While most of Penn State sports were struggling over the holidays the wrestling team turned in their best performance in years. I along with most fans were hoping for a top 3 or 4 finish at last weeks Souther Scuffle with strong performances from Penn State's freshman some of who have been a tad untested going in to the tournament. Penn State turned in a stellar performance especially from their freshman and ended up tied with nationally top ranked Cornell, for first place. When you consider that both Penn State and Cornell were without a couple of starters it makes the showing all that more impressive for both teams.
Penn State also got some good news off the mats this past week. Andrew Long is eligible and ready to make his Penn State debut a "clerical error" caused him to miss the Souther Scuffle but he should be in the line up this weekend at the Virginia Duals.
Quentin Wright is said to be way ahead of schedule in his rehab from his should injury. He could be ready as early as this week, although it sounds the coaches will likely hold him out at least another week or so. However Quentin has said he would love to get another shot at Lehigh's Robert Hamlin which could happen this weekend, if both teams make the finals at the Virginia Duals.
125: Brad Pataky saw his first action of the year for the Nittany Lions. It certainly didn't go as well as he and many Penn State fans had hoped as he failed to place. But it's important to remember that this was his first action of the season. Although there's no question the blow out loss to Sean Boyle of Michigan was not only shocking it was extremely disappointing.
Frank Martellotti continued to wrestle well even though he received his first collegiate defeat at the tournament. His major decision loss to Perrelli of Cornell was very disappointing, especially the extra point given up for a major decision.
It's tough to say where this weight class goes for the rest of the year, obviously the two will have to wrestle off in the room for the starting spot. My guess is that you'll still see a mix of the two for the next few weeks. I think if Brad was 100% he would be the clear starter but I'm not sure his knee will be 100% this year. Frank has wrestled well but it's still tough to get a feel for exactly where he sits nationally.
133: As mentioned it was expected Andrew Long was going to make his debut this week but that didn't happen. Had he wrestled he likely would have given Penn State enough points to win the team title out right.
Bryan Pearsall had a good tournament even though he didn't place. His two losses came against very tough opponents and he was able to pick up a few pins for some much needed team points.
This weight will also need a wrestle off in the next few weeks, and while Pearsall has really come on strong I can't see him beating Long at this point. Although it's important to note that Long hasn't wrestled yet at 133 so it's difficult to say how the move up in weight will effect him. But being NCAA runner up last year was no fluke and he should provide a big spark in the lower weights.
141: Andrew Alton finally got to wrestle some ranked opponents this weekend and he did very well. He picked up two wins over the 10th ranked wrestler including one major decision. But probably the most encouraging match was his lone loss to top ranked Kellen Russell. Alton got a take down mid way through the third period to take a 3 1 lead but was unable to ride Russell essentially at all, and gave up the deciding takedown with 20 seconds left. It's not too surprising that Alton would struggle a little bit trying to ride guys as most freshman do since they didn't have to do it much in high school, but if he could have even been just a little better it could have been the difference in the match. Also Andrew became way to cautious and defensive in the final 30 seconds trying to hang on to the win and Russell capitalized. But this was a good match and one he can definitely learn from and build from going forward. There should be no question know that Andrew is right there with the top guys at the weight which is great to see.
Adam Lynch also had a good tournament for the Penn State it was disappointing to see him get caught and pinned when he was leading in his last match. But it's good to see Penn State has some solid depth at this weight.
149: Frank Molinaro seems to be back to form from a year ago. He dominated his way to the finals before falling to top ranked Kyle Dake 1 0 in the final. Like Alton this is another match Penn State can really learn from. Frank really pushed the action throughout the match but was unable to break through Dake's strong defense from neutral. I think the decision not to take bottom is a questionable one as Dake is tough but not unstoppable from the top position. Hopefully we'll get to see these two go at it again at NCAA's in a few months. I think both wrestlers will only get better, as Dake clearly has some work to do on his conditioning.
James English also had a great tournament for Penn State. He finished 7th and also had a close loss to Dake. English would be a starter for most teams at the division 1 level and it's really a shame Penn State has no room for him in the lineup. I truly think he could be a top ten wrestler at this weight.
