Penn State wins all five semifinal bouts on Friday, now in control of team race
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Five-for-five.
Penn State won all five semifinal bouts on Friday night at the 83rd NCAA Wrestling Championships and took firm control of the team race.
Nico Megaludis, David Taylor, Matt Brown, Ed Ruth, and Quentin Wright each won a fourth match for the week and will wrestle on the big stage Saturday night. Meanwhile, the team race still has life as the Nittany Lions have 114 ½ points and lead Oklahoma State by 20 ½ points. The Cowboys, with two in the finals, have seven wrestlers still able to score points. Third place Minnesota will have eight All-Americans, but just one finalist.
"We had a good round; we are very happy," said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. "Our guys won some tough bouts. David (Taylor) was in a tough bout but found a way to get a pin. We could have very easily gone 0-5 … maybe not 0-5 … but we certainly could have lost some of those matches.
"We have a little leeway going into (Friday), but Oklahoma State and Minnesota have a bunch of guys coming back in the morning. It is definitely not a done deal."
Penn State will not score any points in the Saturday morning session and, on paper, not be favored in four of their five finals match-ups.
Oklahoma State advanced Jordan Oliver and Chris Perry to the finals, and nearly had a third, but Alan Gelogaev lost in the final seconds to Minnesota's Tony Nelson at 285 pounds. John Smith's squad still has Jon Morrison, Alex Dieringer, Tyler Caldwell, Blake Rosholt, and Gelogaev alive. Dieringer, a redshirt-freshman, lost to Iowa's Derek St. John in overtime in the 157-pound semifinals.
"We have the ability to score a lot of points," said UM head coach J Robinson before Friday night's session. "There is always disappointment in this tournament. Only a few guys win their last matches and only 10 of the 330 are champions. But finding a way to come back and score points for the team is always important."
The Gophers won five straight wrestleback matches on Friday night and still have David Thorn, Chris and Nick Dardanes, Dylan Ness, Cody Yohn, Logan Storley, and Scott Schiller hanging around. In the early session, UM went 9-1 in wrestleback matches. They still have a pulse.
Three No. 1 seeds lost in the semifinals - Missouri's Alan Waters and Dom Bradley, and Ohio State's Hunter Stieber. Waters lost to Megaludis, a 2012 finalist.
Ohio State's Logan Stieber, Oliver, Taylor, Ruth, Wright, and Kent State's Dustin Kilgore will each go for a second NCAA title Saturday night. Taylor will have to beat Cornell's Kyle Dake, who will try and match Pat Smith and Sanderson as the only Division I wrestlers to win four championships.
"I'm taking the role as the guy who is not supposed to win, which is weird for me," said Taylor, who is 100-2 for his career. "I have the next day to relax and have nothing to lose out there. I'm just going for another national title and to me it's simple … I've got to go out and score more points."
Dake has not lost a match in his last three NCAA appearances.
"Just another match for me," said Dake. "Obviously, he's looking pretty good, but I'm not too worried about it."
Always a tough match
Iowa's Matt McDonough entered the week with just one NCAA Tournament loss, that coming in the 2011 NCAA finals to Arizona State's Anthony Robles. The Hawkeye senior won titles in 2010 and 2012. On Friday afternoon he lost to Cornell's Nahshon Garrett in overtime. Coming back for a Friday night match, on an outer mat, was certainly not familiar territory for McDonough, who faced off with North Dakota State's Trent Sprenkle. The Bison senior scored an overtime takedown to finish McDonough's season and career.
The last one
The last wrestler to beat Dake in a folkstyle match is Bucknell's Kevin LaValley, now a member of the Minnesota staff. In the 2011 EIWA finals on LaValley's home mat, Dake lost by a 4-2 count in overtime. Since that afternoon, Dake has won 76 straight matches.
"Dake has an excellent opportunity to make history," said LeValley. "Every year there are people who doubt him and every year he proves them wrong. I'm pulling for him because he is an EIWA guy.
"I hope my own wrestling career isn't summed up by being the last guy to beat Kyle Dake. I will never forget that match, getting that win in front of my home crowd."