FanPost

College Wrestling Season Opens With a Serious Bang

The college wrestling season opened on Saturday night in spectacular fashion with the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-Star match at American University's Bender Arena. Tickets sold out in three days, attendance was high and enthusiastic, and the wrestling was excellent. The event featured former D1 All-Americans at each of the ten weight classes and included four bonus matches wrestled as warmups for the excited crowd.

The NWCA had a rough offseason this year, image-wise. During an unsuccessful attempt by some coaches to change the way the team National Champion is designated, the association gave the impression that leadership was lacking the cohesiveness needed to move this small and dwindling sport forward. But, led by NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer and new American University wrestling coach Teague Moore (a former 3x All-American & 1x National Champion at Oklahoma State), the organization rebounded in a big way with this successful event. First, they wisely chose a central, easy-to-get-to metropolitan location to host the event and then they got Kyle Dake & David Taylor to agree to come face each other in the preseason exhibition. That match-up set the stage all the excitement and the sellout and if the NWCA can manage to reorganize those base ingredients with future events, the next piece of the growth puzzle--broadcast television--could soon fall in line. As it was, the match was available for viewing live in Flowrestling's fee-based internet stream, which appeared to meet the demands of the die-hard fans who were unable to attend in person.

I was able to attend in person and I had a blast. I wish I had bought more than two tickets, but that was my only regret. My brother came down from PA and we gathered at a Wisconsin Avenue bar to watch the PSU football maul and managed to meet a host of excellent Penn Staters from the wrestling boards. I'm always buoyed by meeting other Penn Staters in any circumstance, but throw in drinks, football and wrestling and the result is one happy, smiling jtot. Thanks to all my new friends for the excellent camaraderie!

Bender Arena's wrestling setup holds about 3000 people, and it's pretty cozy. It's also been more than a hot minute since I last attended a wrestling match in any capacity, but this event showed me some things haven't changed since I was last going to matches and tournaments 30 years ago. Wrestlers are approachable! There were a lot of youth wrestlers who sat matside down on the floor and one of the many things I really enjoyed was the announcer asking for any former National Champions and then All-Americans to stand and be recognized. I would have asked for the All-Americans first, so you could see who remained standing when the AAs sat down, but whatever. There was an AA in my row about 5 people down from me and I was awestruck and too shy to ask him who he was. But there were more than a handful of National Champs who stood and a whole bunch of All-Americans. It was really cool.

The preliminary matches were good warmups, I thought. The first was a 'youth' match between Sam Kalishman (Pointers Run Elementary, MD) and Gene Quodala (Frederick Douglass Elementary, VA). I'm guessing 8 years old / 6th grade. It was fun to discuss with other fans in the stands who we thought were favorites, knowing nothing about the wrestlers other than the way they waited for their match & warmed up. Kalishman was wearing red and the pre-match consensus was that he was gonna kick some serious ass. He had that strut, you know? Just oozed confidence. But little dude in blue (Quodala) was very competitive and surprised us with his own aggression. Eventually (at 5:44), Kalishman caught him and stuck him, but it was really entertaining.

The second warmup match featured a tradition with this NWCA All-Star Classic, which is to showcase wrestlers from divisions other than NCAA D1. It was also our first reminder how freakin jacked wrestlers are, as the competed weight was 133 pounds, and these guys came out right after the elementary kids and just looked big. Indiana Tech's Travis Barroquillo, who's ranked #1 in the NAIA, defeated MIT's Sam Shanes, ranked #2 in the NCWA.Barroquilo won 8-2. The other two matches were:

- 149: Kevin Tao, Sr. American MD #1 (Division III) Kodie Silvestri, Sr. Wartburg 12-4
- 285: #1 (Division II) Matt Meuleners, Sr. Northern State TF Jake Kettler, So. George Mason 16-1

In this September podcast, Intermat's TR Foley asked Teague Moore about the selection process and he explained that they started at the top of a list of last year's All-Americans and basically invited the finishers in order. Some invitees and their coaches respectfully declined, for various reasons (Iowa, Oklahoma State, PSU's Ed Ruth) and the process was slow-going, but eventually the field was set. Kudos to all the wrestlers who agreed to travel to DC to face a tough opponent in a preseason exhibition match to help promote the sport! On to the matchups...

