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Dake-Taylor finals matchup set, Penn State closes in on 3rd straight NCAA title



Three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake advanced to the finals on Friday night. Larry Slater photo.

DES MOINES, Iowa – The NCAA Wrestling Championships are set for one of the most exciting finishes in their 83-year history.

The highly anticipated 165-pound finals matchup between Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Penn State’s David Taylor will happen after both wrestlers won semifinal bouts Friday night before 16,131 fans at Wells Fargo Arena.

The 165 finals, as determined before the tournament in anticipation of a Dake-Taylor final, will be the last match of the tournament on Saturday night. Dake is seeking his fourth NCAA title while Taylor is seeking his second after winning the Hodge Trophy last year.

Top-ranked Penn State moved another big step closer to its third straight team title. The Nittany Lions lead second-place and third-ranked Oklahoma State 114.5 to 94 in the team race.

Penn State advanced five wrestlers to the finals and the Cowboys have two in the finals. Minnesota is third with 86 points.

"It was a good round and we're very happy," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. "We won some tough bouts. We could've lost some of those matches, but our guys did a great job out there."

The final day of the tournament starts with consolation semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday followed by placing matches. The finals are set for 7 p.m.

Dake, the No. 1 seed, blanked 2011 NCAA runner-up Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State 2-0 in the semifinals. Dake scored on a second-period escape and then rode Caldwell out in the third period to prevail.

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 outscored his four opponents in this tournament by a combined 28-0. He has won 76 straight matches for Cornell. He is now 19-0 in this tournament in his career.

Taylor, the returning 165-pound champion, pinned No. 3 Peter Yates of Virginia Tech in the semis. Taylor has pinned his way to the finals with four straight falls in this event.

Dake has beaten Taylor three times in the past 11 months. He owns two close wins over him this season and also beat him at the 2012 Olympic Trials in freestyle wrestling.

“It's just another wrestling match for me,” Dake said. “The mat size hasn't changed. There is going to be a referee, a guy sitting across from me, two coaches in my corner and two coaches in his corner. So really it's not that much different. We're going out and wrestling.”

Dake and Taylor have been friends since childhood and have spent time training together.

“I'm taking the role as the guy who is not supposed to win, which is weird for me,” Taylor said. “I just got to go out and wrestle my match more than I have before. I believe I can win a 3-2 match. I know I'm better than him in the top and bottom position and on our feet.

“The more I open him up, the more I can exploit those weaknesses and I'm confident in my ability more than I have been in the last two matches. I'm looking forward to the opportunity more than anything else.”

Dake beat Taylor 3-2 in their most recent meeting at the Southern Scuffle in January.

“He's a goer, and that's his MO,” Dake said. “My defense and counter offense is really good, so if he makes a mistake I'm going to pounce on it. I think that's where he's going out and he's basically imposing his will and everyone is scared to wrestle him.

“But I'm not scared, so I'm not going to let him do that.”

Past NCAA champions Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) of Penn State also reached the finals.

The top-seeded Ruth extended his winning streak to 67 consecutive victories with a 4-1 win over Cornell’s Steve Bosak, the 2012 NCAA champion at 184. Ruth bumped up to 184 this year after winning NCAAs last year at 174.

Ruth will battle Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin in the finals. Hamlin was second in the 2011 NCAAs.

The second-seeded Wright, who won this tournament two years ago at 184, will make his third straight finals appearance after defeating Pitt’s Matt Wilps in a match that went two overtimes. Wright won on riding-time advantage.

Wright will meet No. 1 Dustin Kilgore of Kent State, the 2011 NCAA champion at 197, in the finals. Kilgore edged Oregon State’s Taylor Meeks 8-6 in the semis.

Past NCAA champions Logan Stieber of Ohio State (133), Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State (149) and Tony Nelson of Minnesota (285) also reached the finals.

