DES MOINES, Iowa --- After going 2-3 through five wrestlers Thursday afternoon, it looked like Penn State would have its back against the wall in Iowa.
Thanks to an undefeated night session from those in the winners bracket, the Lions lead 32 to 29.5 over Oklahoma State after one day at the NCAA Championships, however.
When the team is in a difficult situation, coach Cael Sanderson said he knows enough about his wrestlers to just let them take over.
“For the most part what I’ve learned as a coach is the best thing I can do is get the heck out of the way and not screw things up for them,” Sanderson said.
With Nico Megaludis and Dylan Alton already in the quarterfinals, Penn State took control of the team score with four straight pins. David Taylor started the string of pins for the Lions that would give them key bonus points and four quarter-finalists.
After picking up a pin 2:52 into his first round match against John Staudenmayer of North Carolina, Taylor was back at it in the second round. The junior made quick work of Appalachian State's Zack Strickland with a technical fall in 2:41
Sophomore Matt Brown, wrestling his first NCAA's and is also one of the favorites at 174 pounds, continued picking up bonus points for the Lions. After a major decision in the first round, Brown pinned Nick Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh to earn a place in the quarterfinal Friday morning.
“I tried to be consistent, that will wear on guys,” Brown said after the first session. “Throughout the match I was able to score more points.”
No. 1 seeded Ed Ruth earned the maximum amount of bonus points in his first day performance. After a dominating first round where he registered a pin in just 28 seconds, Ruth was put to the test in the second round before he earned another pin in 3:41.
At 197 pounds, Quentin Wright is looking to finish his season undefeated. At the two seed, the senior is coming from the bottom part of the bracket and has been tested by two unseeded opponents. Wright has failed to register any bonus points for the Lions with two wins by decision but he is also into Friday's quarterfinal.
For Wright, who is making his last run at an NCAA title, the senior has been reflective on this experience.
“There's no next year so I got to leave it all out there,” Wright said.
Session 3 will start Friday morning at 10 am with six Penn State wrestlers looking for a ticket to the semifinals.
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