There are not many tournaments Penn State walks out of empty-handed these days. And Wednesday night in Chattanooga, Tenn., was no exception.
PSU crowned three champions at the 2013 Southern Scuffle Wednesday night, adding hardware to the already crowded trophy cases of 125-pound sophomore Nico Megaludis, 184-pound junior Ed Ruth and 197-pound senior Quentin Wright. The Nittany Lions also took home the tournament's team title for a third consecutive year, outdistancing second-place Oklahoma State by a whopping 20.5 points, 178.5-158.0.
(It was) harder for us to win this thing without the Altons [Andrew and Dylan], but we have some great guys, Megaludis told the Penn State Radio Network. Our team is really stepping up, and that's awesome. I'm impressed.
More on the Alton brothers later.
Megaludis started the championship run for the Nittany Lions, who led by 17.5 team points entering the final round of wrestling. After finishing fourth a season ago at the same tournament, Megaldudis was primed to finish higher this time around, and he did. The sophomore stopped Virginia's matt snyder 8-4 in the final. He didn't surrender a point after the first period, which ended tied 4-4 after Megaludis secured a late reversal. His record now stands at 12-1 on the season after a 4-0 Scuffle showing.
The next Nittany Lion champion came at 184 pounds. Ruth used his old tricks at a new weight class to dominate the competition, which finished with defending national champion and State College native Steve Bosak. But Ruth, never one to make victory look difficult, stymied Bosak for seven minutes while accruing 2:55 in riding time to grab the title, 7-3. The junior finished the tournament still unbeaten at 15-0, while amassing a trio of pins and two major decisions to help him reach the final.
Wright took home the final individual trophy for the Nittany Lions at 197 pounds, decking Jake Merideth of Arizona State in 5:33 with a split-scissors that only Wright would dare try in the final of a prestigious tournament. The desire for hitting the big move with ease has come to be the expected from the Nittany Lion senior, and in doing so, he stayed undefeated at 14-0.
David Taylor's 165-pound championship match was suppose to a shot of redemption against Cornell's Kyle Dake, who beat Taylor to win the NWCA All-Star match before the season kicked off. But Taylor was waylaid by a couple of controversial calls.
Leading 2-1 after a third period reversal, Taylor mounted a ride that, for the time, placed him over a minute in riding time. But Dake would soon be awarded a questionable reversal as the pair rolled off the edge and out of bounds, giving him a 3-2 lead.
The curious officiating would not stop there, though. The Nittany Lion junior appeared to have scored an escape in the match's dying seconds, only to see the call never made. His riding time dipped under a minute to 59 seconds, wiping away his riding time point and handing the match to Dake.
Sure, March (meaning NCAAs) is the only time that winning and losing really matters. But you can guarantee this match left a sour taste in Taylor's mouth.
Brown Battles Back
It was a bit surprising that Penn State 174-pounder Matt Brown dropped his semifinal match Wednesday morning to Minnesota's Logan Storley by way of second period fall. But that didn't stop him from hitting the medal stand. Brown guided his way through a consolation semifinal, winning by decision over Missouri's Todd Porter, before blasting Virginia's John Fausey in the third-place match, 10-3. He finished his tournament with just a single blemish at 5-1.
We've used space after nearly every match to discuss the ongoing dilemma at heavyweight for the Nittany Lions. Though head coach Cael Sanderson harped previously on the Scuffle being a large factor in deciding who will man the starting spot going forward into Big Ten competition, the two-day event may not have been as decisive as some hoped. Jimmy Lawson clearly set the high bar with his seventh-place finish after scoring at will on Arizona State's Levi Cooper in an 11-7 victory. But his two additional matches -- he wrestled six to Jon Gingrich's four -- may paint a greater picture than the results show. It will be interesting to see what the staff decides once back in on campus, and whether the heavyweight-by-committee approach will be used going forward.
The Alton brothers were both suspended for the Southern Scuffle for violating team rules. Both are usually starters, Dylan at 157 and Andrew at 149. They were involved in a scuffle in their hometown of Lock Haven, Pa., shortly before Christmas and cited by police for public drunkenness and harassment.
I was really impressed by Jimmy Gulibon's performance. The 133-pound true freshman paid his way to Chattanooga to wrestle unattached, and finished with a fourth-place finish after getting pinned by Missouri's Nathan McCormick in 4:45. Regardless of the final outcome, though, Gulibon had to learn a lot over the two-day stretch, and that will pay huge dividends down the road.
The Nittany Lions finished with a 22-11 mark on Day 2, going 5-1 in the semifinals, 3-2 in the finals and 14-8 in wrestle backs.
Penn State became the third team to take home the title three seasons in a row, joining Minnesota and Cornell.
Sanderson's bunch finished with a 63-24 mark at the tournament, racking up 12 pins, four technical falls and 13 majors along the way. State also logged 31 bonus point victories.
The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall for a Jan. 13 dual against Michigan. It begins at 2 p.m.