157: David Taylor had a better tournament than many could have imagined. While 157 appeared to be a little weaker than some of the other weights coming in Taylor still found a way to make statement, winning all of his matches by pin or tech fall. Including a final match over Paul Young of Indiana who is ranked 9th in country. Young was a wrestler a lot of people thought might give Taylor trouble due to his strength. But Taylor responded by pounding him 18 2. Taylor looks like the clear favorite to win the Big Ten at this point and is clearly a national title contender.
James Vollrath also had a great tournament, finishing 3rd place including a over 7th ranked Bryce Saddoris of Navy. What makes James's performance really incredible was that he lost his first match of the tournament and then won 9 straight matches to finish third. That's extremely difficult to do at any level and is a testament to his mental toughness and conditioning.
165: Both Nick Fischer and Jake Kemerer went 3 2 and neither had a very memorable tournament. Jake had a close loss to PJ Gillespie who is ranked 6th in the country. I think that could have been a break through win for Jake if he would have gotten it. I really expected big things from him this year and so far he's been a bit of a disappointment. I'm honestly not sure if he's really strong enough and big enough to compete at a 165 pounds. He still needs to get his offense going more but that's something that won't happen over night. This weight class certainly seems open and another one where I'm sure wrestle offs are taking place in the room. I still think with some improvement as the year goes on either of these guys could make some noise in March but I don't think either will be able to achieve all american honors this year.
174: Ed Ruth had the best tournament you will ever see from a freshman. He was deservedly named Outstanding Wrestler and will likely find himself in at least the top three in this weeks rankings. All he did was steamroll his first three opponents before absolutely dominating the top 2 ranked wrestlers in the country at the weight. And Lewnes, who was top ranked, and Henrich, 2nd, are legitimate top 2 wrestlers. Lewnes was the NCAA runner up last year and gave up just 1 takedown the entire season before NCAAs. Ruth beat them by a scores of 11 5 and 7 2 respectively. The good news is the Penn State coaching staff has been raving for months about his work ethic so I don't think we'll have to worry to much about him relaxing at this point. He's vaulted himself into the national title race and could be a key component in Penn State's run for a national title in Philly. Ruth has a rare combination of speed, and power that you don't often see in the upper weights and he could be something truly special. Kudos for the previous coaching staff under Troy Sunderland for bringing him to Penn State. He doesn't have the credentials some of the other Penn State guys have but the coaches that recruited him knew what they were doing. Also important to note he likely would have won a PIAA state title or two and been far more sought after had he not kept running into a kid named Quentin Wright at the state tournament.
184: Andrew Church filled in for Quentin Wright for the first time and was quickly eliminated going 0 2 at the weight. It sounds like Justin Ortega should be down to 184 this weekend for Penn State. Hopefully Wright will be back shortly after that so we don't have to suffer through too many of Ortega's offensively challenged matches.
197: Nick Ruggear really struggled at the tournament finishing 1 - 2. It's clear there's not much Penn State can do about this weight class this year and it will be interesting to see if they can still contend for a title without getting any points at this weight class at nationals which is what's likely to occur as it appears unlikely Nick will make it past the Big Tens.
Hwt: Cameron Wade continued his impressive roll with a Souther Scuffle title. He beat two ranked wrestlers including a bizarre finals match where Wade actually took top trailing 2 1, which in usually unheard of. Luckily the gutsy called paid off as he was able to pick up back points for the 4 2 win. It's good to see Cameron continue to wrestle well and I think he's really starting to improve, as I said before though now we need to see him take the next step and beat someone ranked ahead of him in the rankings. But more importantly he's at least gotten to the point now where he's no longer losing to the guys he should beat.
The wrestling team gets back to action this Friday and Saturday at the Virginia Duals. Truthfully the field for this tournament is a bit weak this year, with no Oklahoma or Oklahoma State in attendance. Penn State enters as the top seed and quite honestly anything less than Penn State winning the whole thing would have to be considered a disappointment. Penn State has already beaten the 2nd seed Lehigh earlier this season and Penn State with Long, Molinaro and possibly Wright back in the lineup should be stronger this time around. Penn State will take on VMI in the first round Friday morning and it should be an absolute blow out. Many fans hoped to see a match up with Arizona State solely to see Bubba Jenkins wrestle David Taylor, that match up is still possible but wouldn't occur until the semifinals and Arizona State would have to get past at tough Kent State team first.