the way you should be…especially if you won Big Ten’s. The way I look at it is he is right where he needs to be.”