By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – It is becoming a familiar scene in early March.
The Penn State Nittany Lions gather on the middle mat on a late Sunday afternoon, putting on T-shirts and caps after registering another strong performance at the Big Ten Championships.
Penn State juniors David Taylor and Ed Ruth earned their third straight individual titles to lead the nation’s No. 1 team to its third straight conference team title on Sunday at Assembly Hall.
The Nittany Lions, who will seek their third straight NCAA title in less than two weeks, finished with 151 points. Penn State’s Quentin Wright won his second league title and Matt Brown his first. The Nittany Lions went 4-0 in the finals while qualifying all 10 wrestlers for the NCAAs.
“I think it was a good tournament and I think a lot of teams wrestled really well,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Iowa did a great job with nine in the semis, Minnesota came storming back and Ohio State had a great tournament. You really get to see what you’re made of in these two days.”
Third-ranked Minnesota finished second with 139 points. Junior Tony Nelson won his second title and sophomore Dylan Ness his first. The Gophers qualified all 10 wrestlers for nationals.
Fourth-ranked Iowa, which closed to within half a point of the Nittany Lions entering the finals, went 0-for-4 in the finals and finished third with 133.5 points. The Hawkeyes qualified nine wrestlers for the NCAAs.
“I could be very generic in my comments, and I am, but in my head there are a lot of specifics. We have to be tougher,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “There’s no doubt we need to do certain things to be tougher. It starts with finishing. It starts with urgency in those situations.”
Iowa grabbed a big early lead after advancing nine wrestlers to the semifinals on Saturday before Penn State battled back.
"We have some real good kids and some great leaders on our team," Sanderson said. "We have some great wrestlers and they continued to stay focused."
Ruth, a 2012 NCAA champion at 174, was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year after defeating returning 184 champion Kevin Steinhaus 5-3 in the finals.
Sanderson and Minnesota’s J Robinson shared the Big Ten Coach of the Year honor.
Illinois sophomore Jesse Delgado was named Outstanding Wrestler after downing two-time NCAA and two-time Big Ten champion Matt McDonough of Iowa 10-4 in the 125 finals. Delgado took command with an early takedown in beating McDonough for the second time this season.
"I know guys like him are going to come after me for seven minutes," Delgado said. "I just had to attack the whole time and continue to wrestle. I'm a lot faster than he is. He relies on a lot of funk and countering guys, and I'm not going to let that happen against him."
Taylor, the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year in 2011 and 2012, rolled to a 9-1 win over Conrad Polz of Illinois in the 165 finals.
The Big Ten has secured 74 automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships, set for March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa. An additional 40 at-large spots will be awarded from all conferences on Wednesday for the NCAA tournament.
Returning NCAA champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State repeated as Big Ten champion by downing Iowa’s Tony Ramos for the second straight year in the 133 finals. Stieber converted a single-leg shot into a takedown to win 3-1 in overtime. Both wrestlers entered the match unbeaten.
Stieber’s brother, Hunter, followed suit with an 8-3 win over Iowa’s Mark Ballweg in the 141 finals.
Nelson, a returning NCAA champion for the Gophers, beat Northwestern’s Mike McMullan 4-1 in the 285 finals.
Ness captured the 149 title after pinning Nebraska’s Jake Sueflohn in the finals. Ness was second in this tournament last year before placing second at the 2012 NCAAs as a freshman.
Wright, a 2011 NCAA champion at 184, earned a 5-3 win over Minnesota’s Scott Schiller in the 197 finals.
Brown threw Iowa’s Mike Evans to his back late in the match en route to a 7-3 win in the 174 finals.
Northwestern senior Jason Welch, a two-time All-American, captured the title in the loaded 157 class. Welch trailed late in the match before pinning Nebraska’s James Green in the finals. Welch had lost to Green, a returning All-American, in a regular-season dual meet.
Wisconsin heavyweight Connor Medbery was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He placed fourth.
