Around this time last year, Penn State's David Taylor was at the top of collegiate wrestling. Finishing with a perfect 32-0 record and 15 pins, Taylor won the 165-pound championship after four wins by fall in the national tournament led to a 22-7 technical fall in the title match. Taylor capped off the memorable season by winning the Dan Hodge Trophy.
Often regarded as the Heisman Trophy of wrestling, the award is given to the nation's best collegiate wrestler.
But things were different during the 2012-13 season, Taylor's junior year. Cornell's Kyle Dake bumped up to 165 pounds and ultimately took the 165-pound title from Taylor in the finals.
According to WIN-Magazine.com's release, Dake earned 39 of 43 first-place votes cast by the Hodge Voting Committee, made up of “all former Hodge Trophy winners, national wrestling media, retired college coaches from different regions of the country and a representative from a number of national wrestling organizations.”
Penn State's Ed Ruth received the remaining four first-place votes and was also second in total points, the release said. Two of Ruth's votes came from the first-time fan vote, which received more than 2500 entries and boosted Ruth past Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver as the runner-up in points, 89-88, according to the release. Oliver went 32-0 with 17 pins and won this year's national championship at 149 pounds.
Ruth certainly earned his runner-up status and may have took home the hardware had Dake not been in the way this season. Ruth, who went undefeated and won the 174-pound national champion in 2012, moved to 184 pounds this year. The transition allowed Matt Brown, who finished the national tournament in second place, to wrestle at 174.
Ruth continued his dominance at the new weight. His record was flawless again, as he finished 33-0 with 12 pins and four technical falls. In the 184-pound finals, Ruth won by a 12-4 major decision against Lehigh's Robert Hamlin.
But Dake managed to produce an even more remarkable season. The Big Red senior entered the season as a three-time national champion and the only NCAA wrestler to win a title at three different weights (141, 149, and 157 pounds). This season, he moved to 165 in an attempt to extend his record to a national championship at four different weights.
The journey culminated in perhaps the most anticipated seven minutes of NCAA wrestling history, a final showdown between Dake and Taylor, who Dake had not lost to before.
In the end, Taylor nearly defended his title. After Taylor scored an early takedown, Dake took a lead and carried it to the third period. The match was eventually tied at 4-4 in the closing seconds after a stalling call on Dake and escape by Taylor. But Dake received a riding time point at the end of regulation, which broke the tie and made history. Dake ended his final season at Cornell with his second consecutive undefeated season, going 37-0. His career record is 137-4.
According to the release, Dake will be presented the award on May 5 at Cornell's wrestling banquet.
-Megaludis has made his second straight run to the title bout, this time as a four seed after doing it as a 10 seed last season. After a loss to Iowa's Matt McDonough last year, Megaludis will be matched up against Delgado, who is one of the hottest 125-pounders in the country. After the Penn State sophomore pinned Delgado, the Illini wrestler has been on a tear, winning the Big Ten title and defeating the No. 7 and No. 6 seeds on his way to the final.
Megaludis is coming off a thrilling sudden victory win over No. 1 seed Alan Waters and has picked up one major decision, one technical fall and two decisions on his way to the finals.
Megaludis on Delgado: “I don't think he's any different. He just wrestled a better match than me last week. He was better than me that day. That was one day, one weekend this is a different match. I have to be offensive, but be aware of his quickness, but I need to get after it."
Prediction: Delgado squeaks by in a back-and-forth, high scoring bout.
165 pounds: No. 1 Kyle Dake (Cornell) vs No. 2 David Taylor
-This match is Saturday's main event and will conclude tonight's championship bouts. Dake is going for four titles in four different weight classes (141, 149, 157, and now 165) and is 37-0 on the season with two wins over Taylor in the exhibition All-Star Classic and the Southern Scuffle.
Dake has allowed zero points on him, winning 3-0, 10-0, 13-0 and 2-0 so far to reach the finals, knocking out the No. 8 and No. 4 seeds along the way.
Taylor has done things differently in defense of his 165-pound title from last year as he has four pins in four matches on his road to the final.
Taylor on the big match: “I just got to go out and wrestle my match more than I have before. I believe I can win a 3-2 match. I know I'm better than him in the top and bottom position and on our feet. The more I open him up, the more I can exploit those weaknesses and I'm confident in my ability more than I have been in the last two matches. I'm looking forward to the opportunity more than anything else.”
Prediction: Taylor tries to speed up the pace but Dake ultimately wins the title with a low scoring match.
174 pounds: No. 1 Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) vs No. 2 Matt Brown
-Despite this being a 1 vs. 2, we have two vastly different experience levels here. Perry finished third last year in the NCAA championships and was a quarter-finalist the season before while this is Brown's first year starting.
