By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Penn State sophomore David Taylor won the NCAA title at 165 pounds on Saturday night. Larry Slater photo.
ST. LOUIS – The Penn State Nittany Lions are the kings of college wrestling once again.
And the top-ranked team in the land may have the firepower to stay there for a while.
Penn State crowned three champions to put the finishing touches on its second straight team title at the NCAA Championships on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions won their third national title overall before a record-setting sellout crowd of 18,919 fans at the Scottrade Center. Penn State, which clinched the title in Saturday’s first session, finished with 143 points.
The Nittany Lions crowned champions in senior Frank Molinaro (149 pounds), along with sophomores David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (174).
"I'm real happy for the guys," said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who won his second title in three seasons with the Nittany Lions. "I think they wrestled great. They went out and did what they needed to do. We had some incredible performances."
Second-ranked Minnesota finished second with 117.5 points and one champion. Third-ranked Iowa was third with 107.5 points and one champion. Fifth-ranked Cornell was fourth with 98.5 points and three champions.
The top-seeded Molinaro scored a takedown early in the second period en route to a 4-1 win over Minnesota freshman Dylan Ness in the 149 finals. Molinaro, a senior, climbed one step on the podium after finishing second last year.
Molinaro won a rematch of the Big Ten finals, where he prevailed by technical fall over Ness.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet because I didn’t picture the match going like that,” said Molinaro, who finished the season unbeaten. “It ended up in a dogfight, but I put my heart and soul into this for five years. I didn’t care how I got it, as long as I was standing on top of the podium.”
The top-seeded Taylor capped an unbeaten season by dismantling No. 11 Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh by a 22-7 technical fall in the 165 finals. Taylor pinned his first four opponents of the tournament.
Taylor, a sophomore, put his vast arsenal of leg attacks on full display in rolling to his first title. He scored a quick ankle pick for his first takedown against Hatchett and never let up from there. Taylor was second in the NCAAs as a freshman last year at 157.
“I wasn’t getting second again,” Taylor said. “I love wrestling and this is what I enjoy. I wrestle relentless and try to score every second. That’s what I do every match.”
Taylor was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament and won the Gorrarian Award for recording the most falls in the least amount of time.
"I couldn't be more happy for David," Sanderson said. "I'm not a history buff in any way, but I don't know if there's ever been a more dominant performance at the NCAA tournament."
The top-seeded Ruth rolled to a 13-2 major decision over No. 3 seed Nick Amuchastegui of Stanford in a battle of unbeaten wrestlers in the 174 finals. Ruth lost to Amuchastegui in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2011.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Ruth said. “When you are on the mat and you have the title within your grasp, it’s amazing.”
Cornell junior Kyle Dake captured his third NCAA title with a 4-1 win over Derek St. John of Iowa in the 157 finals. The top-seeded Dake scored a takedown on a leg attack in the match’s first minute and then rode the No. 2 St. John the rest of the period to take control early.
Dake became the first wrestler to win NCAA titles in three different weight classes. Dake won an NCAA title at 141 in 2010 before winning at 149 last year.
“It’s a really good feeling, doing something that no one’s done before,” Dake said. “It was a tough match. He went hard like any Iowa guy would. He’s a good hand-fighter, and you have to give him credit for the fact that he gave it his all.”
Dake’s teammate, senior Steve Bosak, followed suit by knocking off returning national champion Quentin Wright of Penn State 4-2 in overtime in the 184 finals. Bosak, from State College, Pa., shot in on Wright’s legs and eventually finished for the match-ending takedown.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Bosak said. “It feels awesome. Our coaches had us ready to peak at the right time.”
Cornell’s third champion came when top-seeded Cam Simaz outlasted No. 2 Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro 7-5 in the 197 finals. Simaz scored a takedown early in the third period that proved to be the difference.
“The game plan was to go out and wrestle hard for seven minutes,” Simaz said. “That’s my game plan every single time. I don’t always tech guys, but I try.”
Michigan senior Kellen Russell captured his second straight national title at 141 after earning a dramatic 6-4 overtime over Iowa senior Montell Marion in the 141 finals.
The match was tied 4-4 after regulation before the top-seeded Russell countered a Marion shot and spun behind him for the winning takedown with 37 seconds left in the one-minute overtime. The third-seeded Marion also finished second in 2010.
“I think I wrestled a lot better this whole tournament,” said Russell when asked to compare this title to his first. “The whole tournament I felt more comfortable and confident in my shots. I think I controlled the match pretty well.”
Ohio State freshman Logan Stieber broke a 2-2 tie by scoring a takedown late in the second period en route to knocking off returning national champion Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State 4-3 in the 133 finals.
The top-seeded Oliver was in deep on a leg attack late in the match against the No. 2 Stieber, but was unable to finish before time ran out. Stieber won a Junior World silver medal in freestyle in 2011 and Oliver is a past Junior World bronze medalist.
“Jordan’s an awesome wrestler,” said Stieber, who becomes the first freshman to win a national title for the Buckeyes. “I knew he was going to be a handful because last time he whipped my butt. My coaches trained me to be the best. I work out two or three times a day, and try to be the best. This didn’t surprise me, but beating someone of Jordan’s caliber it’s really amazing.”