125lbs: The Contenders

TRSO Nico Megaludis (PSU)

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via www.pennstatewrestlingclub.org

vs.

TRSO Jesse Delgado (Illinois)

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The Credentials

Megaludis was a 3x PA state champ. Delgado was a 1x CA state champ. Both stormed onto the collegiate and Big Ten scene as true freshmen last year, but they never met. Nico went 21-5 heading into the Big Ten Tournament and earned the #3 seed. Delgado was 27-4 and earned the #4 seed. They both advanced to the semifinals before getting bumped to the consolation bracket. There, Nico got decked by fifth seed Levi Mele and ended up finishing 5th. Delgado won out and finished third. Those finishes contributed to different seedings at nationals two weeks later: Delgado earning the #5 and Nico getting #10. But boy oh boy did they do very different things with those seeds! Delgado went 4-2 and finished 7th, a fine All-American finish for a true freshman. Nico, however, went on a rampage. He started out with a Major Decision in round one, adding helpful Bonus points to Penn State's second consecutive team title, and followed that up with a solid 7-3 decision over #7 seed Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma. In the quarterfinals, he faced 5th-year Senior and #2 seed Zach Sanders of Minnesota, who had already beaten him twice earlier that year (6-2 both times). Not only did he finally figure out how to take the savvy veteran down, he did so three times and won 7-4 to advance to the semifinals. There he faced the same predicament: another 5th-year Senior who had bested him twice already that season. Cornell's Frank Perrelli beat Nico twice in the Southern Scuffle, 6-4 and 9-3, but Nico solved his sneaky counters and advanced 3-2 in overtime. Before bowing out to 3x finalist and 2x Champ Matt McDonough, Nico Megaludis announced to the college wrestling world that here was a new force to be reckoned with the next three-plus years.

The Matchup

Jesse Delgado is quicker than Nico Megaludis. That became apparent pretty quickly and made for a visually stunning display opposite Nico's constant pressing motion. They're also both Gumbys (Gumbies?), and this led to a bunch of stalemates. That also presents a logical segue into a discussion of folkstyle stalling rules, which I find terribly tedious, but which naturally arise when competitors of this quality face off and scoring is hard to come by. Delgado scored first, in a wild scramble that resulted in a 1st-period takedown, but Nico escaped, for a 2-1 Delgado lead. The second and third periods saw each score escapes and Nico take a few deep shots that Delgado countered by grabbing ankles and forcing more stalemates. It's hard for me to be too critical of the tactic, for two reasons. One, if the shot isn't strong enough to finish, even against a rubberman, then, well, it doesn't really deserve to score. Second, that kind of flexibility is legitimately part of these guys' defense, and not a small part of how Nico was able to thwart some of McDonough's TD attempts against him in their two matches last year. The end, though, was pretty anticlimactic as they were both sprawled in some crazy gymnastic scissor-sprawl-lock something along the edge of the circle after a Nico shot and seemed to be heading for another stalemate or overtime, when the ref awarded Nico control and the 2-pt takedown with no apparent improvement in position. Illinois assistant coaches Chris Perry (former Iowa 4x AA & 2x Champ) and Jeremy Hunter (former PSU 3x AA & 1x Champ) were visibly disgusted. Can't say I blame them. Final result: Nico won, 4-3.

133lbs: The Contenders

RSSO Aaron 'A.J.' Schopp (Edinboro)

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via www.gofightingscots.com

vs.

RSSO Chris Dardanes (Minnesota)

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via www.win-magazine.com

The Credentials

Dardanes was a 1x Illinois state champ. Schopp was a 1x PA state champ. Dardanes was 25-12 in 2011-2012 and Schopp was 39-6. Dardanes didn't earn the starting spot on his own Minnesota team until he won the Southern Scuffle January 3, but he then put together a nice run, finishing 6th at the Big Ten Tournament, which earned him a #10 seed at NCAA's. Schopp was one of the country's most prolific pinners (he had 15, good for 3rd best) and earned a #7 seed heading into nationals. The two faced off for the first time in round two and Dardanes got the better of it with a 7-3 decision. Dardanes got bumped to the consolation brackets the next round, losing to eventual champ Logan Stieber, but by reaching the quarterfinals first, he landed in the Round of 12, where he went on a tear, winning three matches before getting decked by Iowa's Tony Ramos in the 3rd place match. He finished 4th, a great placement for a redshirt freshman. Schopp won a pair of consolation matches to reach the Round of 12, but lost to Michigan's Zac Stevens 9-5 and he finished just outside the All-American podium.

