Ever the perfectionist, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson would have liked 10 champions from Sunday's Nittany Lion Open at Rec Hall. Instead, he got five.
Andrew Alton (149 pounds), David Taylor (165 pounds), Matt Brown (174 pounds), Ed Ruth (184 pounds) and Quentin Wright (197 pounds) all took home titles from Sunday's non-regular season event, and the Nittany Lions also grabbed five second-place finishes to boost a healthy, injury-free day for Sanderson's club.
Andrew Alton hadn't taken the mat all season, an ankle injury hampering the start of the redshirt sophomore's season. But that changed Sunday for the Mill Hall, Pa., product, as he turned in racked up five falls on the day, including one in 2:18 over Virginia's Augustus Sako in the final, using a bit of strategy to catch the 2012 NCAA tournament participant in the first period. After I got taken down, I knew he was coming with the under hook, so I went in on a double leg and he tried to under hook again, Alton said. So I just went straight to the headlock." Alton was on a match-by-match basis Sunday, communicating with the coaching staff after each match to test the durability of his ankle. Andrew has a great feel for the sport, and it was kind of up to him, Sanderson said. He just kept going, so we stayed out of his way.
More Weight, No Problem
Ruth and Wright both wrestled at different weights in last seasons' Nittany Lion Open. Ruth bumped from 174 pounds to 184 pounds and Wright from 184 to 197, and neither seemed any worse for wear. Ruth picked up the title with a 10-4 victory over Sam Sheptock of Maryland, while Wright garnered his crown by beating teammate and fellow 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh 3-1 in sudden victory. I'm not worried about those guys' weights, but this is a tournament for them to see some great competition.
I think Morgan pushed [Quentin], and that's what we want. Tied at one with each pocketing a pair of escapes through three periods, Wright shot in on a double-leg takedown and turned McIntosh just enough to score the match's deciding points. Ruth was tested early by Sheptock, but appeared rejuvenated after a Sheptock takedown on the edge in the third period, scoring an escape and takedown moments later to increase his lead. These guys sweat faster, Ruth said with a grin about his new weight. You have to be super adamant with these guys, and hold onto the leg for dear life once you get it.
I don't like giving up two takedowns. People lose big matches because of things like that, so it's good to have a little fire after that.
Brown Gets Stronger
The sophomore Brown picked up steam as his day progressed Sunday, cruising through the first three rounds with a major decision, technical fall and major decision to reach the semifinals. The Utah native made quick work of The Citadels' Turtogtokh Luvsandorj there, winning by major decision 9-0, before picking up a championship decision over Rutgers' Greg Zannetti, 7-4. I saw some areas I did well in, but also areas I have to pick it up. It was a good day, Brown said. I feel good. Normally, I get stronger throughout the tournament, and I thought I did that today.
Penn State heavyweight Jimmy Lawson scored an exciting 2-1 decision over The Citadels' Odei Delaney to reach the final, where he dropped a 11-1 major decision to N.C. State's Nick Gwiazdowski. That performance alone, a 4-1 day, may have locked him up the starting spot. But enter fellow 285-pounder Jon Gingrich's 4-1 day, including a third-place match victory over Delaney (Gingrich lost to Gwiazdowski in the semifinals), and Sanderson wasn't sure if his decision had been made. It's a good question, but I haven't really thought about that yet. It's tough when every match is up at the same time, Sanderson said. They both have areas they need to improve in, but they both have a lot of positives.
Nico Megaludis allowed a third-period escape at 125 pounds, causing him to drop a 3-2 championship decision to Pittsburgh's Anthony Zanetta. It was also a second-place day for 133-pounder Jimmy Gulibon, who dropped a 3-2 decision in his title bout with Lehigh's Mason Beckman. Dylan Alton (157 pounds), , McIntosh and Lawson rounded up the runners-up for the Nittany Lions, who placed 18 wrestlers on this day. Alton was given a breath of fresh life when 157-pound champion James Fleming of Clarion had a late takedown wiped off the board, which eventually sent the match to sudden victory. But Alton couldn't score again, as Fleming reversed Alton and exposed his back to the mat for a three point near-fall and an eventual 9-4 win.
Looking Back and Forward
Penn State secured 23 pins Sunday, while putting 10 wrestlers into the finals. The Nittany Lions also racked up 235 bonus points. Penn State returns to Rec Hall Dec. 9, when it will host Indiana at 2 p.m. in the Big Ten opener.