Make it three

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestlers, ranked No. 1 throughout the year on Intermat, lived up to that billing Sunday by winning their third straight Big Ten championship.

The Nittany Lions finished with 151 points. Minnesota was second at 139 and Iowa third with 133.5.

Penn State claimed half the postseason hardware as well. Junior Ed Ruth was named 2013 Big Ten Wrestlers of the Year and Cael Sanderson won his third straight Big Ten Coach of the Year award, sharing this year’s honor with Minnesota’s J Robinson.

All 10 Nittany Lions will make their way to the NCAA Championships on March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa, as Penn State looks to win its third-straight NCAA crown.

Junior David Taylor was Penn State’s first finalist. Taylor, ranked No. 2 nationally at 165 and the top seed, took on second seed Conrad Polz of Illinois in the finals. As the Illini played defense, and was hit with three stall calls, Taylor notched two takedowns, a reversal and more than three minutes in riding time to roll to a 9-1 major decision while becoming Penn State’s third three-time Big Ten champion.

Fifth-seeded sophomore Matt Brown battled No. 2 seed Mike Evans of Iowa in the finals. After Evans was given an early lead on a penalty point due to a pulled sock, Brown went on a rampage. The Nittany Lion sophomore escaped to start the second period and then bulled through a high double, taking Evans to his back to take a commanding 6-1 lead off the five point move. He added 2:29 in riding time in a 7-3 win, becoming a Big Ten champion in his first trip to the conference tournament.

Junior Ed Ruth, ranked No. 1 nationally at 184, picked up his third-straight Big Ten championship over Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus, ranked No. 5 nationally and the No. 2 seed, in the finals. Ruth took care of the Gopher and nearly clinched the team title with a 5-3 win, using takedowns in the first and third periods to roll to victory.

Bald Eagle Are graduate and senior Quentin Wright, No. 2 nationally at 197, took on second-seed Scott Schiller of Minnesota in the finals. Never threatened, Wright rolled his way to a 5-3 win over Schiller, using second and third period takedowns for the margin. Wright’s win gives him his second Big Ten title and clinched the team title for Penn State. Wright heads to Des Moines looking to become a four-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion with a perfect 27-0 record.

The six remaining Nittany Lions placed high enough to advance to the national tournament.

All-American Nico Megaludis (125 pounds) rebounded from a loss in the semifinals, downing Nikko Triggas of Ohio State 4-1 in the consolation semis then rolling past Sean Boyle of Michigan, 4-1, for third place.

Sophomore Andrew Alton (149), a Central Mountain product, went 1-1 in consolation action, finishing fourth. Alton picked up a 13-4 major over Michigan State’s Dan Osterman in the semis, but was pinned in the second period after building a 5-0 lead on Purdue’s Ivan Loupochanski. His brother, All-American Dylan Alton, ranked No. 5 nationally at 157, went 0-2 in consolation action and took sixth with a 3-3 record.

Sophomore heavyweight Jimmy Lawson ended the weekend in eighth place. Red-shirt freshman Jordan Conaway finished fifth at 133. Senior Bryan Pearsall (141), having earned his first trip to the NCAA Championships, ended the Big Ten tournament with a win in the fifth place bout.

Penn State closed out the tournament with a 20-9 record and no wrestler placing lower than eighth. Penn State stacked up 20.5 bonus points off of five pins, three tech falls and six majors. Prior to Taylor and Ruth, only Kerry McCoy (1994-97) and Sanshiro Abe (1993-96) won three Big Ten titles in their careers. In addition to Ruth’s Wrestler of the Year and Sanderson’s Coach of the Year awards, all four champions (Taylor, Brown, Ruth and Wright) were named First Team All-Big Ten honorees. Wisconsin heavyweight Connor Medberry was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Illinois’ Jesse Delgado was the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.

The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships will be contested on March 21-23 in the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Penn State is the two-time defending national champion.