OKLAHOMA CITY – Wrestling fans woke up Friday morning with a little extra hop in their step. There was a little extra buzz in the air heading into the quarterfinals.
Chesapeake Energy Arena delivered.
Moments later, in the 184-pound quarters, Nittany Lion star Ed Ruth put the reigning champions back in front with a 10-2 major decision.
Minnesota's Gophers showed some moxy, highlighted by Dylan Ness' theatrics, Logan Storley's marathon overtime tiebreaker win versus Nebraska's Robert Kokesh and Scott Schiller's victory against Iowa State's Kyven Gadson. When two-time champion Tony Nelson scored his second consecutive pin at 285, J Robinson's group passed Oklahoma State for second in the standings, 1.5 points behind Penn State.
The late Ed Aliverti, a legendary public address announcer for NCAA championships, used to bark "oh, they're stirring the pot." The pot was stirred -- frequently -- during Friday's first session.
Entering Friday night's fourth session, Penn State, Minnesota and Oklahoma State each have four in the semifinals. Iowa and Cornell are not out of the picture just yet. Put simply, it is going to be very entertaining.
At the conclusion of Friday's first session, Penn State leads Minnesota 61-59. Oklahoma State is third at 56, with Iowa at 42.5 and Cornell at 39.5 points.
As expected, PSU pushed Nico Megaludis, Zain Retherford, David Taylor and Ed Ruth into the final four at their respective weight classes.
Megaludis (29-3), a junior, will go in search of his third trip to the 125-pound finals when he meets Cornell's Nahshon Garrett (33-1). Retherford (32-1) will get his rematch with Ohio State's Logan Stieber (28-1) at 141 pounds, with Taylor (32-0) taking three consecutive pins into his semifinal at 165 pounds and Ruth (32-1) getting his rematch with Cornell's Gabe Dean (38-2) at 184 pounds.
Despite losing second-seeded Nick Dardanes during wrestlebacks, the Gophers stayed in the hunt. Ness (22-5) provided another what-in-the-heck-moment when he flipped top seed James Green of Nebraska to his back for a pin in the 157-pound quarterfinals. It was the 2012 NCAA runner-up's third pin of the tournament. The upper weights followed suit with Storley (33-5), Schiller (32-4), and Nelson (29-4) moving into the final four. Storley faces Oklahoma's Andrew Howe (27-1) on Friday night, while Schiller gets top seeded Nick Heflin (27-1) of Ohio State.
Like the Gophers, Oklahoma State hung tough despite the loss of fourth-seeded Jon Morrison at 133 pounds in wrestlebacks. John Smith's troops pushed Josh Kindig, Alex Dieringer, Tyler Caldwell, and Perry to the semifinals.
Kindig (23-8), the 11th seed at 149 pounds, got by Oregon State's Scott Sakaguchi in the quarters and meets Lehigh's 15th-seeded Mitchell Minotti (25-8) on Friday night.
"These rounds, the second day, it's a brawl … about staying tough," Kindig said. "You have to come out to fight. This is what counts.
"I'm here to win for myself, but I really realized, especially after we had some downfalls and stuff, that I am doing it for my team as much as me. I've changed my style the last few weeks, started to move my feet a lot more. I feel like I am the quickest guy in my bracket and it has shown this week."
Dieringer (30-1), third last March, won perhaps the match of the tournament, beating Boston University's Nestor Taffur 18-11. Caldwell, now a four-time All-American, pounded Northwestern's Pierce Harger 10-2, and will wrestle Virginia's Nick Sulzer (35-1) on Friday. Sulzer's only loss this season came to Caldwell at the Southern Scuffle.
Iowa will send Tony Ramos (30-2), Evans (28-4), and heavyweight Bobby Telford (25-5) out on Friday. Ramos gutted out another tough win in the quarters, while Telford, fifth two seasons ago, beat Michigan freshman Adam Coon in the quarters and will get a shot at Nelson on Friday.
And that's just the team race.
The top seed at 141 pounds, Edinboro's Mitchell Port, took a 28-0 record into Friday. But the 2013 finalist could not get by North Carolina's Evan Henderson (36-6), a junior who finished sixth last March. Henderson gets Virginia Tech's Devin Carter (17-0) on Friday.
Port lost to Oklahoma's Kendric Maple on the big stage a year ago. There will be no repeat performance for Maple, who dropped an overtime tiebreaker to Northwestern freshman Jason Tsirtsis (30-3) in the 149-pound quarters.
Another returning champion, Iowa's Derek St. John, was sent packing by Cornell freshman Brian Realbuto (36-7) in the 157-pound quarters with an 11-4 loss.