The Matchup

These guys are built a little differently. Schopp may be an inch or two taller and looks lean, while Dardanes looks tanked. It was a good battle. The first period saw a few shots, a few scrambles and some nasty tie-ups and hand fighting, but no score. Schopp chose down in the second and escaped before any serious Dardanes ride. More neutral hand-fighting and positioning, and hard-fought--all of it. Third period was Dardanes' turn to try to get out from bottom, but he only did so after Schopp rode him for 1:10, earning a riding time point. With time dwindling, Dardanes tried a big, strong double leg shot, but Schopp pancaked him straight back to his feet and time expired. Final score: Schopp 2-1.

141lbs: The Contenders

RSJR Kendric Maple (Oklahoma)

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vs

SR B.J. Futrell (Illinois)

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The Credentials

Maple was a 2x Kansas state champ. Futrell was a 2x Illinois state champ. As a true freshman in 2009-2010, Maple qualified for nationals but went 2-2 and was eliminated in the Round of 16. He redshirted in 2011 and last year stormed back onto national landscape, defeating Iowa's #1-ranked Montell Marion in the Midlands finals and earning that tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler award. The #2-seed heading into nationals, he advanced to the semifinals where Marion avenged the earlier loss, 3-1 in overtime. In the consolation brackets, he lost to 5th-year Senior and 3x AA Boris Novachkov in OT and finished 4th. Futrell qualified for nationals as true freshman, got injured & earned a medical redshirt during his sophomore year and reached the All-American podium the past two years, finishing 8th in 2011 and 6th in 2012.

The Matchup

These dudes just looked electric. Like, before the whistle was blown, you could tell you were about to see some action. Futrell looks more manly--his thickness seems more evenly distributed. And this is his first year at 141 after four years at 133. Maple's got one of those pronounced V-cuts where his shoulders slope down to an itty-bitty waste, but when they got into it, man, was Maple's slickness on display! He's cat-quick and has amazing balance. His first shot was a single leg that looked like Futrell might be able to scramble out of, but Maple was around and on his back in no time. He rode him hard then, too, earning a bunch of riding time minutes all in the first period. Surprisingly, given the 1st-period performance, Futrell chose down to start the second, but he surprised again by escaping in a few short seconds. Then he attacked and attacked (maybe he's fresher at this bigger weight?) but he couldn't take Maple down and eventually Maple landed a shot with little time left to finish it out. VERY entertaining match. Final result: Maple, 6-2.

149lbs: The Contenders

RSSR Jason Chamberlain (Boise State)

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vs.

RSJR Nick Lester (Oklahoma)

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The Credentials

Chamberlain was a 4x Utah state champ. Lester was a 2x Missouri state champ. Chamberlain qualified for nationals as true freshman and made it to the quarterfinals as a Sophomore in 2009-2010, but couldn't quite reach the podium. In 2011, his Junior year, he lost to PSU's Frank Molinaro in the semifinals and finished 3rd. Last year, he took an Olympic Redshirt to work on what could be a promising Freestyle career. Lester had trouble breaking into the lineup his first two years, but in his first full year as a starter last year (and under new OU coach Mark Cody), he went 23-13 and stepped his game up in a weakish weight class to finish 8th and earn All-American honors.

The Matchup

From the outset of this match I got a little confused on the red and blue and who was whom, so I'm going to borrow AWN/The Open Mat's description of this one:

Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain collected two takedowns and 42 seconds of riding time while giving up two escapes in the first period in a 6-3 victory over Nick Lester of Oklahoma. Chamberlain added a third takedown in the second period while building his riding time advantage to 1:38. Having been ineffective on his feet for two periods, Lester chose top for the third period. While he was tenacious and physical, he was not able to score.

