The top of the team leaderboard saw some movement during the second session of this weekend's Big Ten Wrestling Championships, and Penn State ended Saturday in first place.
After exiting the day's first session in second place and trailing Iowa, the Nittany Lions now hold a 123-112.5 lead over Minnesota, while the Hawkeyes sit in third place with 109 points. If the Lions retain their lead during Sunday's final two sessions, they will leave Assembly Hall at Champaign, Ill. with their third consecutive conference championship.
The surge to first place was fueled by victories nearly across the board by the team. Every Lion competing in the conference tournament ended the night with their tickets punched to the NCAA Championships, which begin Mar. 21 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Of the six who advanced to the semi-finals, David Taylor (165 pounds), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) advanced to their weight classes' championship rounds. Nico Megaludis (125) and Jordan Conaway (133) lost 3-6 and by fall, respectively, in their semi-final bouts and will wrestle in their weights' consolation brackets. All six had received automatic bids to the NCAA Championships during the day's opening session.
The four Lions who were sent to consolation rounds after Session I - Bryan Pearsall (141), Andrew Alton (149), Dylan Alton (157) and Jimmy Lawson (285) - punched their tickets to the national tournament with strong second sessions.
Of the four, only Lawson lost in Session II; he dropped a 7-4 decision to Indiana's Adam Chalfant after scoring a 13-5 major decision against Nebraska's Spencer Johnson, and will wrestle for seventh place on Sunday. Pearsall and both Altons will begin in the consolation semifinals on Sunday.
When the Lions repeated as Big Ten champions last year, they sent one less wrestler to a championship round than this year's total. All three - Frank Molinaro, Taylor and Ruth - repeated as Big Ten champions.
First seeds Taylor and Ruth both have rolled to the finals again this year, and appear poised to take their third consecutive Big Ten titles.
Receiving a first-round bye, Taylor began his tournament with a 20-5 technical fall against Ohio State's ninth-seeded Mark Martin. He scored another technical fall in his next match, winning 15-0 against fourth-seed Nick Moore of Iowa.
Ruth also received a first round bye and began his day with a technical fall, against eighth-seed Cody Magrum of Ohio State. Iowa's Ethan Lofthouse, seeded fifth, lost to Ruth by major decision in the next round, 10-1.
In the finals, Taylor will square off with No. 2-seed Conrad Polz of Illinois, who Taylor defeated during the teams' regular season dual, 14-7. Ruth will wrestle Minnesota's Kevin Steinhaus, also seeded second.
Action resumes today at 12:30 p.m., with championship rounds set to begin at 2:30 p.m.