With five finalists among the ten weights, Penn State had secured it's third consecutive Southern Scuffle title by the time the consolation semi-finals concluded. As fans, we could relax and enjoy the final round of wrestling action without concern for the team title. By the end of the championship matches, #1 Penn State had posted a 20.5 point margin of victory over runner up, #3 Oklahoma State.
#1 Penn State 178.5
#3 Oklahoma State 158.0
#5 Missouri 147.5
#2 Minnesota 139.5
Big thanks to jtothep for running the Day 2 open thread after Galen injury defaulted (the liquid flu). Let's run down how each weight class played out in the best Scuffle we've seen to date.
The Expectations: #2 Nico and #4 Alan Waters were the headliners, but this weight also had most of the back half of the national top 10 in the field - #7 David Thorn, #8 Matt Snyder, #9 Nick Soto, #10 Nahshon Garrett; plus #13 Jerome Robinson and #20 David Terao for kicks. Snyder is a tough out, while Thorn and Garrett both had some nice work in the first half of the season to their credit. We favored Nico, but not by a wide margin.
The Results: #4 Waters didn't compete. #7 Thorn was bounced from the quarterfinals and then medical forfeit from the consolations. #9 Nick Soto (Chattanooga) was upset early on his home mat, and couldn't make it through the consolation bracket. #10 Garrett lost to our man Nico in the semi-finals but wrestled back to finish 3rd. #8 Matt Snyder had a tech fall and 3 pins in his run to the finals, versus our guy Nico. But that's where Snyder's (from Lewisburg) run ended, as Nico brought home the title with a workman-like 8-4 victory.
What We Learned: Nothing new. Nico's head and hands defense is nonpareil. He's going to fight you for seven minutes, and he's not going to get tired. Tough, tough, tough.
The Expectations: #5 Chris Dardanes, #7 Nathan McCormick, #8 Jon Morrison, #9 Nick Arujau, and #15 George DiCamillo were the ranked wrestlers coming in. We figured returning All-American Dardanes to win this weight for the Gophers. Penn State would enter Jordan Conaway, who was on a dual-meet roll, and (redshirting) freshman Jimmy Gulibon - though Jimmy's results wouldn't count toward the team total.
The Results: #9 Arujau didn't compete, and the remaining four ranked wrestlers all made the semi-finals - so this weight went chalk. #8 Morrison beat Gulibon in the quarterfinals 5-9, while #15 DiCamillo snuck past Conaway in the quarters by a narrow 5-6 decision. Dardanes wrestled Morrison for the title, with Morrison pulling the slight upset. Redshirting Gulibon wrestled back to place 4th. Conaway finished 1 - 2.
What We Learned: Conaway is tough, and improving. If/when he finishes his shots a little better, he could score more than a point or two at NCAA time. Until then, though, we shouldn't count on much from this weight at Nationals. Oh - and Gulibon could be pretty darn good next season. The kid has a gas tank and can ring the register - two pretty nice things to have.
The Expectations: this was the weakest weight class overall, with #4 Undrakhbayar, #9 Mike Nevinger, and #11 Nick Dardanes the only ranked wrestlers. We wanted to see our guy Bryan Pearsall make the semifinals, and hoped (redshirting) freshman Zach Beitz got more than two matches.
The Results: Nevinger beat Dardanes in one semi-final, while Undrakhbayar advanced from the other. To get to the semi-finals, #4 Undrakh had to sneak out a 2-1 victory over PSU's Beitz. The margin of victory came when Beitz had to call an injury timeout. Undrakh took down off the reset, and narrowly escaped with about 10 seconds remaining in the period. The coaching staff pulled Beitz out of the tournament after the match as a medical precaution, but I thought he really showed a fearlessness out there, and a lot of fight. The Juniata high school singlet was a cool touch.
Pearsall didn't make the semi-finals in either bracket. He lost a 1-7 decision to Dean Pavlou (Chattanooga) in the championship bracket, and a 4-7 decision to 3-seed Julian Feikert of Okie State in the consolations. Pearsall finished 8th, after a second loss to Pavlou.
What We Learned: Pearsall can wrestle well - we've seen him do it before. But he's got to start racking up some quality wins, soon, to have any confidence in making the NCAA's this year should he fail to get an automatic qualifier at the B1G tournament.
The Expectations: #1 Jordan Oliver, #2 Dylan Ness, #4 Andrew Alton, #5 Cole VonOhlen, #15 Daniel Young, #16 Derek Valenti, #17 Chris Villalonga, and #18 Drake Houdashelt completed a very deep field. We figured Oliver was the resident stud, with Ness and Alton having a shot to take the crown. Quitely, we PSU fans figured Jim English could make some noise and place despite 8 ranked wrestlers in the field. Luke Frey, if he made the trip, would get some great experience.
The Results: Andrew made the trip and had to make weight - and then watch/coach. Talk about punishment. #2 Ness, newly back from injury, was re-injured in his semi-final loss to #5 VonOhlen, and defaulted out of the consolations. #1 Oliver pinned or tech fall'ed everyone he faced, except for one guy - Jim English. English lost to Oliver in the quarterfinals, but wrestled back into the third place bout where he faced #18 Houdashelt - and won a 5-2 decision to finish 3rd. Luke Frey showed that awesome ride he had at Montoursville, and placed 7th.
What We Learned: the Sandersons have a keen mind for dispensing punishment. Jim English is one heck of a reserve. And Luke Frey has the tools to be a very good college wrestler.
The Expectations: #5 Dylan Alton, #8 Alex Dieringer, #16 Jedd Moore, #17 Josh Kreimier and #18 Bobby Barnhisel were the ranked contenders. PSU's Jim Vollrath was coming along for the tournament as well, and wrestled all the way back from a first round loss to finish 3rd at the Scuffle last season (or was that two seasons ago?). So beware the Rath of Voll.
