Penn State opened up what became a close race with Minnesota and Iowa in the finals going 4-0 to win their 3rd straight Big Ten Conference Championship. Murderer’s Row lived up to its name as Taylor, Ruth, Brown, and Wright all won individual championships and gave the team the points it needed for the team championship. More importantly, while there were some disappointments, all 10 wrestlers qualified for nationals. Just getting to the NCAA’s was the goal for all the wrestlers and they succeeded. Amazingly, Iowa who made it a one-point lead for Penn State in the wrestle backs, crowned no champions. Minnesota made it interesting as well but didn’t have the finalists to match Penn State.
125: #3 Nico Megaludis
Nico snuck by Minnesota’s David Thorn in the opening round 4-2. He then lost a tough 3-6 decision to eventual champ Jesse Delgado which, at the time, looked like a bad loss for Megaludis. Upon further review, with the way Delgado destroyed defending champ Matt McDonough in the finals, that loss doesn’t seem so bad. Delgado had a beast of a tournament. Nico did bounce back and win two identical 4-1 decisions to take 3rd so it wasn’t a bad tournament for Megaludis although I’m sure he wanted more.
133: #12 Jordan Conaway
Conaway started off by going into two tiebreaker periods to beat Daryl Thomas of Illinois 6-5. He then lost by fall to top-ranked Logan Stieber of OSU and lost a tough 2-7 decision to Chris Dardanes of Minnesota to drop into the 5th-place bout. There he met up with old friend Daryl Thomas again but this time Conaway didn’t need overtime, getting a 3rd period takedown and ride out to win 4-1. Although he was preseeded 4th a 5th place finish isn’t bad for Jordan.
141: #21 Bryan Pearsall
Like Conaway, Pearsall’s goal was to make it to NCAA’s and he did so placing 5th. Pearsall also got Penn State some much needed bonus getting a fall and a major decision among his 4 wins. Pearsall dropped a tough 2-1 decision in the 2nd round but bounced back to win 3 out of his next 4 for 5th. His other loss was to 2nd seed Nick Dardanes by a 6-2 score but finished strong beating Pat Greco of Northwestern in sudden victory 4-2.
149: #13 Andrew Alton
Here’s where things get dicey, the Alton brothers. Granted Andrew finished in 4th place, one above his preseed but he could have done so much more. Alton wrestled very inconsistently, losing to Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska but bounced back to destroy top-seed Eric Grajales of Michigan 14-8. He then got pinned by Ivan Lopouchanski of Purdue in the 3rd place match. Andrew has all the tools to go toe to toe with anyone in the country (see Grajales) but sometimes leaves you scratching your head.
157: #5 Dylan Alton
While Andrew finished above his seed the same cannot be said about his brother, Dylan finished a disappointing 6th. Alton lost a tough 6-1 two-overtime decision to OSU’s Josh Demas in the second round to drop down in the consolations. He rattled off two wins including a fall but met Derek St. John of Iowa again. With the match tied, St John got a late takedown in the 3rd and Alton, who tried two shoulder rolls in the previous period and almost got caught then, finally did get caught and pinned while trying the move again. Alton then got thrown on his back in the 5th place bought and lost 6-2 to Danny Zilverberg of Minnesota, the 8th seed. It was definitely a disappointing weekend for Dylan.
165: #2 David Taylor
Taylor had a light weekend getting a first round bye and then destroying Mark Martin of Ohio State and Nick Moore of Iowa by tech fall. In the finals Taylor met 2nd seed Conrad Polz of Illinois whose main plan of attack was to lie on the mat and not get pinned or tech fall’ed. It wasn’t a great plan and resulted in frustrating Taylor, three stall calls, and a 9-1 major decision.
174: #7 Matt Brown
By far the best tournament of any Nittany Lion was that of Matt Brown. Brown went 4-0 including a fall and got revenge on Hawkeye Mike Evans in the finals 7-3. Brown gave up a penalty point in the 1st for pulling on Evans’ sock (yeah I’ve never seen that either) but bounced back and threw Evans to his back for a five point move and never looked back. Brown pretty much wrestled his match all weekend long and bullied his will on his opponents. Matt wrestled like most of us think he can wrestle and left Illinois a Big Ten champ in his first season starting.
184: #1 Ed Ruth
Like Taylor, Ruth had a light weekend only needing three wins for his 3rd straight Big Ten Championship. He did have an all-too-close 5-3 win over Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus in the final but Ruth was never in danger of losing that match.
197: #2 Quentin Wright
Q didn’t breeze through the tournament but remains undefeated nonetheless. Wright started off with a pin of Max Huntley of Michigan and tight 1-0 victory over Andrew Campolattano of OSU. He met the 2nd seed Scott Schiller of Minnesota in the finals with the chance to clinch the team championship. He didn’t disappoint beating the Gopher 5-3 thanks to takedowns in the second and third period for his 2nd Big Ten Title.
285: #12 Jimmy Lawson
Jimmy was another wrestler who had an up and down weekend going 2-3 with two major decisions. He dropped a tough 6-4 decisions to 2nd seed Mike McMullan of Northwestern in the quarterfinals and got pinned in sudden victory overtime against Mike McClure of MSU in the 7th-place bout. It was a good learning experience for Lawson though, and he does punch his ticket to the NCAA’s where he can do some damage in two weeks.
Overall it was a great weekend for the men in Blue and White, it was closer than some of us wanted it but Penn State turned it on when they needed to going undefeated in the championship round and crowning 4 individual Big Ten champs. As far as seeding for nationals goes, Dylan Alton probably hurt himself while Matt Brown definitely helped himself. Everyone else will probably be a wash as most Nits finished around where they were seeded.