Top-seeded Iowa junior Matt McDonough captured his second national title after downing Penn State’s Nico Megaludis 4-1 in the 125 finals. McDonough won this event in 2010 and was second last year.
McDonough broke a 1-1 tie by shooting in on a leg attack and finishing for a takedown with just over a minute to go. He added a riding-time point to win. McDonough beat Megaludis 3-1 in overtime during the season.
“It was a tough match,” McDonough said. “It was a seven-minute battle. You try to make improvements and widen the gap, and perform better than you did the time before.”
Minnesota sophomore Tony Nelson countered a leg attack by returning champion Zach Rey of Lehigh late in the match and won a scramble to gain the winning takedown with seven seconds left.
The second-seeded Nelson added a riding-time point to win 4-1 over the No. 4 Rey in the heavyweight finals.
“I trained hard all year,” said Nelson, who placed seventh last year. “This is what you work for. I just went out there and didn’t change anything, and just tried to act like it was any other match. I wrestled my style and tried to get after him. He’s a strong guy. It was hard to get to his legs, but in the end it all worked out.”
Nelson’s coach, J Robinson, was named Coach of the Year.
A new all-session attendance record was set with 112,393 total fans for the six sessions. That broke the previous record of 104,260, set last year in Philadelphia.
The 2013 NCAA Championships are scheduled to be held in Des Moines, Iowa.
TOP 10 TEAMS
Penn State 143, Minnesota 117.5, Iowa 107.5, Cornell 102.5, Ohio State 68.5, Oklahoma State 66, Illinois 62, Lehigh 61, Northwestern 42.5, Oregon State 40.5.
1st – Matt McDonough (Iowa) dec. Nico Megaludis (Penn State), 4-1
3rd – Zach Sanders (Minnesota) dec. Frank Perrelli (Cornell), 6-4 OT
5th – Ryan Mango (Stanford) dec. Nic Bedelyon (Kent State), 6-4 OT
7th – Jesse Delgado (Illinois) dec. Steve Bonanno (Hofstra), 3-1
1st – Logan Stieber (Ohio State) dec. Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State), 4-3
3rd – Tony Ramos (Iowa) pinned Chris Dardanes (Minnesota), 6:49
5th – Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) pinned B.J. Futrell (Illinois), 1:45
7th – Zach Stevens (Michigan) dec. Steven Keith (Harvard), 13-11
1st – Kellen Russell (Michigan) dec. Montell Marion (Iowa), 6-4 OT
3rd – Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly) dec. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma), 4-3 OT
5th – Michael Mangrum (Oregon State) pinned Hunter Stieber (Ohio State), 4:14
7th – Michael Nevinger (Cornell) dec. Darius Little (North Carolina State), 10-3
1st – Frank Molinaro (Penn State) dec. Dylan Ness (Minnesota), 4-1
3rd – Donald Vinson (Binghamton) dec. Cam Tessari (Ohio State), 12-10
5th – Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh) dec. Justin Accordino (Hofstra), 4-3
7th – Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon State) dec. Nick Lester (Oklahoma), 1-0
1st – Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. Derek St. John (Iowa), 4-1
3rd – Dylan Alton (Penn State) dec. Jason Welch (Northwestern), 6-2
5th – James Fleming (Clarion) dec. Ganbayar Sanjaa (American), 7-5
7th – James Green (Nebraska) dec. Walter Peppelman (Harvard), 9-1
1st – David Taylor (Penn State) won by technical fall over Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh), 22-7
3rd – Bekzod Abdurakhmanov (Clarion) dec. Kyle Blevins (Appalachian State), 6-2
5th – Peter Yates (Virginia Tech) dec. Josh Asper (Maryland), 13-7
7th – Ben Jordan (Wisconsin) dec. Conrad Polz (Illinois), 5-2
1st – Ed Ruth (Penn State) dec. Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford), 13-2
3rd – Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) dec. Jordan Blanton (Illinois), 4-1
5th – Nick Heflin (Ohio State) dec. Logan Storley (Minnesota), 3-2
7th – Ethen Lofthouse (Iowa) dec. Ryan DesRoches (Cal Poly), 3-1
1st – Steve Bosak (Cornell) dec. Quentin Wright (Penn State), 4-2 OT
3rd – Austin Trotman (Appalachian State) dec. Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), 3-1 OT
5th – Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota) dec. Ben Bennett (Central Michigan), 3-1
7th – Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming) won by medical forfeit over Josh Ihnen (Nebraska)
1st – Cam Simaz (Cornell) dec. Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro), 7-5
3rd – Cayle Byers (Oklahoma State) dec. Matthew Wilps (Pittsburgh), 3-2
5th – Sonny Yohn (Minnesota) dec. Alfonso Hernandez (Wyoming), 4-1
7th – Micah Burak (Penn) dec. Joseph Kennedy (Lehigh), 2-1 OT
1st – Tony Nelson (Minnesota) dec. Zach Rey (Lehigh), 4-1
3rd – Michael McMullan (Northwestern) dec. Clayton Jack (Oregon State), 10-5
5th – Bobby Telford (Iowa) won by medical forfeit over Ryan Flores (American)
7th – Jeremy Johnson (Ohio) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (Binghamton), 11-5