DES MOINES, Iowa - Penn State is likely to stay on top of the wrestling world thanks, in large part, to the Nittany Lions' ability to stay on top of their opponents.
Two of the five Nittany Lions who advanced to the finals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Friday night did it by having a miniscule riding-time advantage. Nico Megaludis (125 pounds) and Quentin Wright (197) each advanced via the tiebreaker.
David Taylor (165) looked as dominant as ever, pinning his way to what may be the most anticipated match in the tournament's history. Matt Brown (174) and Ed Ruth (184) also advanced as the two-time defending team champions have five in the finals for a second consecutive year.
Sentinel photo by TAMI KNOPSNYDER
Lewistown graduate and University of Virginia wrestler Matt Snyder tries to escape from Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech during a 125-pound consolation bout Friday in the NCAA Division I championships. Garnett defeated Snyder 16-5.
Penn State leads the team standings with 114.5 points. Oklahoma State has 94 points and an outside chance of catching the Nittany Lions in the team standings heading into today's placement rounds.
The news wasn't so good for Lewistown graduate Matt Snyder, who came up one victory short of becoming an All-American. The Virginia senior lost 16-5 to Virginia Tech's Jarrod Garnett.
"The score shows one thing, but I tried to leave it all out on the mat," Snyder said. "I wasn't all there technically today as much as I wish I would have been, but guys are going to have an off day. Guys are going to come and be better than you on a certain day. All you can do is control your effort.
"I did and it didn't go my way."
He lost 4-0 to Missouri's Alan Waters in the quarterfinal round on Friday morning. Waters then dropped his semi to Megaludis.
Penn State saw four of its wrestlers eliminated from the tournament, as Jordan Conaway (133), Bryan Pearsall (141), Andrew Alton (149) and Dylan Alton (157) each fell short of All-American status.
The five Nittany Lions who will return to State College as All-Americans all reached the finals. None is under the pressure that Taylor, the returning champion at 165, faces. His match with Cornell's Kyle Dake, who could be the first wrestler to win NCAA titles at four different weight classes, has been so anticipated that tournament organizers rearranged the order of tonight's finals to save it as the main event.
Taylor, who lost to Dake in an all-star match before the season and again at the Southern Scuffle, said Friday that he will try to treat tonight like he would any other match.
"We will shake hands, there is going to be a lot of wrestling done and I'm going to get my hand raised at the end," he said. "That's what I've been thinking about all season. Scuffle was a good match and the All-American match was good, but when it's all said and done, everybody is going to remember what happens (in the finals)."
Taylor pinned Virginia Tech's Peter Yates in 3:24 in the semifinals, which marked the longest anyone has lasted with Taylor in this tournament.
Megaludis and Wright made up for the drama that Taylor's matches have lacked.
Facing Waters, Megaludis needed to go to the second set of tiebreakers to win against the top seed and previously unbeaten Missouri wrestler. After neither could escape in the first set of tiebreakers, Megaludis did it three seconds into the first half of the second set. He then held Waters down for most of the second and won because of his 18-second advantage in the tiebreakers.
"I knew that it was going to come down to riding, because he's good on top," Megaludis said. "I just knew I needed to use my bottom skills and not let him ride me and pretty much used my attitude; that's what bottom is."
Wright had even less of a cushion, winning thanks to his three-second riding-time advantage over Pitt's Matt Wilps.
Brown beat Minnesota's Logan Storley 3-2 in the semifinals on the strength of a first-period takedown.
Ruth, who won his 100th career match earlier in the day, beat State College graduate - and defending national champion - Steve Bosak 4-1 at 184 pounds. Ruth had a first-period takedown, an escape and a riding-time point.