Quentin Wright's 8-5 decision in the 197-pound title bout over tournament top-seed Dustin Kilgore of Kent State clinched the Nittany Lions' third straight team title. The senior iced the race by pumping PSU's total to 123.5 points after teammate Ed Ruth won by major decision, 12-4, at 184-pounds over Lehigh's Robert Hamlin to win his second straight title.
Oklahoma State finished second with 119.5 points.
“We're happy. I'm just very grateful,” Lion head coach Cael Sanderson told ESPN after Wright clinched the title. “We have a great group of guys, and I love them more than anything, and a great deal. We're very happy.”
After Matt Brown opened the final round for Sanderson's club with a 2-1 tiebreaker loss to No. 1 Chris Perry of Oklahoma State at 174, Ruth answered the bell when his team needed him to, scoring a vital bonus point via a major decision that meant only one of the Lions other three finalists -- Wright, Nico Megaludis at 125 pounds or Taylor at 165 pounds -- would need a victory to clinch the title. And in a storybook ending of sorts, it was Wright who locked it up.
The senior from Bald Eagle (Pa.) Area opened with a nifty underhook throw to take down Kilgore in the bout's opening seconds, and he would never trail, taking a 4-3 lead into the third period that grew with a pair of takedowns and an escape to take home the gold.
“The only thing that would be better would be if I pinned him, but you can't have everything,” Wright told the Penn State Sports Network. “It was awesome. I'm truly blessed to be in this position, and have the talent I have and people that are around me.
“I heard Brown lost, and I was like, 'Oh jeez, now it's on me.' We can't depend on other people, and Ruth really inspired me there by getting that major. After that, I was like, 'Let's go, lets get out there. Let's do this for the team and do this for Penn State.' ”
Ruth, who owned a previous 11-9 decision over finals' foe Hamlin, again toppled the Mountain Hawk on the strength of five takedowns, three of which came in the final 45 seconds to earn the major decision and his second straight title. The late barrage came at the behest Sanderson, who shouted for Ruth to cut Hamlin after the Lion scrambled around on a single leg shot to take an 8-3 lead.
“Oh, I looked over and didn't know the score. I can't do the math that fast in a high-test situation,” Ruth told ESPN between breaths. “The coaches were yelling, 'go, go, go,' and that got my attention down really quick.”
The major put Penn State in a strong spot with three finalists still to wrestle, while Oklahoma State had just one remaining in 149-pounder Jordan Oliver, who was a 3-2 winner over Boise State's Jason Chamberlain in that final.
“I just want to hit it,” Ruth said to the Penn State Sports Network. “I want to do as much as I possibly can, and so far, I'm pretty pleased with the road I'm taking right now, and I want to continue on it.
“This is very special,” he added. “The first time I was in the lineup, we were able to pull off the title as team, and I'm just glad to do it again, and have consecutive titles the whole time I've been in the lineup. We're really creating something here, and I'm happy I was here for the actual beginning of it. Everybody just feels like family to me.”
Brown opened the championship round for the Lions, falling 2-1 to No. 1 seed Perry in a second tiebreaker period that saw the Cowboy escape off the whistle and fend of repeated Brown shots in the final 25 seconds. Perry rode Brown for the entire first tiebreaker period with the bout tied at one.
Later, Megalduis controlled much of the action vs. Illinois' Jesse Delgado. But Delgado emerged from a third-period scramble with a takedown and cradle tilt for three back points to win 7-4 decision. Megaludis never led in the bout, finishing second for the second year in a row.
Rounding out the Lions' championship round was 165-pounder Taylor, who scored the opening takedown with a slick ankle pick against No. 1 seed Kyle Dake of Cornell. But Taylor ultimately lost the bout 5-4 after Dake rode Taylor for most of the third period, earning a point with over a minute of riding time.
Taylor had only one loss this season heading into the match and the defending national champ at 165. It was to Dake, the only wrestler who has beaten him in the last two years.
With the most recent win, Dake becomes just the third four-time NCAA champion while also becoming the first to win four titles at four different weight classes.
NEWS AND NOTES
• Taylor won the award for most technical falls in one season. The junior racked up 10 on the season, and also won the Gorarian Award for the fastest falls of the tournament. Taylor recorded four falls in a total of 9:23.
• Brown was named the 89 Elite Award winner, given to the tournament wrestler with the highest GPA in the tournament. Brown has a GPA of 3.97.
• Sanderson was named the NCAA Wrestling Coach of the Year
• Penn State returns all but two starters in 2013-2014, graduating only Wright and 141-pounder Bryan Pearsall.
• Minnesota, Iowa and Cornell rounded out the team race top five.