Nelson edged Oklahoma State’s Alan Gelogaev 5-4 in the semis while Northwestern’s Mike McMullan knocked off No. 1 Dom Bradley of Missouri 3-1 in overtime in the semis at heavyweight.

The top-seeded Stieber, a sophomore, rolled to a 17-2 semifinal win over No. 4 A.J. Schopp of Edinboro at 133.

Stieber will face Iowa’s Tony Ramos in the 133 finals. Ramos scored a takedown in the second overtime to outlast Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff 6-4. Stieber beat Ramos in overtime in the Big Ten finals.

“You got to go out there and you got to fight, fight and keep on fighting,” Ramos said of the rematch with Stieber. “That’s how I’m going to win.”

The top-seeded Oliver, a champion in this event two years ago, looked impressive in putting on a takedown clinic in a 14-3 win over No. 5 Steve Santos of Columbia.

“I believe my best wrestling is still to come in the finals,” Oliver said. “The first two matches, I was mad about my wrestling and wasn’t happy with it. Coming into today, I just looked to get better every single match. Hopefully, I’m wrestling even better in the finals.”

Oliver will battle Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain in the 149 finals. Chamberlain defeated Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt 7-3 in the semis.

Penn State started the session in impressive fashion when No. 4 Nico Megaludis knocked off No. 1 seed and previously unbeaten Alan Waters in the 125 semis. Megaludis won on riding time after the match remained tied 2-2 through two cycles of overtime. Megaludis was second in the 2012 NCAAs.

Megaludis will face Big Ten champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois in the finals. Delgado downed Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett 10-5 in the semis. The slick, athletic Delgado fired in on a pair of early leg attacks to take control.

“I started clicking after the middle of the year,” Delgado said. “My coaches said if I focused on what I needed to do, and got rid of all other distractions, that I could win a national title.”

Top-seeded Chris Perry of Oklahoma State edged No. 4 Robert Kokesh of Nebraska 4-2 in overtime in the 174 semis. Perry will meet Penn State’s Matt Brown in the finals. Brown edged Big Ten rival Logan Storley of Minnesota 3-2 in the semis.

Top-seeded Jason Welch of Northwestern defeated Northern Iowa’s David Bonin in the 157 semis. He will face No. 2 Derek St. John of Iowa in the finals. St. John outlasted freshman Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State 3-2 in two overtimes. St. John escaped in the final 30-second period to prevail.

St. John beat Welch in the 2012 Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, but they have not met this season.

Fourth-seeded Mitchell Port of Edinboro used a riding-time point to edge No. 1 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State 7-6 in the 141 semifinals.

Port will battle second-seeded Kendric Maple of Oklahoma in the finals. Maple blanked Undrakhbayar Khishignyam of The Citadel 4-0 in the 141 semis.

Two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough of Iowa lost his second straight match of the day and fell short of placing at 125. The third-seeded McDonough was a three-time NCAA finalist.

TEAM SCORING (Top 10)
Penn State 114.5, Oklahoma State 94, Minnesota 86, Iowa 68, Cornell 51, Missouri 47.5, Ohio State 46, Iowa State 41, Oregon State 41, Virginia Tech 40.

FINALS MATCHUPS

125 Pounds
Nico Megaludis (Penn State) vs. Jesse Delgado (Illinois)

133 Pounds
Logan Stieber (Ohio State) vs. Tony Ramos (Iowa)

141 Pounds
Mitchell Port (Edinboro) vs. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma)

149 Pounds
Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) vs. Jason Chamberlain (Boise State)

157 Pounds
Jason Welch (Northwestern) vs. Derek St. John (Iowa)

165 Pounds
Kyle Dake (Cornell) vs. David Taylor (Penn State)

174 Pounds
Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) vs. Matt Brown (Penn State)

184 Pounds
Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Robert Hamlin (Lehigh)

197 Pounds
Dustin Kilgore (Kent State) vs. Quentin Wright (Penn State)

285 Pounds
Mike McMullan (Northwestern) vs. Tony Nelson (Minnesota)
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