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Penn State, Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Iowa locked in close battle at NCAA Championships

Three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake of Cornell advanced to the quarterfinals at 165. John Sachs photo.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Top-ranked Penn State stormed out strong to maintain its lead at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

The Nittany Lions won their first 10 matches in the second session on Thursday night before 16,131 fans at Wells Fargo Arena.

Penn State, seeking its third straight team title, stayed in the lead with 32.5 points after the first of three days of competition. Penn State advanced six wrestlers to the quarterfinals and went 4-1 in the wrestlebacks on Thursday.

“I think we’re doing well,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Today is just kind of for show when it comes to the team points because the big points are scored tomorrow. There are some big matches tomorrow that will make a difference so we need to be ready for them.”

Oklahoma State turned in a superb first day and is in second place with 29 points. The Cowboys have seven in the quarterfinals.

"It was a good day as far as the number of wins we got," Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. "We had to fight through a couple of tough matches in some weights you didn't expect, but that's what you have to do in this tournament. Not everything goes right. For us, we were gritty in those tough matches early on."

Minnesota is in third with 24 points and five in the quarters. Iowa is in fourth with 22 points and six in the quarters.

The Hawkeyes suffered a costly setback when returning All-American and No. 6 seed Bobby Telford of Iowa was unable to take the mat for his second-round match. Telford suffered a knee injury in his first-round win at 285 pounds.

The quarterfinals are set for 10 a.m. on Friday in Des Moines.

Three-time NCAA champion and No. 1 seed Kyle Dake of Cornell rolled past Indiana’s Ryan LeBlanc by a 10-0 major decision in the second round. Dake piled up nearly four minutes of riding time in the win at 165 pounds.

Dake advances to face No. 8 Nick Sulzer of Virginia in the quarterfinals.

“I felt pretty good conditioning-wise and feel healthy,” said Dake, now 17-0 in the NCAA tournament in his career. “The guys are bringing different strategies for me. It makes it tough, but a win is a win. I will keep wrestling hard and keep trying to score points.”

Dake is seeking to become just the third wrestler to win four NCAA titles and the first to do it in four different weight classes. He has previously won NCAAs at 141, 149 and 157.

Dake has won 74 straight matches for Cornell.

Penn State’s David Taylor, the returning 165-pound champion and Hodge Trophy winner, recorded his second straight first-period fall after pinning Zachary Strickland of Appalachian State.

The NCAA is anticipating a Dake-Taylor finals showdown, with the 165 match moved to the last bout of Saturday night’s finals.

Past NCAA champions Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) of Penn State both advanced to the quarterfinals.

Ruth recorded his second straight pin to extend his winning streak to 65 consecutive wins. Ruth cradled and pinned Kevin Radford of Arizona State in the second round.

“Those bonus points are really important,” Ruth said. “We just have to keep this momentum going. When you see a teammate get a pin, you want to go out there and do the same thing.”

Two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough of Iowa (125) reached the quarterfinals as did past NCAA champions Logan Stieber of Ohio State (133), Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State (149), Steve Bosak of Cornell (184), Dustin Kilgore of Kent State (197) and Tony Nelson of Minnesota (285).

Iowa earned a key win at 184 when No. 12 Ethen Lofthouse scored a third-period takedown to edge No. 5 Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota 3-2.

Hawkeye All-American Tony Ramos recorded two first-period pins at 133.

“When things open up, you’ve got to strike hard and you’ve got to strike fast,” said Ramos, third in this tournament last year. “I’m wrestling hard and trying to score a lot of bonus points for the team. I want to dominate out there.”

Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt notched his second straight upset when he knocked off returning NCAA runner-up and No. 6 seed Dylan Ness of Minnesota 5-2 at 149.
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