Although Perry is 35-2 this season, he has had his mental struggles. In February, Perry lost to Minnesota's Logan Storley (who Matt Brown beat last night) and it caused him to sit down with coaches and analyze his every move. Since then, the Cowboy wrestler is undefeated.
After a rocky January to start his in-conference matches, Brown has caught fire. He won the Big Ten championship earlier in the month and dominated his way to the finals, registering two major decisions and a pin before needing a hard fought victory over Storley in the semifinals.
Brown on whether experience will be a factor versus Perry: “No, I'm happy that they spelled my name right on the bracket, speaking of names, but he's a competitor and it will be a fun match.”
Prediction: Brown continues his dominance and uses a strong first period to get the upper hand on Perry.
184: No. 1 Ed Ruth vs No. 3 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh)
-After winning the 174-pound title last season, Ruth has dominated, going undefeated up until this point. The junior has rolled his way to the finals with two pins, a major decision, and a 4-1 decision in the semifinals.
Just two years after going 0-2 in the NCAA tournament as a freshman, Hamlin has made a run to the final with four straight decisions, including two one-point wins over seeded opponents.
When the two met in the season opener in November, Ruth squeaked by then-No. 3 Hamlin with an 11-9 victory.
Ruth on his strategy versus Hamlin: “I don't know. Actually every time I step out on the mat there is a different game plan. I never go with the same game plan every single match. I know some of these guys do, but I don't build my strategy off that. It's more like I go out there, I perform, and depending on how the first round goes, I kind of make a plan from there.”
Prediction: Ruth uses his experience to cruise past an over-matched Hamlin.
-Wright will look to cap his senior season with a national title and an undefeated record. The senior has had his battles in the lower part of the bracket, picking his first two wins on decisions before grabbing a pin in the quarterfinals. Wright then survived two tiebreak sessions against Matt Wilps of Pittsburgh.
Kilgore is also looking to cap an undefeated season and earn his second title. Kilgore has rolled through the top part of the bracket with two major decisions and two decisions. Kilgore was tested by Taylor Meeks of Oregon State last round but emerged as an 8-6 victor.
Wright on what type of match he expects versus Kilgore: "Yeah, I don't know, I mean, I thought I was going to come into the tournament and tear things up, but my matches have been different. It could either be a high-scoring match or a barn-burner like the one I just had. It depends on what's working, who is taking risks, who is going after it.”
Prediction: While Taylor/Dake will be the main event, this is a close second. In his final match, Wright takes the title from Kilgore in a sudden victory period.
DES MOINES, IOWA - After ending day one with a 3.5 point lead over Oklahoma State, the Nittany Lions have pushed that advantage to a 77.5-65.5 lead over the Cowboys after session three at the NCAA championships.
Of the Lions' six quarter-finalists, five advanced to the semifinal round tonight and earned themselves All-American status.
After losing in the final last season to Matt McDonough, 125-pounder Nico Megaludis has set himself up with the potential for another title run. After earning a 12-4 major decision over Appalachian State's Dominic Parisi, Megaludis will face No. 1 seed Alan Waters of Missouri in the national semifinal tonight.
The 165-pound through 197-pound wrestlers continued to be dominant for Penn State as David Taylor, Matt Brown, Ed Ruth, and Quentin Wright all earned All-American status with a trip to the semifinals.
Taylor faced a familiar quarter-final opponent in Conrad Polz of Illinois, getting the Illini wrestler in a cradle just 24 seconds to achieve three-time All-American status. After pinning his way to the semifinals, Taylor will be matched up against No. 3-seeded Peter Yates of Virginia Tech.
Thanks to an upset falling his way, Brown is into the semifinals after three consecutive wins over unseeded opponents. The sophomore continued his run with a dominating 13-5 performance over Iowa State's Tanner Weatherman. Iowa's Mike Evans was upset so Brown will face No. 6 Logan Storley in the semifinals.
Ed Ruth picked up his 100th career win with a 11-1 major decision to book his ticket to the semifinals. Ruth, a three-time All-American, will face the defending champion at 184 pounds tonight in Cornell's Steve Bosak.
Wright closed the Lions' session three with a matchup against No. 10 Scott Schiller of Minnesota. Like the four wrestlers before him, the senior earned bonus points for his team. Wright notched a first-period pin at 2:48 after two minutes of back-and-forth action. The win means Wright becomes Penn State's sixth four time All-American and has earned himself a meeting with No. 3 Matt Wilps of Pittsburgh in the semifinals.
