PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Hollywood couldn’t write a better script.

Four teams took control of the lead during Friday morning’s quarterfinals at the 81st NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. But by the end of a Rocky Balboa-type slugfest, it was Cornell who held a half-point advantage as the race for the championship continues to heat up.

Penn State led after Day 1 by 1.5 points and pushed four into Friday night's semifinals. Cornell also pushed four into the semifinals. American, based in the Washington D.C. area, advanced three into the semis, one more than powers Oklahoma State, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Cornell leads the team race with 61 points, followed by Penn State (60.5), Iowa (52), American (49) and Oklahoma State (44.5). However, the leaders are down to just five wrestlers. Penn State and Iowa each have seven still alive with the Cowboys still counting six toward the team score.

“We know this is going to be a fight to the finish,” said Cornell head coach Rob Koll. “Every match is important on Friday and Saturday. Our guys know what’s ahead of them and that every match, every third period could be big.”

Penn State took a pair of hits in the quarterfinals, seeing freshman 174-pounder Ed Ruth lose for just the second time this season and 141-pound rookie Andrew Alton fall to Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov. Heavyweight Cameron Wade also lost in the quarters, falling to top-seed Zach Rey of Lehigh by injury default.

Ruth (34-2) was trailing Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui 9-2 early after getting turned multiple times before having to injury default.

“Going into my match my mindset was that it wasn’t going to be an upset,” said Amuchastegui, an All-American in 2010 and two-time Elite 88 winner for both wrestling and academics. “I have no idea what the team scores are … I’m not a part of that.”

PSU’s Andrew Long (18-1) scored a fall in his 133-pound quarterfinal; Frank Molinaro (31-2) rolled at 149; David Taylor stayed perfect with a 6-3 win against Iowa’s Derek St. John at 157; and Quentin Wright (19-6) knocked off top-seeded Chris Honeycutt (28-1) at 184.

Cornell was led by defending 141-pound champion Kyle Dake (29-2) as he beat Oklahoma State’s Jamal Parks in his quarterfinal match, while Steve Bosak (33-3) continued to roll on with a technical fall at 184. Mack Lewnes (38-2) advanced as did top-seeded 197-pounder Cam Simaz (34-1), who pinned Indiana’s Matt Powless.

American, with a program-best finish of 14th in 2010, is trying to hang with the big boys.

“We had a goal of earning a trophy and we are right there,” said American head coach Mark Cody.

On Thursday night, the top seed at 149 pounds, Darrion Caldwell, injury defaulted out of the tournament. American’s Ganbayar Sanjaa, the eighth seed, took advantage with back-top-back wins, the second against Michigan’s Eric Grajales on Friday morning.

Sanjaa (25-6) is a native of Mongolia.

“We told him he’s now the No. 1 seed after Caldwell lost,” Cody said. “A lot of the credit has to go to Steve Lampe (coach at Colby Community College) because he’s done such a good job with a lot of the guys we’ve gotten. I haven’t had to do a lot of work.

“I just have to get them in shape.”

Another transfer for Cody, 157-pounder Steve Fittery, has also worked out. This week Fittery (31-0) has two technical falls and a pin. He meets Penn State’s David Taylor (37-0) Friday night in the semifinals at 7 p.m.

American’s third semifinalist is heavyweight Ryan Flores (25-5).

Iowa momentarily took the lead on Friday morning after 125-pounder Matt McDonough (26-1) picked up a major decision in his quarterfinal bout.

Illinois’ James Kennedy helped the Hawkeye cause when he gave up three points in the final five seconds to lose to Montell Marion in the 141-pound quarters. Kennedy was hit for stalling and then got taken down at the edge of the mat as the buzzer sounded.

Grant Gambrall, a No. 12 seed, kept his run going with an overtime victory against Wisconsin’s fourth-seeded Travis Rutt in Friday’s first session less than 24 hours after knocking off fifth-seeded Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming.

Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore (36-2) gave Iowa’s Luke Lofthouse his first loss of the tournament at 184.

Oklahoma State’s undefeated duo of Jordan Oliver and Clayton Foster advanced to the semifinals with solid victories. Oliver, the top seed at 133, moved to 27-0 with a workmanlike 10-2 major decision of Cornell’s Mike Grey, while Foster, a senior, improved to 25-0 with an 8-2 win against Pittsburgh’s Zac Thomusseit at 197.

