Penn State Wrestling Big Ten Tournament Preview
The Penn State wrestling team heads to Champaign, Illinois for the Big Ten championship tournament this weekend. Despite not being the Big Ten regular season champions, Penn State will likely win their third consecutive tournament championship.
At 125, Nico Megaludis will have his work cut out for him in order to get to the finals. Ranked No. 3 in the country right now, Megaludis will have to face No. 2 Matt McDonough (Iowa) and No. 4 Jesse Delgado (Illinois) in order to win. McDonough beat Megaludis 2-1 in tie breakers in Iowa, while Megaludis teched Delgado 17-2 in Illinois. Megaludis should easily make it to the semifinals, but it will take more to advance further into the tournament.
While Jordan Conaway at 133 is one of Penn State’s weaker spots, as a freshman, Big Tens will be a great opportunity for Conaway to get some post-season experience. Despite Conaway being No. 13 in the country, the weight class is extremely competitive, with the top three ranked wrestlers in the country all being from the Big Ten. Conaway beat No. 3 Tyler Graff earlier this season.
It’s hard to say how Bryan Pearsall will do at 141 in Big Tens, based off his season thus far. Pearsall has had an amazing season, but has only faced one tough Big Ten match, which he lost a major decision to No. 10 Mark Ballweg. Pearsall will likely make it to the quarterfinals, but it would take a major upset to get further than that.
It seems after taking a month off from wrestling, Andrew Alton just hasn’t been the same. Ranked No. 13 at 149, Alton has fallen quickly from his No. 3 ranking earlier this season. No. 10 Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska) teched Alton and No. 12 Cam Tessari (Ohio State) had a 3-1 decision over Alton. Alton will need to step up his game to get far in the Big Tens. If Alton lives up to his potential, he could easily be in the semifinals.
Dylan Alton, ranked No. 5 at 157, has a better chance than his twin brother of making it deep into the Big Tens. No. 2 Derek St. John and Alton had a close match in Iowa, with St. John winning a 4-3 decision. With the tournament taking place in Illinois, a different atmosphere could change the course for the two. Alton shouldn’t look too far ahead of him though with No. 6 James Green (Nebraska) ranked right behind him. Alton defeated Green 3-1 earlier this season.
If you’re watching the Big Tens for David Taylor, I’d suggest waiting another two weeks and watching the NCAA Championship. Taylor is No. 2 in the country, and his closest Big Ten competitor is ranked No. 8. While this may not seem like a big deal, Taylor beat that wrestler, Conrad Polz of Illinois, 13-7. Taylor should easily win his third Big Ten title at 164.
No. 7 Matt Brown is one of those wrestlers who has his good days and his bad days. At 174, Brown has defeated wrestlers such as No. 9 Jordan Blanton (Illinois), but lost to No. 6 Nick Heflin (Ohio State). Brown has no trouble beating the wrestlers ranked below him, but it seems he could use some more confidence to make the jump into the top rankings. 174 is one of the more competitive Big Ten weight classes, and this post-season showing should give Brown the experience to succeed in his future as a Nittany Lion.
Like Taylor, Ed Ruth will get through Big Tens without needing to catch his breath. At 184, Ruth has gone 25-0 this season, with 14 of those decisions being a tech fall or a pin. No. 5 Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota is Ruth’s closest Big Ten competitor and will likely be no match for Ruth.
The undefeated Quentin Wright, ranked No. 2 at 197, will have little competition at Big Tens as well. Wright’s best and final season as a Nittany Lion will surely be capped off with a few pins at Big Tens this season. Wright is the favorite to add his second Big Ten championship after being a 3rd place runner up in 2011 and winning in 2010.
No. 12 heavyweight Jimmy Lawson has had an unexpectedly great season thus far, after taking over for Jon Gingrich after a sickness earlier this season. A position that many people thought was weak, Lawson proved he could be a solid closer for Penn State. Lawson hasn’t lost to any Big Ten wrestlers this season, but the only ranked wrestler from the Big Ten that he has faced is No. 13 Peter Capone, whom he beat 21-4 on an injury defeat.
The preliminary seeds for the tournament, as voted by conference coaches, can be viewed here.
After Big Tens, all ten Penn State wrestlers will likely head to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, which are being held on the weekend of March 21-23.