I do remember that! Lester rode hard from top, but was....yeah, unable to score. Final result: Chamberlain, 6-3.

157lbs: The Contenders

RSSO Dylan Alton (PSU)

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via www.pennstatewrestlingclub.org

vs.

RSSR Jason Welch (Northwestern)

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The Credentials

Alton was a 3x PA state champ. Welch was a 3x California state champ. Welch placed 2nd at Big Tens his true freshman year in 2008-2009, which qualified him for nationals, where he went 2-2 and finished in the Round of 16. After redshirting, he placed third at Big Tens in 2010-2011 (which saw the arrival of PSU's David Taylor at his 157-pound weight), was knocked to the consolations in the national semifinals by eventual champion Bubba Jenkins and ended up finishing third. Last year, Welch was 21-0 heading into the Big Ten Tournament as the #1-seed. Alton, in his first year of competition as a redshirt freshman, headed into Big Tens as the #2-seed with a 20-4 record and a tight 2-1 defeat to Welch in the PSU-NW dual. Alton lost to eventual champ Iowa's Derek St. John, who had returned to the mat from a tough season of injuries, in a very close 3-1 decision in overtime. Welch lost to St. John in the finals 4-3 and Alton battled back for 3rd. At nationals two weeks later, Welch entered as the #3-seed and Alton as the #7-seed. Both got bumped to the consolations brackets by St. John--Alton in the quarterfinals in another 3-1 OT decision and Welch in the semifinals 5-1. There, Alton put in some serious work, winning three straight, including a defeat of American's 5th-year Senior and 2x AA, Ganbayar Sanjaa, to set up a rematch with Welch for 3rd place. There, he finally solved the funkmaster's funk and came away with a 6-2 win.

The Matchup

This was a good match, especially for Penn State fans. Alton, who looked a little uncomfortable against the elite guys last year (although he always kept them really close and still managed to finish 3rd in his first season of competition), looked totally relaxed. Welch's style is so scrambly and funky and unorthodox-looking and it clearly gave Dylan problems in the dual loss last year. I was curious to see if the 3rd-place rematch was a fluke or if Dylan had actually solved him, and I think this match shows good promise. Not only against Welch, but against the other big obstacle remaining in front of Alton's pursuit of a national championship: Iowa's Derek St. John, another tough counter-wrestler. Alton just looked relaxed. He's a bull and is going to be very difficult to score upon in his own right, and he seemed totally comfortable in the face of Welch's bouncy, goofy head-bobbing. Dylan's got an awesome double leg shot that I'm sure we'll see a good bit of against the less-regarded opponents in the weight class this year, but which has been a little tougher to come by against the other AA's. He tried, though, and there was plenty of action, both in the first period, which ended scoreless, and in the second after he escaped quickly for a 1-0 lead. Both wrestlers ended up on the scorers table twice during the takedown attempt & defense flurries. Welch also easily escaped in the third, but found himself in some trouble and Alton locked in a cradle for the deciding takedown. Welch escaped again, but couldn't muster a new takedown of his own. Final result: Alton, 3-2.

165lbs: The Contenders

RSJR David Taylor (PSU)

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via www.pennstatewrestlingclub.org

vs.

TRSR Kyle Dake (Cornell)

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via www.cornellbigred.com

The Credentials

Hoo boy, here we go. Taylor was a 4x Ohio state champ. Dake was a 2x New York state champ. In three years of collegiate competition, Dake is 100-4 with three national championships. He's the only wrestler in the 79-year history of the NCAA championship tourney to win titles at three different weights. In two years of competition, Taylor has gone 70-1 with one national championship. At last year's tournament, he won the Hodge Trophy, awarded to the season's most outstanding wrestler (named after Oklahoma's 3x National Champ from the 50s, Dan Hodge, who went 46-0 in his three years of competition) and the Gorriaran Award, given to the wrestler with the most pins in the least amount of time. Both wrestlers have a long history of elite winning in this sport.

