Penn State Big Ten Wrestling Champions

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The Nittany Lions secure a fourth straight conference championship.

Penn State trailed Iowa by 2.5 team points heading into the final at 165 lbs. And as it's been the entire four years of David Taylor and Ed Ruth's joint reign, all Nittany Lion fans knew the title was already in the bag, despite Iowa facing them for titles at 165 and 184. We knew nothing would upset the two senior studs.

We're all going to miss that feeling, I think.

David Taylor earned the Outstanding Wrestler award, and Cael Sanderson took home yet another Coach of the Year trophy. Penn State was crowned team champs for the fourth consecutive year, with a 140.5 team total. Iowa finished runner-up at 134.0. Minnesota, the National Duals Champ, finished a distant third, with 114.5, after a disastrous semi-final round saw 8 of 9 Gophers lose. Ohio State and Nebraska - each with two individual champs - rounded out the top 5. Full brackets can be found at this link.

125 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Delgado (ILL)
2 Megaludis (PSU)
3 Taylor (WISC)
4 Clark (IOWA)
5 Lambert (NEB)
6 Roberts (OSU)
7 Youtsey (MICH)
8 Eppert (PUR)

Another Nico vs. Delgado battle, another coin flip result. These two have split 6 career matches evenly, but all three of Delgado's wins have come in the post season. More than likely, these two will be seeded #2 and #3 at NCAAs in two weeks, putting them on the same half of the bracket, and setting the stage for another brutal fight.

Positive Surprise: Nicky Roberts, Ohio State. The 8-seed put on a great tournament, improving from his tech fall loss to Nico earlier in the year into a 12-5 quarterfinals loss. Roberts just missed a takedown against Iowa's Cory Clark in the consolation final that would have had him wrestling for 3rd place, but Clark scored the winning points in overtime.

Negative Surprise: Sam Brancale, Minnesota. Brancale was un-seeded but drew 7-seed Cam Eppert in the first round - not the worst result one could hope for. It didn't matter. Brancale got majored by Eppert, and was bounced from the consolations in his second match by Roberts. Zero wins, zero points; Minnesota will only take 9 to NCAAs.

133 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Ramos (IOWA)
2 Graff (WISC)
3 Quiroga (PUR)
4 Thorn (MINN)
5 DiJulius (OSU)
6 Richards (ILL)
7 Gulibon (PSU)
8 Malone (jNW)

The surprise here is how closely this weight performed to seed. During the season, 3-seed Thorn lost (and won) to 7-seed Gulibon. Jimmy had also dropped close matches to 6-seed DiJulius and 5-seed Richards. Each of the 3 thru 7 seeds had traded wins and losses with each other. But with a minor exception for 4-seed Quiroga besting 3-seed Thorn in the consolation final, this weight finished exactly as it was seeded.

Positive Surprise: Jimmy came out on fire against 10-seed Dom Malone, registering a tech fall in 5:47.

Negative Surprise: The Ramos vs. Graff final didn't register a single takedown, and only sported a handful of shot attempts. That's not unexpected between two long-time rivals, I suppose. But it was a negative surprise nonetheless.

141 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Stieber (OSU)
2 Retherford (PSU)
3 Dardanes (MINN)
4 Dutton (MICH)
5 Dziewa (IOWA)
6 Rodrigues (ILL)
7 Thielke (WISC)
8 Sabatello (PUR)

Stieber's ability from top gets a ton of praise, and rightfully so given his propensity to rack up turns. But his neutral game is just as good if not better. The guy is never out of position, and maintains incredible offensive pressure without sacrificing an inch defensively. He's going to be a tough nut for Zpain to crack. That it's Zpain, a true frosh, who is the only guy out there who can give Stieber a tough match, bodes well for his future in blue and white.

Positive Surprise: Zpain finished runner-up, but this was still another challenge met. Big Tens is as big as it gets other than NCAAs, and Zpain didn't blink. Everything about Zpain screams future champ.

Negative Surprise: None. Your top 8 placewinners were the top 8 seeds.

149 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Tsirtsis (jNW)
2 Sueflohn (NEB)
3 Dardanes (MINN)
4 Grajales (MICH)
5 English (PSU)
6 Lubeck (WISC)
7 Paddock (OSU)
8 Ervin (ILL)

He did it. Jim English had to place top 6 to continue his wrestling career, and he got the job done, finishing 5th. Jim lost a painfully close 3-2 decision in the quarterfinals to 2-seed Nick Dardanes, but then he rattled off two straight wins against top-20-ish, former qualifiers in Brandon Nelsen and Ian Paddock. Congratulations, Jim. You earned it, and it's been a long time coming.