The Results: No Alton as mentioned. Vollrath, as Penn State's lone entry, came through in the clutch, as has been his habit (see: 2011 Big Ten Championships). Vollrath advanced to the semi-finals where he faced off against #8 Dieringer, a point scoring machine. Vollrath stoned Dieringer's attack, and pulled out a 2-1 TB victory to advance to the finals, where he took on #16 Moore. Moore pulled out the win in overtime, and Vollrath finished 2nd - an awesome run from Jim.
What We Learned: Penn State sits two starters - both top-5 title threats - and probably doesn't miss out on a whole lot of points, thanks to English and Vollrath stepping up. That's really incredible.
The Expecatations: #1 Kyle Dake, #2 David Taylor, #3 Tyler Caldwell fight it out. With Dake's victory over Caldwell at the Grapple at the Garden dual, we expected Taylor to get Caldwell in the semi-finals. And then we all waited until 6pm to watch the showdown, version 2. Oh, yeah - this weight also gave us #7 Nick Sulzer, #10 Cody Yawn and #12 Zack Toal.
The Results: Dake and Taylor destroyed the field on the way to facing each other in the finals. Dake pinned #7 Sulzer in his semi-final, while Taylor majored #3 Caldwell in the other semi-final.
As for that final - Dake got his hand raised at the end, and was credited with a 3-2 decision. And that's all I have to say about that.
What We Learned: It's not Dake, Taylor and Caldwell at this weight. It's just Dake and Taylor.
The Expectations: #1 Chris Perry, #3 Matt Brown, #4 Logan Storley, #13 Cole Gracey, #14 Blake Stouffer, #15 Matt Miller, #16 Jon Fausey, and #18 Cody Walters gave us eight ranked wrestlers in a solid field, though Perry, Brown and Storley stood a notch above the rest. We expected Brown to announce his presence with authority in this weight class, by pulling Storley's head clean off.
The Results: Brown reached the semi-finals, and was working Storley like a rag doll from top. And then - bam - stuck. Storley pinned Brown, and went to the finals where he and Perry played patty cake, with Perry as baker's man, 7-6. [They didn't really play patty cake].
What We Learned: My opinion of Brown hasn't changed - I still think he can bring home a national title come March. But he won't be seeded as the top dog in that fight.
The Expectations: #1 Ed Ruth would destroy everything in his path, including #2 Steve Bosak, #3 Kevin Steinhouse, and #10 Mike Larson, so long as he didn't get bored.
The Results: Edward Ruth destroyed everything in his path.
What We Learned: Ruth is ultra hygienic, choosing to shower, apply deodorant and cologne pre-match, so that his opponent at least has a pleasing smell while Ruth strips his manhood from him. Please keep in mind that 184 might be the toughest, deepest weight in the NCAA - and there appears to be a wide margin between Ruth and everybody else.
The Expectations: #3 Quentin Wright faced a shallow, but dangerous, field, that included #5 Blake Rosholt, #8 Jake Meredith, #13 Brent Haynes, and #14 Scott Schiller. How would Q look at this new weight?
The Results: #5 Rosholt didn't compete, so that sucked. But Quentin had his double leg working, and didn't get tested too hard - though, #14 Schiller gave him a run for the first 5 minutes or so in the semi-final. Quentin put a bow on the tournament for Penn State with a fall in the final over #8 Meredith.
What We Learned: Quentin will be just fine at 197. The double leg still works, as do the underhooks, headlocks, and switches from bottom. Riding? Who wants to ride when you throw a dude?
The Expectations: #1 Tony Nelson, #2 Dom Bradley, and #3 Alan Gelogaev were the top dogs at this weight; plus the weight was really deep, with #14 Levi Cooper, #15 Jimmy Lawson, #15 Jon Gingrich, #15 Nick Ruggear, #16 Odie Delaney, #17 Jeremy Johnson, and that redshirting All-American Nick Gwiadowski in the field. We expected our heavies to make the quarterfinals, while we hoped that one could make the semi-finals, and create some separation in the battle for the starting spot.
The Results: Lawson and Gingrich both made the quarterfinals. Neither made the semi-final - Lawson dropped an 8-1 decision to #3 Gelogaev, while Gingrich dropped a 3-2 decision to #2 Bradley. In the consolations, #17 Johnson gave both Lawson and Gingrich their second losses of the tournament. Lawson pinned #14 Cooper in the seventh place match.
What We Learned: there isn't much separating Lawson and Gingrich. Both would likely qualify fairly easily for the NCAA's, so that's not a concern. Both beat the same opponents; both lose to the same opponents. Both could conceivably make the podium in March, though it doesn't appear likely at this point in January. Maybe a rock-paper-scissors contest for the dual lineup spot?
Three Completely Random and Probably Useless Thoughts
1) Jordan Oliver was named Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament. Not a bad choice at all. The Easton product makes it all look so easy, though I know it's not.
2) Who would you most want to wrestle if you could make any weight: Oliver, Dake, Taylor, or Ruth? I'd like a shot at all four, because I was born with the stupid gene. But if I could pick just one? I'd want to roll with Taylor to see how/why he can ankle pick everyone despite the fact that everyone in the gym knows it's coming. Ruth might smell the nicest, but I'm not sure my nose would work after 10 successive cross faces.
3) With Rosholt in the lineup Okie State could have made it a closer tournament. But I don't think it works out the same way at the NCAAs. The Cowboys have a couple of studs that will contend for titles in Oliver and Perry; plus they have three or four other potential placewinners - Caldwell, Rosholt, Gelogaev (if he's every healthy), and maybe Morrison. But they also have too many complete black holes. One upset of their top-5 guys, and it's over.
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