The Matchup

Man, this was awesome. First off, both men are truly physical specimens. Dake has looked like the biggest wrestler on the mat at each weight at which he's won titles: 141, 149 & 157. He's moving up again, to 165 this year, and you can see why. In a pre-match interview, he admitted that he 'walks around' (this is common wrestling nomenclature for one's weight when not cutting to make a certain weight) at 172-174 pounds, and he looks it. His arms are long, his back is broad and when you watch him discard his warmups and take the mat, you think one thing: Beast. I've watched Dake wrestle maybe five different All-Americans and Taylor is the first that didn't look physically over-matched--like out of the gate before any action commences. He's got a few inches on Dake, which helps that impression, but he is put together inside his lankier frame pretty solidly. He's muscly and ripped, but the thing that jumps out at you watching him come onto the mat is his confidence. Taylor's been winning for so long (and also at a bunch of different weights as he has grown: his HS titles came at 103, 103, 112 & 135, and his college years have been at 157 & now 165) and loves the sport so much that he just looks totally comfortable out there on the mat. Even opposite a Beast.

Now when the action got started, I was reminded of a couple things. The first was Dake decking Taylor in the Freestyle Olympic Trials in April. The second was that Cael Sanderson & Casey Cunningham, who were in Taylor's corner at this match, have coached three Penn State wrestlers against this guy, all unsuccessfully. Frank Molinaro (twice at 149 pounds in 2010-2011) and James Vollrath & Dylan Alton each at 157 pounds last year, have all fallen victim to Dake's wicked neutral defense, uncanny balance (Tank had Dake's leg up past Tank's own ear in the 2010 Southern Scuffle final, a 1-0 loss) and blanketing top rides. That's a long way of saying that it was clear that Taylor respected him. Maybe a bit too much, perhaps, but we'll get to that.

In the first period Taylor stalked and Dake circled. Both looked almost impossible to score upon. Taylor crouched his long frame low and cautiously tried to set up a shot and see what might be available. Predictably, not much was. He swiped at a few ankle picks but they seemed half-hearted. Dake, for his part, tried a few tie-ups with those meat-hooks of his, but Taylor seemed relaxed in his grasp and never gave up any vulnerable positioning. In the second, Dake chose down and Taylor did a decent job of riding him and using the edge of the circle as well from on top as Dake did in neutral. AWN says it was a 50-second ride, before Dake escaped. Another near minute went by with similar stalking to period one's, but Taylor finally shot with time running out. It was a good single-leg attempt, but Dake sprawled and scrambled and I totally couldn't tell who was going to end up in scoring position. In the end, it was neither, which was par for this titanic battle's course. Taylor had to go down in the third and of course I was reminded of Molinaro famously choosing down. Any Penn State fan would. But I had seen enough of Taylor's bottom skills, mostly remembering this 2012 match with Iowa's own excellent top-rider, Mike Evans, to maintain confidence that he could get out. He did, in less than about 20 seconds.

The rest of the period was gripping. It could be argued that Taylor may have seemed a tad too tactical, if that makes sense, but he's a very smart wrestler and Dake's body and body of work speak one thing clearly: this dude is very, very difficult to take down. There was lots more stalking and circling (and opportunities for fans to quibble over stalling rules, calls and strategies) and attack attempts that may have resulted in multiple scores had the opponents been different. As it was, after seven minutes of clock-time, the match went into overtime tied 1-1. The first part of overtime, called Sudden Victory, is one minute of clock-time, starting in the neutral position. This ended scoreless. After that, it headed into the Tie-Breaker portion: two 30-second periods beginning in 'referee's position' (one on top, one on bottom). Dake had scored first in regulation and chose top, where he successfully rode Taylor out. When they switched, he was able to escape, earn a point and again hold off Taylor takedown attampts as time ran out. Final result: Dake, 2-1.

Of the many tired and overused cliches in wrestling fandom, I'm of the opinion that 'needs to open up more' is NOT one of them. I've seen a number of Penn State wrestlers succumb to that need and get themselves in trouble by being just a little too tight, but Taylor's never been one of them. His scoring arsenal is as versatile as they come and he's got a scorer's mentality between the ears, so his matches are usually some of the most exciting to watch. And it's hard sometimes in wrestling to give the other guy credit for his defense and a little easier sometimes to assert that wrestler 'a' isn't attacking enough (or to bitch about stalling). He 'needs to open up more,' we shout. But Dake is different than any of the opponents Taylor laid waste to at nationals last year and Taylor knows better than to risk sloppiness by forcing. Also, and I think this is the key component, they both understand the stakes. They very likely could see each other two more times--at the Southern Scuffle over New Year's and again in the national finals next March. Erring on the side of being possibly, slightly, overly tactical in this, a preseason exhibition match, might end up being a pretty good long-term strategy. We shall see of course. Which is just awesome for us.

