UNIVERSITY PARK - In his first two trips to the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Nico Megaludis has wrestled his best under the sport's brightest lights.
Twice he's battled his way to the 125-pound final. While each time he was denied an NCAA championship, his blueprint for success at the national tournament obviously works.
"It's each guy doing his part. I'm thinking of myself when I'm out there," Megaludis said. "Not being selfish, but I'm thinking of what I've got to do. Hopefully, everyone else just thinks of themselves, goes out and that will contribute to more and more points."
It's a formula - go out and win.
"Just stick with what's working, relaxing during each session and just believing in myself because the NCAAs is all mental," he said. "Everyone out there wants to win and everyone's good. There are 33 guys for a reason. They're good. Everyone you wrestle you've just got to be ready for.
"You've just to be believe you want to win. Every second out there you're looking to score. I don't want to hold back anything."
Neither do any of the other nine Nittany Lions as Penn State hunts for its fourth consecutive national championship at the tournament, which runs today through Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Megaludis will be joined by freshman Jimmy Gulibon (133), freshman Zain Retherford (141), senior James English (149), junior Dylan Alton (157), senior David Taylor (165), junior Matt Brown (174), senior Ed Ruth (184), sophomore Morgan McIntosh (197) and junior Jon Gingrich (285).
Taylor, who is seeking his second title and a Penn State-record fourth trip to the finals, will try to do his part like he always does - scoring points like a wrestler in a video game.
"In the national tournament, what's made the difference for us is we've gotten those extra points when we've needed them. Just like every year it's going to be important this year," Taylor said. "The biggest thing is everyone wants to tighten up a little bit at the NCAA tournament. It's natural to be nervous. The biggest thing you can't do is change what you've done your whole life, all season, every dual meet, every match. Do the same thing."
Ruth is trying to become the Nittany Lions' first three-time champion while the team tries to nail down four in a row.
"I feel like they go hand in hand," he said. "As long as everybody does what they're supposed to do, keep winning matches, going for the extra bonus points, I feel like they're both kind of the same thing for me.
"Even if it turns out I don't get my third title, but the team gets its fourth title, it would feel like a win for me, because everyone helps get that fourth title."
Three teams figure to have the horsepower to stand in Penn State's path to another championship: Iowa and Oklahoma State, with 10 qualifiers each, and Minnesota, which has nine qualifiers.
"It could be (close). We have to wrestle well but everyone else has to wrestle well too. That's the exciting part. There are several good teams that have a chance to win," coach Cael Sanderson said. "It is very simple: It's whoever scores the most points wins. We're not gonna worry about any other team or their seeds or what's going on with them. That's just gonna distract us from our opportunity to score as many points as we can.
"That's the way I look at it. We're not hoping somebody else fails or if they lose early. We're certainly not cheering for them, the teams we're competing against. But we're gonna live in our own little world and score points when we can."
In years past, Sanderson has refused to admit his Nittany Lions are defending their title from the previous year. However, this year that stance has changed a bit. Perhaps it's because Penn State could join Oklahoma State and Iowa as the only teams to win four titles in a row.
"We don't talk too much about it. We do a little bit. It's more about making sure our individuals are clear about what they want. You don't have to tell these guys what we want to do. They know we want to win as a team and I think it's something to be grateful for. We have the opportunity to go for our fourth championship in a row. We have three and nothing can change that; that's a done deal. If we want to win four, well, the opportunity is there," Sanderson said.
"We have to go score some points and wrestle with some fire and stick to the principles that have gotten us to this point and put these guys in a position where they have an opportunity to wrestle for a team championship. That's hustle and that's gratitude and that's being mean and clear on what you want and all those core values and principles and that's what we try to focus on."