Lions jump to 1st for 4th-straight title

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – With two individual champions and a balanced team approach, the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team moved past both Minnesota and Oklahoma state at day two of the Southern Scuffle Thursday for its fourth straight title. Penn State won the title with 189.0 points, while Oklahoma State was second with 164.5 and Minnesota third at 161.0. Eleven of Penn State’s 17 competitors placed at the event.

Zain Retherford and David Taylor were individual champions at the event, while Nico Megaludis, Jimmy Gulibon, Matt Brown and Ed Ruth were finalists. Juniata graduate Zack Beitz went 2-2 overall, but did not place.

Day two of the Southern Scuffle began with the quarterfinals and fourth round of consolations. Megaludis, ranked No. 2 at 125, opened up Penn State’s run of 12 quarterfinalists with 12-4 major over No. 12 Evan Silver of Stanford. Red-shirt freshman Jimmy Gulibon, ranked No. 17 at 133, posted his most impressive win to date, notching a hard-fought 2-1 win over No. 5 Ryan Mango of Stanford to move into the semis.

True freshman Retherford, ranked No. 2 at 141, posted a 2-0 win over No. 11 Zach Horan of Central Michigan to move into the semifinals while Beitz lost a close 3-1 decision to No. 8 Chris Villalonga of Cornell.

All-American David Taylor put on a takedown clinic in the third period to roll to a 17-6 major over No. 15 Dylan Palacio of Cornell while All-American Matt Brown, ranked No. 3 at 174, pinned Oregon State at the 4:25 mark, shortly after fellow All-American Ed Ruth, ranked No. 1 at 184, pinned No. 15 Sam Wheeler of Kent State in just 1:07.

Penn State’s semifinalists began action at 1:30 p.m. and Megaludis led things off with a dominant 7-2 win over No. 6 Josh Martinez of Air Force. Gulibon then notched yet another huge win, this time over No. 10 David Thorn of Minnesota. Gulibon’s 4-3 decision, fighting off a late shot by the Gopher, was key in the team race. Retherford was unfazed by his first Scuffle semifinal, rolling to a 2-0 win over No. 7 Chris Mecate of Old Dominion.

Taylor took the mat at 165 and added to his gaudy career totals by pinning No. 9 Zach Toal of Missouri at the 4:59 mark. The pin, his second of the tournament, was the 46th of his career. Then at 174, Brown walked away with a hard-fought 3-2 win over No. 5 Logan Storley of Minnesota in his semifinal bout, notching another big win in the team race. Ruth made it six in a row for Penn State in the semis with a dominating 22-7 technical fall over No. 12 Lorenzo Thomas of Penn at 184. The win was Ruth’s 84th straight.

In the finals, Megaludis took on No.1 Garrett first at 125. The Lion junior fell behind early and mounted a furious rally before dropping a tough 6-4 decision to the top ranked Garrett. Megaludis lost 6-4 and took second place with a 5-1 run, including three majors.

At 133, Gulibon, who entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed, took on No. 1-ranked Jon Morrison of Oklahoma State. Gulibon dropped a 4-0 decision to the Cowboy grappler, taking second place. Gulibon’s 5-1 run as was critical in Penn State’s team-title run as the Lion improved to 9-7 on the year.

Retherford used a blistering double leg for a clinching takedown against No. 19 Joe Spisak of Virginia. Retherford led late but Spisak surprised the Lion with a late takedown and the bout moved to extra time thanks to riding time for Retherford. The Nittany Lion rookie remained unbeaten, however, and clinched the 2014 Southern Scuffle title for Penn State with a fast takedown in sudden victory. The 6-4 (sv) win gave Retherford the 141-pound Scuffle title and capped off a 5-0 run that included a pin and a major.

Taylor took on No. 2 Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State in the finals and, after a sluggish first period, blistered the Cowboy All-American on his way to a dominating 9-1 major decision. The major was highlighted by two two-point near falls in the second period and one in the third. Taylor also totaled 3:36 in riding time in the victory.

Brown took on No. 2 Chis Perry of Oklahoma State in the finals at 174, a rematch of last year’s NCAA title bout (won by Perry). Perry used two near fall points in the second period as the catalyst to a 4-0 win over Brown in the finals. Brown’s second place finish at the Scuffle came off a 5-1 run which included two pins, a major and a forfeit.

Then, at 184, Lion senior Ed Ruth had his 84-match win streak snapped with a 7-4 upset loss to No. 7 Gabe Dean of Cornell. Dean used a first and third period takedowns and great defense to grab the win and send Ruth to defeat for the first time since his freshman year. Ruth took second at the Scuffle, ending his bid to become a four-time Scuffle title winner as he already has three titles.

Red-shirt freshman Beitz had a nice run at 149 for Penn State. Beitz went 2-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals, including an early round 10-4 upset win over No. 9 Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State. Beitz’ final loss came to teammate Frey in the sixth round of consolations, a close 2-0 decision.

Penn State entered day two with a 38-5 overall record. The Nittany Lions then went 7-5 in the quarters, 6-1 in the semis and 2-4 in the finals as well as 14-13 in all the consolation and medal action combined on day two. Penn State leaves Chattanooga having posted a 67-28 overall record with 17 majors, three tech falls and 11 falls.

Penn State returns to action Jan. 12 when the Lions welcome Purdue to Rec Hall for an already sold-out 2 p.m. showdown, returning home for the first time in nearly a month.