ST. LOUIS – Penn State almost delivered the knockout blow on Friday night.

In search of a second consecutive national championship, the Nittany Lions pushed five into the finals and leads the field by 23.5 points heading into Saturday’s final session of the 2012 Division I Wrestling Championship inside Scottrade Center.

Freshman 125-pounder Nico Megaludis started the show and defending national champion Quentin Wright provided the closing credits. Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth filled in the rest of the storyline.

The Nittany Lion program, with just two seniors – Molinaro and 285-pounder Cameron Wade – is providing wresting fans with something special this weekend. Six of Penn State’s nine participants will finish as All-Americans.

The always elusive Cael Sanderson, head coach of the Nittany Lions, was in the hotel long before the day's final session concluded. It’s not mathematically clinched, but it will take a miracle meltdown or comeback, one way or the other.

“It’s just all training, preparing the whole year,” Wright said. “I might not have had the best year, didn’t go undefeated, all the perfect things you want, but life’s not perfect. You just have to keep waking up the next day and have a positive attitude.”

DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP 
Session 4:
Brackets | Scores | Round-by-Round
Semifinal Highlights | Breakdown
Session 3: 
Brackets | Scores | Round-by-Round 
Qarterfinal Highlights | Recap
Session 2:
 Brackets | Scores | Round-by-Round | Recap
Session 1:
 Brackets | Scores | Round-by-Round | Recap
Feature: In a word -- outstanding
Preview: Breaking down the race

Minnesota finished the second day with 101.5 points, pushing freshmen Dylan Ness and Tony Nelson to the final. The Gophers will have seven All-Americans, losing only 141-pounder Nick Dardanes during the second day.

Iowa (93) and Cornell (86) round out the top four with Ohio State 26 points behind the Big Red in fifth.

Cornell, second a year ago, pushed Kyle Dake, Steve Bozak and Cam Simaz to the title bouts. The Hawkeyes also will have three representatives Saturday night with Matt McDonough, Montell Marion and Derek St. John.

Elite 89
American’s Daniel Mitchell, a 197-pounder, won the annual Elite 89 Award, given by the NCAA to the student-athlete in the tournament with the highest cumulative grad-point average. Mitchell, who went 1-2 in the tournament, maintains a 3.95 GPA in business administration.

Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui won the award in 2010 and 2011. Amuchastegui will be gunning for his first national title in the 175-pound final. 

Tough to come back
Minnesota’s Zach Sanders won 5-4 on a riding time point in his first match after getting upset by Penn State’s Nico Megaludis in the quarterfinals. Sanders will finish in the top eight for the fourth time.

Oklahoma State’s Jamal Parks, who opened the week unbeaten and seeded second at 149 pounds, lost in the quarterfinals to Minnesota freshman Dylan Ness 3-2. A round later, the Cowboy senior lost an overtime bout to Oregon State’s Scott Sakaguchi. Parks finished his career with 121 victories, tied for 10th in school history with Kenny Monday.

Wyoming’s Joe LeBlanc, who entered with just one loss and as the top seed at 184 pounds, came back after a quarterfinal loss to beat Illinois’ Tony Dallago 13-6. LeBlanc is now a four-time All-American.

All the way
Binghamton 285-pounder Nick Gwiazkowski lost 8-0 in the first round. Since then, he’s won five matches, including a wrestleback pigtail match, to move into the final eight. He has wrestled six matches during the first two days of the 2012 Championship.

Ohio State’s Cam Tessari lost in the first round at 149 pounds, falling to Harvard’s Corey Jantzen. The Buckeye freshman battled back to win four matches and will finish in the top eight. He beat Air Force Academy’s Cole VonOhlen in the round of 12 Friday night.

Also at 149, Binghamton’s Donald Vinson, the fourth seed, lost in the first round. Since, he’s won five consecutive, including Friday night’s round of 12 win against Michigan’s Eric Grajales.

Harvard’s Walter Peppelman, an All-American in 2011, was pinned in the first round by Northern Iowa’s David Bonin. Peppelman won four matches to get into the top eight, beating Bloomsburg’s Frank Hickman 2-1 in Friday night’s first round of wrestlebacks.

Wisconsin’s Ben Jordan lost in the first round to Wyoming’s Shane Onufer. Jordan won three matches by a combined 9-5 score before facing Iowa State’s Andrew Sorenson on Friday night. He beat Sorenson on a riding time point to move into the final eight. Sorenson was Iowa State’s last hope for an All-American.

Appalachian State’s Kyle Blevins lost a first-round match at 165 pounds. He came back to win four bouts and will be among the top eight.

Missouri’s Mike Larson lost to top-seeded Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming in the first round. The Big 12 champion battled back with three wins before facing Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus, a match he lost by technical fall.

Not normal
Missouri brought 10 qualifiers to St. Louis and failed to deliver an All-American for the first time since 2001. Iowa State, with none in the top eight, failed to have an All-American for the first time since 1962.

Appalachian State has two All-Americans for the first time since 1941.

The Big 12 Conference has just five All-Americans, three of them for Oklahoma State.

Seems like the norm
Each session drew 18,695 fans to the Scottrade Center on Friday. Each session has seen at least 18,690 fans roll through the doors, putting the championships on track to top 100,000 total session participants for the second consecutive year.