Positive Surprise: Rylan Lubeck, Wisconsin's unseeded freshman with a .500 record, drew 2-seed Nick Dardanes as his opener - and took the Gopher to overtime before falling. Then he wrestled back to finish 6th, and earned a trip to NCAAs. Jason Tsirtsis dominated his final against 1-seed Jake Sueflohn, and won the conference's Freshman of the Year award in addition to the Big Ten title.

Negative Surprise: It wasn't all that surprising to the ardent mat heads out there, but both Ian Paddock and Caleb Ervin failed to square an automatic bid. Paddock stands a good chance of getting a bid through the at-large process, but Ervin's year is most likely done.

157 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Green (NEB)
2 St. John (IOWA)
3 Jordan (WISC)
4 Murphy (MICH)
5 Walsh (IND)
6 Ness (MINN)
7 Brunson (ILL)
8 Alton (PSU)

When in doubt, pick the guy with the unstoppable shot. I'll have to remember that.

At 157 lbs, an absolute meat grinder of a weight class, the guy with the unstoppable shot is Nebraska's James Green. He pinned top 15 (ish) Zach Brunson, slammed Dylan Ness' elevator to the basement, and generally humbled Derek St. John in the final (again). Green probably squares the 2-seed for NCAAs.

Positive Surprise: the freshmen. Ike Jordan, Brian Murphy, and Zach Brunson all performed well in a weight class with 4 upperclassmen, three of whom are past All-Americans.

Negative Surprise: Injuries. Again - given the meat-grinder that is this weight, it's not all that surprising, really. But 3-seed Dylan Ness default from the tournament, finishing 6th. And our Dylan Alton, after an outstanding 12-3 major to start the tournament, finished with 1 win and 3 losses, without scoring a takedown. There was no official word on an injury, and given Cael's lockdown on medical info, we're unlikely to hear any word either. But Dylan looked anything other than his normal speed out there.

165 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Taylor (PSU)
2 Moore (IOWA)
3 Zilverberg (MINN)
4 Harger (jNW)
5 Morse (ILL)
6 Wilson (NEB)
7 Yates (MICH)
8 LeBlanc (IND)

It really is magical. There, in the semifinals, sat Jackson Morse, the only guy in this field to give David Taylor a serious match this year. Morse had enjoyed some measure of success on his feet against Taylor, and from the top position in the past. All of the ingredients are there for an upset.

So what happens next? Taylor pins Morse in 40 seconds.

Positive Surprise: Iowa's Nick Moore. Yes, he got majored, again, in the final against Taylor. But it was his best match against Taylor by a country mile. He fought hard, didn't "turtle", scored a takedown - his first against Taylor - and should have earned a second takedown, if not for a ridiculous Granby-roll-to-spin-and-turn-to-duckunder from Taylor in the second period. Hold your head high, Nick. You're making the podium in two weeks. Also, let's give a shout to Minnesota's senior Dan Zilverberg, who placed 3rd from his 6-seed.

Negative Surprise: Michigan's senior Dan Yates, the 4-seed, who has been ranked in the top 10 nationally most of the year, finished 7th. He wasn't alone in this regard for the Wolverines, but a tough tournament kept Michigan out of the top 5.

174 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Kokesh (NEB)
2 Evans (IOWA)
3 Brown (PSU)
4 Storley (MINN)
5 Dallago (ILL)
6 Liegel (WISC)
7 Martin (OSU)
8 Zeerip (MICH)

We knew going in that you could flip a coin from the semi-finals forward, as the top 4 here are all very close. Robert Kokesh, though, proved his 1-seed. The guy appears to have a definite advantage in the quickness category over the other three, and used some awfully slick moves to score the winning takedowns against Storley and Evans.

Positive Surprise: Hulk Hands got revenge on Storley without scoring a takedown. He beat Storley on riding time - a first for Matt. I know, I get it - but he didn't score a TD against Evans or Storley! Well, so what. My positive here is that Matt beat Storley on the mat, where Storley is his most dangerous. That's a positive for me.

Negative Surprise: not so negative for Hawk fans, but negative for us: Mike Evans scored a takedown. Actually, he scored three of them, if you can believe that. Those three takedowns were his first three of the year against the other top 3 in the conference. Hopefully it proves to be an anomaly.