174lbs: The Contenders

RSSR Josh Asper (Maryland)

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vs

RSSR Jordan Blanton (Illinois)

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The Credentials

Asper was a 4x Maryland state champ. Blanton was a 3x Illinois state champ. Asper redshirted his freshman year and in his first season of competition qualified for nationals but bowed out in the Round of 12. The past two years, he's finished 6th at nationals at 165 and this year is moving to 174. Blanton placed 4th at the Big Ten Tournament his true freshman year in 2008-2009, but went 0-2 at nationals. The next year, he placed 3rd at Big Tens and 5th at nationals. The following year he injured his back and redshirted, and last year, he placed 5th at Big Tens, but battled up to 4th at nationals.

The Matchup

I gotta be honest: after the Dake-Taylor match all I could do with this one was pine for Ed Ruth. Either that or focus in on Maryland head coach and PSU 3x AA & 2x champ Kerry McCoy. Dude looks so cool. I love big dudes who you know are real bad-asses and they're sitting there in a fly suit and wearing glasses. The Intellectual Look layered over top the Ass-Kicker is a winner, y'all. Also entertaining: more Mark Perry & Jeremy Hunter. Watching them I kept thinking about the sick team depth in the Big Ten; Illinois is gonna be right there in the hunt in the 2014-2015 season after Taylor & Ruth graduate. Anyway, beyond all those distractions, the action on the mat didn't really help. Both these guys have similar bearish styles and they just seemed to lean on each other a lot. That did get me thinking, however, about the prospect of Penn State's Matt Brown entering into this weight class's fray. I mean, these guys seem tough, but there didn't seem to be enough motion/action/fitness to be able to hang with the physical fitness freak that Brown is. Again, though, we shall see. Final result: Asper, 3-1 in overtime.

184lbs: The Contenders

RSSR Robert Hamlin (Lehigh)

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via www.lehighsports.com

vs.

RSJR Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota)

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via grfx.cstv.com

The Credentials

Hamlin was a 4x Vermont state champ. Steinhaus was a 3x Minnesota state champ. Hamlin redshirted his freshman year and qualified for nationals his RSFR year in 2009-2010, but went 0-2. His RSSO year in 2010-2011 he went 32-3 and lost to PSU's Quentin Wright in the national final. Last year he lost to Quentin again, in the semifinals, and battled back to 4th and his second consecutive All-American finish. Steinhaus redshirted his first year, but finished 2nd at Big Tens and 8th at nationals in his first year of competition. Last year, he won the Big Ten tournament and earned the #5-seed for nationals. There he lost to eventual champ Steve Bosak, but battled back for 5th place and his second consecutive AA finish.

The Matchup

I've seen both of these guys enough by now to know that they will bow down to Ed Ruth at his new weight. The Haus of Stein is an impressive structure to be sure, but it is not anywhere near mobile enough to compete with the likes of Ruth. In this instance, it wasn't mobile enough to compete with Hamlin, who's a little stockier and less Adonis-like, but who is quicker and who took Steinhaus down twice to account for the difference in the final score: Hamlin, 5-3.

197lbs: The Contenders

RSSR Quentin Wright (PSU)

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via www.pennstatewrestlingclub.org

vs.

