Snyder wins two at NCAA tourney; Nittany Lions lead in team scoring

DES MOINES, Iowa – The match points came quickly for Matt Snyder on the opening day of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Almost as quickly as the team points came for Penn State.

Snyder, a Lewistown graduate, won two matches to advance to today’s quarterfinal round at Wells Fargo Arena.

He’ll be joined there by six Nittany Lions, who lead the team race with 32.5 points and have nine wrestlers still alive in the tournament. Oklahoma State is in second place with 29 points.

Snyder, the eighth seed wrestling at 125 for Virginia, beat North Dakota State’s ninth-seeded Trent Sprenkle 10-6 in the second round. He beat Old Dominion’s Rob Deutsch 10-4 in his opener.

“I’m just having a lot of fun,” Snyder said. “I’m just wrestling relaxed.”

He even stayed calm when Sprenkle came close to a defensive fall a couple times.

“Anybody reading this back home will know that my style has always scared my parents to death, the way I roll around,” Snyder said. ” I was a little bit more scared than normal in that match, because it was pretty close, but I think I was in control the whole time and the ref didn’t want to give it to him.”

Snyder is a redshirt senior, and said the realization that this is the last time he’ll wrestle actually makes things easier for him.

“It’s easy being relaxed because this is my last tournament,” he said. “I’ve really changed this year. I’ve learned to not let the pressure of the rankings, parents (and) coaches get to me. I just focus on God and glorify him. It may sound cliche, but that’s what is going to help me continue through the rest of the tournament.”

He’ll have a huge opportunity today as he faces top-seeded Alan Waters of Missouri. Not only is Waters unbeaten at 32-0, but he’s also the wrestler who eliminated Snyder last year.

“Any time you get a chance to get a number one seed, it’s fun,” Snyder said.

Penn State had plenty of fun on Thursday, as the Nittany Lions went 6-0 in the second round. Nico Megaludis (125 pounds), Dylan Alton (157), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) each advanced to today’s quarterfinal round. Taylor, Brown and Ruth recorded falls within a matter of a few minutes.

The pins came in such quick succession that Ruth couldn’t even comprehend them.

“I saw Taylor’s name up there on the board and then I didn’t see it on the board,” Ruth said, pointing out that wrestlers who are on deck can’t watch the action. “I was like, ‘Oh, what happened?'”

What happened is the same thing that has happened so often this season – and in each of the past two years for the two-time defending champions – Penn State came up with big bonus-point victories. In addition to those pins, Taylor and Ruth had first-round falls. Alton had two major decisions, Brown added another and Megaludis recorded a technical fall.

“They are really important for us,” Ruth said of the bonus points. “It makes us feel like we can keep this momentum.”

The Nittany Lions did hit a few bumps along the way, as No. 12 Jordan Conaway (133), Bryan Pearsall (141), Andrew Alton (149) and Jimmy Lawson (285) each lost first-round matches, but each scored points for the Nittany Lions.

“As a team, everybody is doing what they have to do,” Ruth said. “We had some matches we didn’t expect to lose. I hate seeing our guys lose. They come in the back and they seem so torn up. I hate to see that of my teammates. We’re like a close family and when they lose, I feel like I lost myself.”

The day didn’t go so well for Indian Valley graduate Tyler Bedelyon. Wrestling for Clarion, the redshirt junior was beaten 9-7 by Navy’s Raymond Borja in the first round, then lost 13-1 to third-seeded Donnie Vinson of Binghamton in the consolation bracket.