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Wrestling Rolls into Big Ten Championship

During Cael Sanderson’s second season as Penn State wrestling’s head coach, he started five freshmen and led the squad to a 17-1-1 overall record. This season marked the most dual-meet victories for the Lions since going 18-3 in 1998. Currently the grapplers are ranked fourth in the NCAA rankings, despite holding the top spot for a while during the season.

This weekend at the Big Ten Championships, it’s all about the individual. Penn State’s ten wrestlers will take to the mats Saturday and Sunday at Northwestern University in search of Big Ten championships and a trip to the national tournament, which is March 17-19 in Philadelphia.

Five of Penn State’s ten wrestlers are number one seeds in their weight classes. There are 11 teams in the tournament, and Penn State is ranked atop half of the weight classes. Wisconsin’s three top-ranked wrestlers make them the only other Big Ten team with multiple top-seeds in the tournament.

Andrew Long (11-1 record at 133 pounds), Frank Molinaro (25-2 at 149), David Taylor (31-0 at 157), Ed Ruth (29-1 at 174), and Cameron Wade (26-4 at 285) are all seeded atop the Big Ten this weekend.

Brad Pataky (8-3 at 125) heads to the tournament as the fourth seed, and Quentin Wright (12-6 at 184) is seeded eighth.

True freshman Andrew Alton (26-6 at 141) is ranked seventh in the nation, but enters the weekend seeded fifth. I’d say the Big Ten is pretty good.

Penn State’s only two unseeded wrestlers are James Vollrath (24-6 at 165) and Nick Ruggear (15-12 at 197). 24-6 and unseeded?  I’m thinking that weight class may be difficult.

The Big Ten has 64 automatic bids to the NCAA tournament based on regular season results. The Big 12 earned 33 and the Pac 10 earned 26. (At least we have wrestling; football’s a lost cause at this point, anyway.)

The weekend looks promising for Penn State’s wrestlers. With five of the ten competitors being just freshmen and a coach who is the biggest icon in the history of college wrestling, the future is most certainly bright in Happy Valley.

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