Penn State captures third consecutive DI wrestling national championship
DES MOINES, Iowa -– The window of opportunity was small for Oklahoma State on Saturday night.
Penn State closed it as soon as it opened, however.
Back-to-back titles at 184 and 197 pounds by Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright, respectively, sealed the deal, giving the Nittany Lions a third consecutive team trophy at the 83rd NCAA Wrestling Championships.
PSU ended four points in front of Oklahoma State, 123 ½ to 119 ½. Minnesota (103), Iowa (73), and Cornell (65) rounded out the top five. OSU started the day 20 ½ points behind the Nittany Lions.
Put simply, for OSU to have a chance, junior Chris Perry, a native of Stillwater and nephew of head coach John Smith, had to beat Penn State sophomore Matt Brown in the first match of the championship finals. The Nittany Lions entered the final 10 bouts with a three-point lead over the Cowboys. All the math majors, prognosticators, and wrestling gurus knew the scenario.
OSU needed victories by Perry and 149-pounder Jordan Oliver, and for PSU to go 1-4 in their five finals matches.
The opening three minutes of the 174-pound final, as one might expect, were very cautious. Brown nearly scored to end the second period, but nothing came of it. After a Perry escape early in the third, it was 1-1. A minute of overtime and it was time for the scary world of the tiebreakers. The Cowboy was able to ride out the first 30 seconds, then score an escape in the second to win 2-1 and give his squad a one-point lead in the team race.
“It added a little more pressure to Penn State,” said Perry, who finishes the season 35-2. “It’s unexplainable. Most of the emotions are just out of work and the people I do it for, my family and my coaches and there’s so many people I have in my life that I just want to win for.”
The lead was short-lived, however, as Nittany Lion junior Ed Ruth (33-0) put together a late string of takedowns to beat Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin 12-4. Ruth’s second consecutive title game gave PSU a 119 ½ to 115 ½ lead.
With a victory in the 197-pound final, Wright, a champion in 2011 and finalist last March, could wrap it up for the blue and white. He did so, using a pair of slick third-period takedowns for an 8-6 victory against Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore.
“The team race is important to me personally,” said Wright (32-0). “Winning too, but more importantly, the team race is important. I knew one of us had to take it upon our shoulders to get it and I thought why not me? Let’s go out there, let’s win this; let’s clinch the team race.
“I didn’t watch the 174-pound bout because I don’t get too emotionally involved in matches. That’s one thing I learned, especially sophomore year.”
Penn State went 2-3 in five finals bouts.
“It’s my job to make sure they’re ready,” said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. “Each one, each individual. I’m not sure I did a very good job. That’s the hard part as a coach because you’re always, man, we just won nationals, but we had guys that didn’t reach their goal.”
But at the end of the day, Sanderson was pleased.
“It’s been a long week. We’re super happy. Our guys did a great job; back and forth and our guys came through.
“I think every year is a little … you have different challenges. Oklahoma State had a great tournament; they made it a lot of fun.”
Smith enjoyed his 2012-13 group.
“They worked their tails off to make this a race,” said Smith. “You have two champions and seven All-Americans … you can’t be too disappointed. Everybody contributed for us this week and we made a run at a really good Penn State team. I think it was a fun tournament for a lot of people.”
Illinois sophomore Jesse Delgado (27-3) locked up a third-period cradle to take a 6-1 lead in the final minute and went on to a 7-4 victory against Penn State’s Nico Megaludis, who lost in the 125-pound finals for a second consecutive year.
And in the feature match of the twenty-first century to date, PSU’s David Taylor lost a 5-4 match to Cornell’s Kyle Dake, who claimed his fourth title in four years at four different weight classes. Dake’s incredible career ends with a 77-match winning streak.
Jordan Oliver (38-0) used a slick pass-by in the closing seconds to beat Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain, 3-2, in the 149-pound final. The Oklahoma State senior finishes his career 126-6 and as a two-time champion and four-time All-American.
Ohio State’s Logan Stieber ended a perfect season with a 7-4 win against Iowa’s Tony Ramos at 133 pounds. The bout included a video review taking a look at a Ramos second-period cradle that nearly resulted in back points. It cut the lead to 5-3, but Stieber maintained his composure the rest of the way.
Stieber (27-0), with two titles in two years, now enters the four-timer conversation.
The Hawkeyes crowned one champion, 157-pounder Derek St. John. St. John, a junior (31-2) lost in the 2012 finals, but found a way to beat Northwestern’s Jason Welch 3-2 on Saturday night.
Minnesota’s Tony Nelson won the 285-pound title for the second consecutive year, beating Northwestern’s Mike McMullen 6-2.
Since the 2000 season, UM has won the heavyweight class five times -– Nelson (2012, 2013), Cole Konrad (2006 and 2007), and Brock Lesnar (2000).
“Last year, even before, one of my goals was to be the first three-timer for Minnesota,” added Nelson, who pulled out a miracle win in Friday night’s semifinals and finishes 33-1. “Brock won it once; Cole won it twice. I’m right up there with them, and he’s [Konrad] is a guy I’ve always looked up to.”
Two seasons ago, he was in a battle for a starting spot in the Gopher lineup.
“He’s very diligent, a valedictorian of his class; he’s very coachable,” said UM head coach J Robinson. “He just wants to keep getting better.
“We have some really good coaches at the upper weights and [Minnesota] is a place where you can find some good ones.”
Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple capped a 30-0 year with a win against Edinboro’s Mitchell Port in the 141-pound final.
Split down the middle
For the first time in NCAA history a video review system was employed during the tournament. Two officials worked every match, and not unlike the Democrats and Republicans, opinions varied as to its success or failure.
Saturday night’s finals included a number of video reviews.
“It’s about 50-50 down the middle; some guys like it and others hate it,” said one veteran official. “Personally, I like the human element. We have two competent officials out there who know the rules.”
But there is agreement on its future.
“It is here to stay; don’t expect it to go away any time soon,” said another official.
A veteran reporter from Iowa is among the “pros.”
“These [wrestlers] have invested so much time and energy into this, it’s unfortunate when a bad call at this level goes against them,” he said. “Getting it right isn’t a bad thing, and it hasn’t really slowed things down that much. I think, overall, most like it.”
In case you were wondering
Penn State loses one starter, 197-pounder Quentin Wright, and will add a pretty salty recruit in Jimmy Gulibon at 133 pounds. Morgan McIntosh, a 197-pounder, will also be back after a redshirt.
Oklahoma State loses Alan Gelogaev, Jordan Oliver, and 184-pounder Chris Chionuma. They will add Jordan Rogers at 184 most likely, heavyweight Austin Marsden, an NCAA qualifier in 2012; Josh Kindig, a two-time qualifier, is also back after a redshirt.
Minnesota will have nine back, losing only 165-pounder Cody Yohn.
Oklahoma City plays host to the 2014 NCAA championships.