Over in the consolation bracket, Jordan Conaway and Dylan Alton are still standing for Penn State. Conaway can achieve All-American status tonight with a victory after going 2-0 in session 3 of the consolations. To achieve that, he will have to defeat No. 8 Cory Brewer of Oklahoma State, a match that could be key in the team points race.
Dylan Alton was the lone Lion to lose his quarterfinal bout as he dropped an 8-3 decision against No. 1-seeded Jason Welch of Northwestern. Alton will start his consolation round journey tonight against No. 4-seeded James Green of Nebraska.
Session four will start at 7 pm eastern with the national semifinals and more consolation action.
After session one of the 2013 NCAA championship on Thursday afternoon, No. 1 Penn State sits atop the standings in Des Moines with 14.5 points, just 1.5 points ahead of No. 2 Oklahoma State.
The Nittany Lions relied heavily on the first round performances of their upper five weight classes, which the team has done the entire year. Penn State accumulated 7.5 bonus points by way of two pins, one technical fall and two major decisions.
David Taylor at 165 pounds, 174-pounder Matt Brown, 184-pounder Ed Ruth and 197-pounder Quentin Wright all advanced to the next round.
No. 2 seed Taylor and No. 1 seed Ruth earned maximum points for the Lions with a pin each.
No. 2 Brown earned a major decision, 10-1, over Missouri’s Todd Porter while fellow No. 2 seed Wright won by decision, 7-3, against Donald McNeil of Rider.
The only Lion in the upper five weights to lose was unseeded heavyweight Jimmy Lawson. Lawson lost to Ohio’s Jeremy Johnson, who also eliminated him from the 2013 Southern Scuffle.
Nico Megaludis at 125 pounds and 157-pounder Dylan Alton were the only Lions in the lower five weight classes to advance to the next round.
No. 4 seed Megaludis earned a tech fall for bonus points for the Lions while No. 8 seed Dylan Alton advanced with a decision over Pitt’s Donnie Tasser after earning a major decision over Columbia's Jake O'Hara.
Jordan Conaway lost by sudden victory to Vincent Dellafave of Rutgers at 133 pounds, who Conaway defeated earlier in a dual meet with the Scarlet Knights on Feb. 24.
Bryan Pearsall at 141 pounds and 149-pounded Andrew Alton were both placed in the wrestlebacks after first round losses.
The four Lions sent to wrestlebacks can still place as high as third in their respective weight classes if they win out the rest of the tournament.
Penn State held on to its 10-point advantage over Minnesota Sunday, edging the Gophers 151-139 to claim the team's third-straight Big Ten title under coach Cael Sanderson.
With Penn State’s lower weight wrestlers in the consolation brackets, Minnesota used that time period to close the Nittany Lions’ lead early on as the Golden Gophers earned a pin at 149 pounds to gain six team points.
Entering the 165-pound final between No. 1 David Taylor and No. 2 Conrad Polz of Illinois, the Lions were tied with the Gophers at 134. Taylor won the bout 9-1 to give Penn State a lead it would not relinquish.
Thee other Penn State wrestlers won individual Big Ten titles to keep the Lions ahead. Matt Brown, Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright won their weight classes to clinch the title for Penn State. Taylor and Ruth became the third and fourth Penn State wrestlers to win three Big Ten titles in their careers. Wright’s Big Ten title is the senior’s second while Brown earned his first title in his first year in a starting role.
Three of Penn State’s first five weights placed. After losing to No. 4 Jesse Delgado of Illinois, 125-pound NicoMegaludis rallied to win his next two bouts and take third place over No. 16 Sean Boyle of Michigan.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway followed with a fifth-place finish at 133 pounds. After losing in the semifinals to No. 1 Logan Steiber of Ohio State, Conaway lost his next consolation match before defeating No. 11 Daryl Thomas, 4-1.
Bryan Pearsall capped off a successful weekend in Champaign with a fifth placed finish. Pearsall, who earned his first bid to the NCAA tournament, beat Northwestern’s Pat Greco, 4-2, in sudden victory to place.
Both Alton brothers fell in their consolation matches. Andrew Alton was defeated in the third-place 149-pound bout while Dylan Alton lost his fifth-place bout.
Penn State will send all ten of the team's starting wrestlers to Des Moines, Iowa for the national championship, March 21-23.
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.
Only the opening session of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships has been completed, but Penn State already knows six of its wrestlers are headed to the NCAA Championships, which begin on March 21.
The conference tournament, held in Champaign, Ill., spans two days and four sessions. The opening rounds were held during Saturday morning's first session, in which every Nittany Lion won at least one match.