Penn State 151, Minnesota 139, Iowa 133.5, Ohio State 109.5, Illinois 85.5, Michigan 75, Nebraska 61, Northwestern 56, Purdue 38, Wisconsin 37, Indiana 30.5, Michigan State 22.
1st – Jesse Delgado (Illinois) dec. Matt McDonough (Iowa), 10-4
3rd – Nico Megaludis (Penn State) dec. Sean Boyle (Michigan), 4-1
5th – Nikko Triggas (Ohio State) dec. David Thorn (Minnesota), 3-2 TB1
7th – Joe Duca (Indiana) dec. Camden Eppert (Purdue), 8-3
1st – Logan Stieber (Ohio State) dec. Tony Ramos (Iowa), 3-1 SV
3rd – Tyler Graff (Wisconsin) dec. Chris Dardanes (Minnesota), 4-1
5th – Jordan Conaway (Penn State ) dec. Daryl Thomas (Illinois), 4-1
7th – Rossi Bruno (Michigan) dec. Shawn Nagel (Nebraska), 5-2
1st – Hunter Stieber (Ohio State) dec. Mark Ballweg (Iowa), 8-3
3rd – Nick Dardanes (Minnesota) dec. Brandon Nelsen (Purdue), 13-3
5th – Bryan Pearsall (Penn State ) dec. Pat Greco (Northwestern), 4-2 SV1
7th – Camryn Jackson (Michigan) pinned Thomas Kelliher (Wisconsin), 3:25
1st – Dylan Ness (Minnesota) pinned Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska), 3:27
3rd – Ivan Lopouchanski (Purdue) pinned Andrew Alton (Penn State ), 4:09
5th – Dan Osterman (Michigan State) dec. Ian Paddock (Ohio State), 6-3
7th – Eric Grajales (Michigan) pinned Caleb Ervin (Illinois), 2:40
1st – Jason Welch (Northwestern) pinned James Green (Nebraska), 6:38
3rd – Derek St. John (Iowa) dec. Josh Demas (Ohio State), 3-2
5th – Danny Zilverberg (Minnesota) dec. Dylan Alton (Penn State), 6-2
7th – Ryan Watts (Michigan State) dec. Taylor Walsh (Indiana), 3-2
1st – David Taylor (Penn State) dec. Conrad Polz (Illinois), 9-1
3rd – Cody Yohn (Minnesota) dec. Nick Moore (Iowa), 6-1 SV
5th – Taylor Massa (Michigan) dec. Pierce Harger (Northwestern), 17-0
7th – Ryan LeBlanc (Indiana) dec. Mark Martin (Ohio State), 3-1
1st – Matt Brown (Penn State) dec. Mike Evans (Iowa), 7-3
3rd – Robert Kokesh (Nebraska) dec. Jordan Blanton (Illinois), 4-3
5th – Nick Heflin (Ohio State) dec. Dan Yates (Michigan), 5-3
7th – Logan Storley (Minnesota) dec. Chad Welch (Purdue), 11-3
1st – Ed Ruth (Penn State) dec. Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 5-3
3rd – Ethen Lofthouse (Iowa) dec. Josh Ihnen (Nebraska), 8-1
5th – C.J. Magrum (Ohio State) dec. Tony Dallago (Illinois), 5-1
7th – Chris Heald (Michigan) dec. Luke Sheridan (Indiana), 3-1 SV
1st – Quentin Wright (Penn State) dec. Scott Schiller (Minnesota), 5-3
3rd – Mario Gonzalez (Illinois) dec. Nathan Burak (Iowa), 3-2
5th – Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State) pinned Max Huntley (Michigan), 1:31
7th – Jackson Hein (Wisconsin) dec. Braden Atwood (Purdue), 4-2
1st – Tony Nelson (Minnesota) dec. Mike McMullan (Northwestern), 4-1
3rd – Bobby Telford (Iowa) dec. Connor Medbery (Wisconsin), 5-2
5th – Adam Chalfant (Indiana) dec. Ben Apland (Michigan), 16-6
7th – Mike McClure (Michigan State) pinned Jimmy Lawson (Penn State), 7:33 SV