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2011 National Champions!!

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In what was a whirlwind 3 days of wrestling, that saw some dramatic upsets, injuries, and a nip and tuck team race, Penn State emerged victorious. If you would have said going into the tournament that Taylor would get pinned, Pataky would win only one match, Ruth would lose in the quarterfinals, and Alton and Wade would fail to reach All American honors, most would assume Penn State would be lucky to finish in the top 5. But due to picking up serious bonus points, and another amazing run by Quentin Wright, Penn State found themselves at the top of the podium. As you've probably read this is the first title Penn State has won since 1953. It's also the first of Cael's young coaching career. It took him just two years at Penn State to win it. Although I feel some credit should be given to Troy Sunderland, Hughes and the rest of the previous coaching staff. Who are responsible for bringing in Wade, Wright, Ruth, Pataky, and Molinaro. They certainly didn't leave the cupboards bare by any means. They did a great job recruiting some truly amazing wrestlers, and they deserve some credit for that. 




As for the expected top competition Cornell completely collapsed in the semifinal round losing 3 straight matches that were expected to be tough, but I'm not sure anyone thought they would lose all three. They also just didn't get many points in the consolations from their non top tier guys. And Iowa was unable to find the magic they had in the Big Ten wrestlebacks. They did get stronger than expected runs from Marion and Grambrall but it wasn't enough. Not to mention the two team points lost during the Marion 3rd place match which was a complete meltdown. And it was good to see Brands get reigned in a bit as running all the way on to the center of the mat should never be expected. Words can't really be described how electric the Wells Fargo center was. There was a lot of noise from the Iowa and Cornell sections on Thursday. Friday morning with all the Penn State quarterfinal losses they looked dead in the water. And with Ruth and Wade both injury defaulting it looked like Penn State could tumble down the rankings. Friday night Penn State made their move, as both Iowa and Cornell took some really tough losses especially Cornell in the semfinals, Penn State surged. They not only picked up huge wins they also were picking up tons of bonus points. It was one of the strongest tournament rounds I've seen a team have in awhile. After that session Penn State was basically in control all they needed to do at that point was take care of their own business and they would win. And that's what Long and Ruth were able to do Saturday morning. As they both won their consolation semfinal matches and then each won their 3rd place matches to secure the team title for the Nittany Lions. It was not nearly as dramatic as the Big Ten title was, and to be honest the way the finals started it started to feel like a pretty hollow victory, but Wright again gave the Penn State fans reason to cheer with his big win for a National Title. 

In the next few weeks I'll take a look at where the program is headed next year. Along with the other teams to watch, surprise Iowa will be back. But continue reading for a weight by weight breakdown of how this went down. 

125: Brad Pataky - DNP
Brad's Penn State career came to a disappointing but not unexpected end this weekend. He managed just one win and was soundly beaten in his two loses. It was clear he was just not the same wrestler before he injured his knee. In the coming weeks I'll breakdown what Brad meant to the program but he didn't factor much into the NCAA title performance. 

133: Andrew Long - 3rd Place
Long had a great tournament for Penn State was able to wrestle to his seed. It's clear that his decision to come to Penn State took them from being a top five team to Big Ten and NCAA champions. His semifinal loss to Hochstrasser was simply a case of losing to the better wrestler. Many fans probably didn't get to see it but his quarterfinal win against Sentes was an amazing win for Long and for the team. Sentes took Long down and was riding him for a bulk of the first period. Things looked pretty dire for Long when he suddenly and dramatically reversed Sentes to his back and pinned him. It was a stunning turn of events and a huge spark for Penn State. He then met Sentes again in the 3rd place match. Sentes got a quick takedown but Long was able to get out much quicker this time. He then used his superior conditioning to put the match away in the third period. He never got a rematch with Ramos but I'm confident the way the two of them wrestled this weekend that Long would have avenged his loss from earlier in the season. Hopefully this offseason Long can stay away from the off the mat troubles that dogged him in the past as he will be an exciting wrestler to watch in the future. 

141: Andrew Alton - Round of 12
Alton fell one win shy of All American honors in his freshman campaign which has to be a big disappointing for him and his fans. The quarterfinal loss to finalist Boris Novachkov, was nothing to be ashamed of he got beat by a better wrestler. But Alton's needs some serious work from the bottom position as it came back to bite him again in this match. His round of 12 loss to Kemmerer was far more disappointing and was a winnable match for him. He could definitely use a redshirt year next year to refine his offense and he needs to really work on bottom and more attacks from neutral. That said this was still a great freshman season and the ceiling is definitely high for this kid. This weight class proved to be extremely deep this year, I think in a few other weight classes he could have been top 5.

149: Frank Molinaro - 2nd place
Frank had a really great tournament up until the finals. He was able to wrestle to seed and is definitely close to breaking through for a title. Many were afraid of quarterfinal match against Mason but Molinaro really controlled and dominated the match this time around. Avenging one of his losses from the year. The score was not indicative of how the match went and Frank was in control for most of it. He was about to take Mason to his back in a split scissors when Mario took injury time which should have resulted 4 points for Frank but that was just one instance of the really poor officiating at the NCAAs this year. The final was obviously a disappointment, but give Dake some credit as he clearly knows how to step up his game at the NCAAs. I think Frank let his pride get in the way of wrestling smart by taking bottom when he had choice. But I honestly don't think it would have matter he just simply lost to the better wrestler. Of course it has to be pointed out Darion Caldwell wasn't in the final due to injury it was a real shame to see him go down early in the tournament. Frank has one more season left to try and get to the top of the podium. There is a chance Dake will move to 157 next year, which could leave Frank as the number at this weight heading into next season. 