RSSR Matt Wilps (Pitt)

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The Credentials

Quentin was a 2x PA state champ. Wilps finished 3rd at PA states his Senior year. Wilps competed his true freshman year in 2008-2009 but didn't qualify for nationals. The following year he qualified, but went 2-2 and bowed out in the Round of 16. He redshirted in 2010-2011. Last year heading into nationals, he was 30-4, including an upset of top-ranked rival Chris Honeycutt in the EWL finals and earned the #3-seed. He made it to the semifinals, but lost a close one to Honeycutt again, 3-2 in overtime, and ended up finishing 4th, his first time on the AA podium. Quentin stormed onto the college landscape as a true freshman in 2008-2009, placing 2nd at the Big Ten tournament and 6th at nationals. He redshirted with much of the team the following year when Cael Sanderson took over the Penn State coaching reins. His RSSO year, 2010-2011 was marred by a shoulder injury. He dropped a number of matches to the top-ranked guys, but healed up and got his head right at precisely the right time and went on to win Big Ten and National titles, earning key placement points for Penn State's first ever team Big Ten championship and second ever team National title. Last year he wasn't injured but still dropped a few matches to some All-Americans he faced and placed 3rd at Big Tens. That earned him a #6-seed, which he wrestled above storming undefeated into the finals where he lost a tight, 3-2 OT decision to Cornell's Steve Bosak, a wrestler he had beaten earlier in the year.

The Matchup

Quentin got decked. This sucked, but after watching the wild wrestling in the first six minutes, it wasn't much of a surprise. By the time it happened, he did seem a little gassed, which perhaps is not surprising, given the strength & experience of his opponent and this being Quentin's first match at the new, heavier weight. Also, Quentin's style involves a fair bit of big body throws and he wasn't shy about trying them out at the new weight. There was lots of scoring. In the first, Q tried a head lock throw but it wasn't tight enough and Wilps slipped it for a takedown. Then Wilps got a little sloppy during a tilt that earned 2 back points, but which also tilted the balance in Quentin's favor and he got reversed and found himself on his back. Q earned 3 back points and took a 5-4 lead, but then he again was the sloppier one and got reversed again, which he escaped to make the score 6-6. Wilps began the third period on bottom, but squiggle loose in a bottom scramble that earned him 2 reversal point, 2 back points and a 10-6 lead. Quentin escaped and displayed some urgency, which got me really excited because I just love, love, love to see the big guy blasting doubles. He did one successfully and then released Wilps to attempt more, making the score 11-8, Wilps. But the next attempt was another risky one as he got his arms locked behind Wilps' back and tried to take him down with an inside trip, but Wilps was too strong & Q's attempt too soft that he found himself on his back again, where the ref called the pin. Exciting match, but the result shouldn't cause Penn State fans to worry too much about Quentin at this weight, in my opinion. He looks tall & big and thick enough and athletic enough to do some work there. He will, however, need to tighten up his wild child style down the stretch when the stakes get higher, which he's shown the ability to do a bunch of times in the past. Quentin Wright is going to be just fine here.

HWT: The Contenders

RSSR Dom Bradley (Missouri)

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vs.

RSSO Mike McMullan (Northwestern)

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The Credentials

Bradley was a 3x Missouri state champ. McMullan was a 2x PA prep school state champ. Bradley redshirted his freshman year 2008-2009. His RSFR year of 2009-2010 he beat a couple studs, but didn't qualify for nationals. In 2010-2011, he lost to eventual champ Zach Rey 2-1 in the semifinals and battled back for 3rd, his first AA season. Last year he took an Olympic Redshirt. McMullan redshirted his freshman year in 2010-2011, but last year in his first of collegiate competition, he placed 4th at Big Tens, qualifying for nationals as a #10-seed. He made it to the quarterfinals where he got pinned by eventual champ Tony Nelson. But in the consolation brackets, he went 4-0 and finished 3rd.

The Matchup

These guys were total visual contrasts. McMullan's a massive, sculpted Ginger with no body fat. Bradley's got kinda skinny legs for a heavyweight and a cute little paunch around his midsection. He may be more athletic, tho, which was pretty hilarious to see given his odd build. He seemed just a tad quicker and showed it most during a second-period takedown that was the difference in the match. Final result: Bradley, 3-2.

Final Thoughts

Screw it, if you've endured each of the 5400 words up to this point, what's a few more gonna hurt? This event was a big win for the sport. Dake & Taylor was clearly the highlight of the evening and kudos to the two of them for making it happen. Big ups to the NWCA, American U and Teague Moore as well, for putting together a spectacular kickoff to the 2012-2013 wrestling season. Even though Penn Staters only went 2-2, I saw a lot of action that should give PSU fans reason to hope for a very special season. It's gonna be a good one, and I hope to see you around the tubes to discuss it!

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