Nico Megaludis (125 pounds), Jordan Conaway (133), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) all advanced to their weight classes' semifinal rounds today, clinching automatic bids for the national tournament along the way. Taylor, Ruth and Wright are all top seeds at their weights, while the fifth-seed Brown is the lowest-seeded Lion to make it through the first session unscathed.
In the quarterfinals, Brown had to get past Ohio State's Nick Heflin. On Feb. 10, Heflin scored a 3-2 decision against Brown at Ohio State. But Brown won the rematch and by a much larger margin, as he defeated Heflin 7-1.
The four Lions that were defeated - Bryan Pearsall (141), Andrew Alton (149), Dylan Alton (157) and Jimmy Lawson (285) - are still alive in both their respective consolation brackets and hunt for an automatic bid to the national tournament.
All four won their first matches of the day before losing and are now placed in the second round of consolations. The Big Ten received varying amounts of qualifiers for the NCAA Championships in each weight class, but if all perform well enough in their consolation brackets, they can still make it to Des Moines, Iowa for nationals.
As a team, the Lions are currently in second place. The two-time defending conference champions trail Iowa,the only team that beat them during a regular season dual meet this season, 79-62.
Action continues at Assembly Hall when the semifinal and consolation matches resume at 6 p.m. The finals are set to take place Sunday afternoon.
With six seniors being honored on senior day, it was a sophomore that started Penn State's dominating performance by its lower weights against Rider Sunday afternoon. The Lions lead 23-0.
No. 2 NicoMegaludis faced off against Patrick Skinner at 125 pounds to start the dual. Skinner, who was 1-19 on the season entering the dual, was no match for the Penn State sophomore and was pinned in 3:48 to give the Lions a 6-0 start.
No. 14 Jordan Conaway, returning to Rec Hall for the first time since being nationally ranked, earned the Lions more bonus points with his 19-5 major decision victory over Mike Shupin at 133 pounds. Shupin fought on his back the last 30 seconds of the dual to prevent a technical fall victory by Conaway.
Senior Bryan Pearsall capped off his career at Rec Hall with a pin over Rob Cigna in 2:06 to push the Lions lead to 16-0.
At 141 pounds, No. 12 Andrew Alton continued the roll of bonus points by earning his team four points in a 12-4 major victory over Curt Delia.
No. 5 Dylan Alton capped off Penn State's perfect first half with a 5-2 decision over ZacCibula at 149 pounds.
David Taylor will start off the second half at 165 pounds with Penn State up 23-0.
Former Penn State wrestler Ken Chertow ended his youth training session Wednesday with a speech about the IOC's decision to cut wrestling from the 2020 Olympics. Chertow tells his athletes that the sport of wrestling can survive without the Olympic competition, but urged them to take action and fight the decision.
The Nittany Lions (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) started off the dual with a 6-0 lead over Pittsburgh (8-5) after the Panthers forfeited the 125-pound weight class and Penn State did not look back en route to a 31-7 win.
Unranked redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway followed up Pitt's forfeit to NicoMegaludis and earned an upset victory over No. 16 Shelton Mack at 133 pounds. Mack took a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but Conaway tied it up at three before earning a sudden victory in overtime.
Senior Bryan Pearsall was given a break against the Panthers and fellow senior Derek Reber earned the start for the night. Pitt sophomore Travis Shaffer spoiled Reber's first dual start for the Lions of the season and earned a victory by major decision to give the Panthers their first points on the night.
Both of the Alton brothers picked up victories by decision for Penn State. No. 7 Andrew defeated Ronnie Garbinsky, 14-7, and No. 5 Dylan knocked off Donnie Tasser, 7-3.
No. 2 David Taylor kicked off the upper five weights with a major decision victory against No. 17 Tyler Wilps at 165 pounds. No. 5 Matt Brown followed suit with a win by decision over P.J. Tasser at 174 pounds.
Although the Lions lost their first dual last weekend at the hands of Iowa, No. 1 Ed Ruth remained undefeated on the season with a major decision victory over No. 13 Max Thomusseit.
The most anticipated bout of the dual came at 197 pounds when No. 3 Quentin Wright faced off against No. 2 Matt Wilps. Wright did not waste much time and pinned Wilps just less than three minutes into the match.
Pitt's No. 8 Zac Thomusseit closed out the dual by defeating Jimmy Lawson in a close, 5-4 decision. After the match was over, the Lions were deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct because Lawson threw his head gear.
The Lions will take on No. 6 Ohio State next on Feb. 10 in Columbus, Ohio. Conaway will face his toughest test yet as he takes on No. 1 Logan Stieber, who is also the defending national champion in the 133-pound weight class.