157: David Taylor - 2nd place
Of course what everyone is going to talk about is the loss to Bubba Jenkins in the finals. And that one as a fan still stings, as I'm sure it does for David. I said going into the match I thought the only chance Bubba had was to get Taylor in one big move, and that's exactly what happened. But what David and fans need to realize is there is a reason there have only been 2 4 time NCAA champions and 1 who was undefeated for his whole career, because it's insanely difficult for that to happen. I actually think in the end this could work out well for David, as I'm confident he'll turn this into a motivating factor for next season. Also for me personally it's a relief that now all the Cael Sanderson comparison nonsense can come to and end because quite frankly it was mostly just ridiculous. If you look at his other matches though Taylor had an awesome tournament. He beat St. John for the 3rd time. It was again close but it seemed mostly due to Taylor wrestling it a little close to the vest. In the semifinals in a match many thought should be the finals, Taylor completely dominated undefeated Steve Fittery from American. He dominated him in all three positions it was a great win for Taylor. And to be honest a stunning result in what was expected to be a really close match. He will likely move to 165 next season where there will be some tough tests but I think he's poised for a great future for Penn State. 

174: Ed Ruth - 3rd place
Ruth lost a stunning quarterfinal bout, that turned out to be not such a bad loss. Although it was a really rough round for the team as a whole. He then bounced back in the consolations and despite having his leg wrapped in tape he wrestled really well. He went on to beat Lewnes from Cornell again in the consolation finals. Many though the first time was a fluke and he wouldn't be able to do it again. But Ruth completely dominated him. When he's on he can be nearly unbeatable. He got a quick craddle in one of his consolation matches, right around the time Wright pinned Gambrall which shot Penn State up in the team race and sent the arena into a tizzy. It seems that guys who have wrestled him before have learned that if you hang on his head it really slows his offense and you can maybe pull out a close win against him. Ruth also needs to work on the front line of his neutral defense he's awesome at scrambling when guys get in on his legs deep, but it would be good if guys didn't get in deep on his legs as often. It was also good to see Ruth crack a smile on the podium. The kid sure is quite the personality after his win over Lewnes which clinched the team title the coaches not surprisingly were quite excited but Ruth just coolly walked off the mat as if it was any other match. He will certainly be fun to watch the next few years at Penn State. 

184: Quentin Wright - NCAA CHAMPION
Wow what more can you say about Wright's turnaround. He won the Big Ten as an 8 seed and now is the NCAA champion as a 9 seed. Many myself including didn't think he would be able to repeat his Big Ten success with as many close matches as he won. But Wright was even better this weekend. This is quite honestly the best he has looked in a Penn State singlet ever. After his win against Steinhaus in the 2nd round it became clear he had a chance at doing something amazing. His semifinal win against Gambrall was simply amazing. Wright got an early throw taking Grant right to his back for a quick five point lead. Then almost as stunningly he got a standing cradle and stuck Grambrall which was a huge spark in the sudden explosion in the team race. This win came in the midst of Cornell losing three straigh semifinals as Penn State was surging. If he an Ruth can stay at different weight that could be a potent 1 - 2 punch for the next two seasons. In the final at this weight Wright went to the leg attacks to beat Hamlin avenging yet another loss from earlier in the season. This is the part of the game Andrew Alton really needs to pick up. Wright knows his upper body attacks are a dangerous weapon, his opponents know that too. But now Wright is able to use that his advantage to help set up leg attacks that are just as dangerous. He has come a long way in the recent weeks, but no one deserves it more than Wright. Who is a good kid off the mat who works hard and being a hometown Penn Stater has to deal with immense pressure. This is just another case of hard working paying off. And while Wright got a few calls and break en route to a Big Ten title, there was none of that this weekend. He simply went out and beat all of his opponents. Some of the matches were close but he was really in control of each one of them. Great weekend, for a great young man. And of course how can you not love the fact that he gave us this amazing picture. 



Hwt: Cameron Wade - Round of 12
This has to be a disappointment for Wade. He got injured in his match against top seed and future champion Rey. But then his loss to Alcala with All American honors on the line was just depressing. Wade beat Alcala 6 0 earlier in the year. But this match Wade just really didn't do a whole heck of a lot. I know he got injured against Rey but he didn't really seem to be impeded at all against Alcala. Wade actually wrestled pretty well in his first two matches. But then in the big matches he just refuses to shoot. I simply don't understand. Against Alcala, he had Alcala on the ropes and needed just one shot to become an All American but he didn't take any it was puzzling. You can't rely on your offense solely to come from the top position. You need to have at least one decent shot to put yourself in that position and Wade doesn't seem to have that yet. He has one more season to try and get himself on the podium hopefully for Penn State he puts it all together this offseason. 

There were certainly some missteps for Penn State along the way, but this was a great weekend for the program and one that will certainly be enjoyed and celebrated for awhile. The future is bright, and hopefully this will be the first of many championships to come.