Wrestlers Eye Second Straight Big Ten Championship
The Nittany Lion wrestlers head into the Big Ten Tournament this weekend, hosted by Purdue, in West Lafayette, Ind. The grapplers, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Intermat, are looking for a second straight Big Ten title. This year, they cruised to a 13-1 record under third-year head coach Cael Sanderson, sharing a regular season title with Minnesota.
This weekend, each of the twelve teams get one representative at each of the ten weight classes. All ten Penn Staters are ranked in the top eight with three No. 1 seeds, three No. 2 seeds and two No.3 seeds. Did I mention that the Big Ten is hands down the best wrestling conference in the country?
As far as qualifying for the NCAA tournament, each conference earns automatic bids based on how they preform over the course of the regular season. The Big Ten earned 74 automatic bids, which is an NCAA record. The conference will account for nearly 25 percent of the NCAA tournament field. The weight-by-weight bid breakdown is as follows: six automatic bids at 125, seven at 133, five at 141, nine at 149, six at 157, eight at 165, nine at 174, seven at 184, seven at 197 and ten at 285.
The three top-seeded Nittany Lions are senior Frank Molinaro (25-0) at 149, sophomore David Taylor (23-0) at 165 and sophomore Ed Ruth (23-0) at 174. Going undefeated in the Big Ten is extremely difficult. Having three wrestlers on the same team do it in one season is unheard of. Molinaro and Taylor are both ranked No.1 at their weight class nationally while Ruth is No.2. All three are looking to repeat as Big Ten champions.
Junior Quentin Wright (22-2), who was an NCAA champion last year at 184, returns to this season to defend his crown as a No. 2 seed in the tournament. Only in the Big Ten does a defending national champ get a two seed. Red-shirt freshman Dylan Alton (20-4) at 157 and senior Cameron Wade (22-3) at 285 are both also seeded second.
Freshman Morgan McIntosh (15-6) at 197, who was the nation’s top recruit for the class of 2011, heads into West Lafayette as a No.3 seed along with fellow freshman Nico Megaludis (21-5) at 125. Sophomore Frank Martellotti (6-7) at 133 and junior Bryan Rehearsal (12-10) at 141 are both seeded No. 8 for the weekend.
Sanderson is starting a legacy here at Penn State. In just his third season, he has a combined record of (43-8-2). In the past two years, with his first two recruiting classes, he has gone (30-2-1). Last year, the Lions won both a national and a Big Ten title. This year, the Lions are arguably more powerful. Their one loss on the year was to Minnesota early in the season. Since then, the Lions have been on a tear defeating several ranked teams handily including: No. 9 Lehigh, 24-12, No. 19 Northwestern, 38-3, No. 3 Iowa, 22-12, No. 7 Ohio State, 34-9, No. 14 Nebraska, 31-6, No. 6 Michigan, 34-7, and No. 24 Pittsburgh 33-6.
With the NCAA tournament just two weeks away, Sanderson’s squad is poised to make a run at a second consecutive national championship. With six of ten wrestlers participating this weekend being just freshman or sophomores; the future looks very bright. Look out Big Ten – there is a dynasty in the making in Happy Valley.
Check out some of the ridiculous statistics our squad posted this season here.