Penn State wins Big Ten championship
Nittany Lions go 5-0 in championship matches to nail down title
EVANSTON, Ill. – The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team was nearly perfect on day two of the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships, going 5-0 in the championship finals and winning the school’s first Big Ten wrestling championship. Five wins in the finals and key bonus points in consolations helped spark Penn State to a one-point victory against runner-up Iowa.
Sophomore Andrew Long, junior Frank Molinaro , freshman David Taylor, freshman Ed Ruth and sophomore Quentin Wright each claimed Big Ten crowns at their weights while senior Brad Pataky, freshman Andrew Alton, freshman James Vollrath and junior Cameron Wade each picked up key points and bonus points in consolation action to help Penn State claim the crown.
Penn State won the title with 139.0 points while Iowa was in second with 138.0. Penn State crowned five champions while the Hawkeyes crowned two. Minnesota was third with 109.5 while Wisconsin was a close fourth with 103.5.
Head coach Cael Sanderson was named the 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading Penn State to the first title in school history. Sanderson’s squad went 17-1-1 in dual meets and tied a school record with six Big Ten dual wins (going 6-1-1). Taylor was named both Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year for his undefeated run through the regular season and Big Tens. Wright capped off a stunning Big Ten tourney title performance by being named the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championship’s Outstanding Wrestler.
Long became Penn State’s first Big Ten Champion of the day, using a four-point flurry in sudden victory to down No. 2 seed Tyler Graff of Wisconsin, 7-3. Long went 4-0 during the tournament to claim the Big Ten 133-pound crown. Long entered the tournament as the top seed and won four in a row to win the title. He heads to NCAAs with a 15-1 mark. Two-time All-American Molinaro followed that win up with a 3-0 win against Michigan’s Eric Grajales in the finals at 149 to earn his first Big Ten crown. Molinaro went 3-0 during the tournament and heads to nationals with a 28-2 record. Red-shirt freshman Taylor put on another show in the finals at 157. Taylor took No. 2 seed Derek St. John of Iowa down once in each period and tacked on two escapes to roll to an 8-3 win and become the 2011 Big Ten Champion. Taylor went 3-0 at the tournament and remains undefeated with decision, only the second decision of his campaign. No wrestler has come any closer than five points of Taylor all season long and his 32 bonus point wins on the year are tied for first all-time on PSU’s single season list.
Red-shirt freshman Ruth used a second period flurry to break a scoreless tie and roll to victory at 174. Ruth chose down to start the second stanza, quickly reversed No. 2 seed Nick Heflin of Ohio State and then turned him to his back for three near-fall points. Ruth then added another takedown and the riding time point to post the 8-5 win and become the 2011 Big Ten champion. Ruth went 3-0 over the tournament and carries a 32-1 record into the NCAA Championships. Sophomore All-American Wright completed a stunning Big Ten tourney run, downing Steinhaus 4-3 in the finals. Wright used a second-period reversal and two escapes to hold on for the hard-fought win. Wright went 4-0 during the tournament and heads to the NCAA Championships at the 2011 Big Ten Champion. Wright’s win gave Penn State a slim three-point lead heading into the last two weight classes.
In consolation action, senior Brad Pataky notched an important 16-1 technical fall against Michigan State’s Eric Olanowski to take seventh place at 125. Red-shirt freshman James Vollrath picked up huge bonus points for Penn State, pinning No. 8 seed Kevin Bialko of Northwestern in just 0:59 to finish in seventh place at 165. Pataky and Vollrath will now await word from the NCAA selection committee to see if they will receive at-large bids to the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships.
True freshman Andrew Alton placed fifth at 141. Alton, the fifth seed, gave up a third-period takedown to second seed Montell Marion of Iowa in the consolation semifinals. He then downed Northwestern’s Kaleb Friedley 6-4 to take the five-spot. Junior Cameron Wade was upset, 4-3 by sixth seed Eric Bugenhagen in the consolation semifinals but rebounded in a huge way in the fifth-place bout. Wade dominated fifth-seed Ben Apland of Michigan, posting a 9-0 major and picking up what would end up being the deciding point in the team race with the major’s bonus point. Wade placed fifth with the win and clinched the team title.
Penn State went 28-10 during in the tournament, including a 9-2 Sunday. The Nittany Lions had 15.5 bonus points thanks to five tech falls, four majors and two pins. Penn State’s five Big Ten Champions is the most in school history. It tops the old record of three set in 1993 and 1994. The Nittany Lions’ 139.0 points also sets a school record for team points.