184 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Ruth (PSU)
2 Lofthouse (IOWA)
3 Abounader (MICH)
4 Steinhaus (MINN)
5 Courts (OSU)
6 Reyes (ILL)
7 Rizqallah (MSU)
8 Sheridan (IND)

At one point in the final, Iowa's Ethen Lofthouse did a beautiful job clearing Ed Ruth's hands, changed levels quickly, and exploded in on a low single shot, only to find that Ed was no longer there. Ed, for lack of a more appropriate term, somersaulted over Lofthouse, grabbed an ankle or two, and after a brief scramble, came out with the takedown.

You just have to shake your head - in amazement, if you're a PSU fan. I'm not sure what you do if you were cheering for Lofthouse. The poor guy did nearly everything perfectly, and still got taken down.

Positive Surprise: another tip of the cap to Lofthouse, here. He earned his win over old nemesis Kevin Steinhaus, and turned in his best performance against Ruth in the last 3 seasons, even though it wasn't enough. He's looking awfully good for NCAAs.

Negative Surprise: TJ Dudley, the Nebraska freshman, entered with a 4-seed, and left with an 0 - 2 record, both of which were 1-point losses. That's what can happen at Big Tens.

197 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Heflin (OSU)
2 McIntosh (PSU)
3 Schiller (MINN)
4 Polizzi (jNW)
5 Burak (IOWA)
6 Atwood (PUR)
7 McCall (WISC)
8 Gonzalez (ILL)

Almost. In his second go at Big Tens, Morg wrestled well throughout but came up just short in an overtime loss to Buckeye senior Nick Heflin. But Morg should feel good about his performance. His arrow remains pointing solidly north, as he looks like a certain All-American.

Positive Surprise: "You make our sport boring", Coach Cael mentioned to the officials. The BTN microphones picked it up loudly and clearly, for all the world to hear and understand. And he was spot on. In the 197-lb final, as there had not been in most of the finals preceding it, one wrestler took risks from neutral and attempted shots, the other did not - and the other was never called for stalling. Any guesses as to how many stall warnings were issued in the 10 finals matches, 4 of which did not feature a single takedown in 28 minutes of regulation? One. One single stall warning*. 28 minutes of wrestling in those 4 finals, zero takedowns, and only 1 stall warning, which, in a bit of irony, came at heavyweight against Tony Nelson.

How is that positive? Hopefully it's something the wrestling world is talking about for the next two weeks before heading to NCAAs. As Andy Hamilton wrote one month ago, it's the core problem facing wrestling.

*Oops - it was two.  Delgado got warned once, as well.

Negative Surprise: it wasn't too much of a surprise, but Illinois gamed the system a bit for their injured 97-lber, former Big Ten champ Mario Gonzalez. With the top 8 headed to NCAAs, Gonzalez had to win at least one match. And that's what he did. Actually, he only wrestled two matches. He default from the championship bracket against Scott Schiller. He beat Indiana's 12-seed Garrett Goldman 9-2 in the first round of consolations; he dropped an 8-3 decision to Polizzi, and then default again to finish 8th.

285 LBS

Place Wrestler
1 Nelson (MINN)
2 Chalfant (IND)
3 Telford (IOWA)
4 McClure (MSU)
5 McMullan (jNW)
6 Gingrich (PSU)
7 Medbery (WISC)
8 Tavanello (OSU)

In a completely un-surprising turn of events, Gopher senior Tony Nelson returned to form, and broke out the ol' spiral ride. He used that weapon, plus a predilection from the officials to not involve themselves in a finals bout, to escape with his 3rd Big Ten title, a completely uninspiring 2-1 TB victory over IU's Adam Chalfant, who owned all of the offense - all 100% of it.

Positive Surprise: well, hello, Jon Gingrich! A sweet low single shot against massive freshman 1-seed Adam Coon sent the PSU faithful into orbit, and put Gingrich into the Big Ten semi-finals as well as the NCAA tournament. What an outstanding result at this, the deepest of the Big Ten weights.

Negative Surprise: what happened to the offense and athleticism we saw from you early in the season, Adam Coon?

Overall

Place Team Points
1 Penn State 140.5
2 Iowa 134.0
3 Minnesota 114.5
4 Ohio State 86.5
5 Nebraska 79.0
6 Illinois 78.5
7 Wisconsin 73.0
8 Michigan 71.5

What a fight from Iowa. They made Penn State earn its fourth straight title in all 1,014 matches. The Hawks have to feel pretty good heading into NCAAs. If they can wrestle that well again, and if Penn State slips up once or twice, they could take the title. It's going to be an interesting fight in two weeks.

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