The Cowboys’ Chris Perry dropped a quarterfinal bout, falling 4-2 to Lehigh’s second-seeded Robert Hamlin (31-2) at 184.

Wisconsin advanced Tyler Graff (36-3 at 133), Andrew Howe (25-2 at 165) and Trevor Brandvold (17-0). Graff meets OSU’s Oliver with Brandvold getting the Cowboys’ Foster tonight.

Let’s get ready to rumble
Looking for a feature match in tonight’s semifinals?

Look no further than 157 pounds where Penn State freshman David Taylor meets American’s Steve Fittery. The two are a combined 68-0 and have rolled through the tournament so far, Fittery with two technical falls and a pin and Taylor recording a technical fall, a major and a 6-3 victory.

Or how about Northwestern’s Brandon Precin and Iowa’s McDonough at 125. Precin (33-2) beat McDonough in the Midlands final but the Hawkeye pinned Precin in the regular season and earned a decision in the Big Ten final.

Check out 184 where Iowa’s Gambrall meets Penn State’s Wright. Wells Fargo Center might be ready to explode by that point.

The first
Utah Valley State 125-pounder Ben Kjar became his program’s first Division I All-American when he beat Minnesota’s Zach Sanders in the quarterfinals. Kjar (29-6), a senior from Centerville, Utah, went 1-2 at the 2010 Championships and is the only unseeded wrestler among the final four at his weight class. He meets Arizona State’s Anthony Robles (34-0) Friday night.

No. 1 seeds falling
Three No. 1 seeds have been knocked out of the winner’s bracket. On Thursday night North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell, the top seed at 149, had to injury default in the second round.

In Friday’s first session, Boise State’s Adam Hall dropped his first match of the season, falling to Northwestern’s Jason Welch in the quarters at 157. Another unbeaten, Edinboro’s Chris Honeycutt lost to Penn State’s Quentin Wright at 184.

Caldwell, Hall and Honeycutt entered the weekend with a combined 65-0.

Friday Night's Division I Wrestling Semifinals Matchups
Weight Semifinal 1 Semifinal 2
125 No. 1 Robles (Arizona State, 34-0)
vs. Kjar (Utah Valley State, 29-6)
No. 2 McDonough (26-1, Iowa)
vs. No. 3 Precin (Northwestern, 33-2)
133 No. 1 Oliver (Oklahoma State, 27-0)
vs. No. 4 Graff (Wisconsin, 36-3)
No. 2 Hochstrasser (Boise State, 26-1)
vs. No. 3 Long (Penn State, 18-1)
141 No. 1 Russell (Michigan, 36-0)
vs. No. 5 Marion (Iowa, 12-3)
No. 2 Thorn (Minnesota, 37-4)
vs. No. 3 Novachkov (Cal Poly, 30-1)
149 No. 8 Sanjaa (American, 25-6)
vs. No. 4 Dake (Cornell, 29-2)
No. 2 Molinaro (Penn State, 31-2)
vs. No. 6 Chamberlain (Boise State, 27-1)
157 No. 8 Welch (Northwestern, 29-4)
vs. No. 4 Jenkins (Arizona State, 19-3)
No. 2 Fittery (American, 31-0)
vs. No. 3 Taylor (Penn State, 37-0)
165 No. 1 Burroughs (Nebraska, 34-0)
vs. No. 5 Sponseller (Ohio State, 24-5)
No. 2 Howe (Wisconsin, 24-2)
vs. Caldwell (Oklahoma, 31-5)
174 No. 1 Reader (Iowa State, 37-0)
vs. No. 5 Henrich (Virginia, 35-2)
No. 7 Amuchastegui (Stanford, 30-3)
vs. No. 3 Lewnes (Cornell, 38-2)
184 No. 4 Wright (Penn State, 19-6)
vs. Gambrall (Iowa, 22-7)
No. 2 Hamlin (Lehigh, 31-2)
vs. No. 3 Bosak (Cornell, 33-3)
197 No. 1 Simaz (Cornell, 34-1)
vs. No. 4 Kilgore (Kent State, 36-2)
No. 2 Foster (Oklahoma State, 25-0)
vs. No. 3 Brandvold (Wisconsin, 17-0)
285 No. 1 Rey (Lehigh, 32-1)
vs. No. 5 Bradley (Missouri, 28-3)
No. 2 Trice (Central Michigan, 29-3)
vs. No. 3 Flores (American, 25-5)