Tom Brands completed his 10th year at the helm of the Iowa wrestling program at the 2016 NCAAs. Our blogging brothers Black Heart Gold Pants will be selecting an All-Brands (all-decade) Iowa starting lineup. And because The Pants are doing that, we decided to have an all-decade PSU vs Iowa dual, right here (and on BHGP) this Friday.
Make sense? Of course it doesn't - pixels can't shoot or sprawl. But we're going to do it anyhow, and so we need your input: who do you put in Penn State's all-decade lineup? Winning 5 of the last 6 national titles gives us a lot of awesome wrestlers from which to choose.
PSU Lineups By Year
We've taken the post-season lineups, and specified each wrestler's finish at Big Tens and NCAAs in parantheses.
|2016||Megaludis (2nd, 1st)||Conaway (4th, 6th)||Gulibon (2nd, DNP)||Retherford (1st, 1st)||Nolf (2nd, 2nd)||Morelli (8th, DNP)||Nickal (1st, 2nd)||McCutcheon (5th, DNP)||McIntosh (1st, 2nd)||Nevills (DNP, DNP)|
|2015||Conaway (3rd, 8th)||Gulibon (6th, 5th)||Moss (DNP, DNP)||Beitz (5th, DNP)||Frey (DNP, DNP)||Hammond (DNP, DNP)||Brown (2nd, 1st)||McCutcheon (4th, DNP)||McIntosh (1st, 3rd)||Lawson (6th, 6th)|
|2014||Megaludis (2nd, 3rd)||Gulibon (7th, DNP)||Retherford (2nd, 5th)||English (5th, 7th)||D.Alton (8th, DNP)||Taylor (1st, 1st)||Brown (3rd, 5th)||Ruth (1st, 1st)||McIntosh (2nd, 7th)||Gingrich (6th, DNP)|
|2013||Megaludis (3rd, 2nd)||Conaway (5th, DNP)||Pearsall (5th, DNP)||A.Alton (4th, DNP)||D.Alton (6th, DNP)||Taylor (1st, 2nd)||Brown (1st, 2nd)||Ruth (1st, 1st)||Wright (1st, 1st)||Lawson (8th, DNP)|
|2012||Megaludis (5th, 2nd)||Martellotti (7th, DNP)||Pearsall (7th, DNP)||Molinaro (1st, 1st)||D.Alton (3rd, 3rd)||Taylor (1st, 1st)||Ruth (1st, 1st)||Wright (3rd, 2nd)||McIntosh (5th, DNP)||Wade (3rd, DNP)|
|2011||Pataky (7th, DNP)||Long (1st, 3rd)||A.Alton (5th, DNP)||Molinaro (1st, 2nd)||Taylor (1st, 2nd)||Vollrath (7th, DNP)||Ruth (1st, 3rd)||Wright (1st, 1st)||Ruggear (DNP, DNP)||Wade (5th, DNP)|
|2010||Pataky (4th, DNP)||Pearsall (DNP, DNP)||Lynch (6th, DNP)||Molinaro (4th, 5th)||Sanderson (1st, 6th)||Vallimont (3rd, 2nd)||Ortega (DNP, DNP)||Erwin (4th, DNP)||Crowell (DNP, DNP)||Wade (5th, DNP)|
|2009||Pataky (4th, DNP)||Strayer (6th, DNP)||Molinaro (8th, 8th)||Jenkins (2nd, DNP)||Darling (8th, DNP)||Vallimont (3rd, DNP)||Wright (2nd, 6th)||Decker (DNP, DNP)||Steadman (DNP, DNP)||Wade (6th, DNP)|
|2008||McKnight (8th, 4th)||Haas (8th, DNP)||Scott (7th, DNP)||Jenkins (5th, 2nd)||Vallimont (2nd, 3rd)||Rella (4th, DNP)||Erwin (DNP, DNP)||Bomberger (5th, DNP)||Davis (1st, 1st)||Laboranti (DNP, DNP)|
|2007||McKnight (6th, DNP)||Strayer (5th, 7th)||Heller (8th, DNP)||Vallimont (4th, DNP)||Jenkins (6th, DNP)||Rella (8th, DNP)||Yonushonis (2nd, DNP)||Bomberger (DNP, DNP)||Davis (4th, 5th)||Anspach (2nd, 2nd)|
That's 12 individual national championships, 20 Big Ten titles, and 46 All-American finishes in the last decade for Dear Old State. In just Cael's 7 years, we've seen 37 AAs. That's 53% - over half of the guys who make the post-season lineup also finish on the national podium, without any consideration for things like injuries. Nearly 30% win Big Ten titles, and 16% win national titles. How crazy is that?
In any event, let's get to picking our lineup. To make things a little more interesting, you can only pick a wrestler once. In other words, Ed Ruth can't wrestle both 174 and 184.
You get to choose from three different All-Americans - Mark McKnight, Jordan Conaway, and Nico Megaludis. Conaway is an all-time favorite for his consistency and motor. In addition to Mark McKnight's 4th place finish in 2008, he also won 2013 Pan-Am Gold for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club on the freestyle circuit.
But we're all picking Nico. He lost just 3 times in 4 years at nationals. He's 12th all-time on the career wins list, with 119; one of just nine 4x All-Americans; 6th on the career tech falls list; and he finished with a career 45% bonus rate - despite coming straight from high school into the lineup.
Four different All-Americans here, including the aforementioned Jordan Conaway. Speaking of "go-ers" with bottomless gas tanks, don't look past Jake Strayer, who, in addition to his sophomore season podium finish, owns wins over Iowa's Dan Dennis, Ohio State's Reece Humphrey, Illinois' Jimmy Kennedy, an Iowa State's Nick Fanthorpe - each of whom made USA World Teams. Injuries robbed his junior season and cut short his senior NCAAs, but Strayer was awfully good.
Our choice, though - and it was a tough one - is Andrew Long. His Big Ten title and 3rd place finish give him the best credentials of the bunch. Plus, he was so dag-gone fun to watch. Tough, physical - brutal, really. He seemed pissed that you even stepped on the mat, and had zero qualms about letting you know you'd pissed him off by doing so.
Redshirt freshman Frank Molinaro, and true freshman Zain Retherford are the only two All-Americans from the last decade. But one's a Cadet World Champion, and the other is an Olympian - so that's not exactly slim pickings.
The darkhorse choice here is true freshman Andrew Alton. Those with short memories might forget what Andrew accomplished right out of high school for the Nittany Lions, before multiple shoulder and knee surgeries robbed him. So here's a quick reminder: he started his career 17-0 with 13 pins, including a 0:39 pin of All-American Zack Kemerer, and this disgusting duck-under-to-headlock of All-American Stephen Dutton. On just his true freshman season alone, Andrew's 18 pins put him just outside the PSU Top 25 list. Career total list, that is. And despite the injuries, he's 3rd all-time for career pin percentage, at 39% (50+ matches). Just incredible speed, explosiveness, and willingness to go for it.
Yet, as he's proven time and again, high crotches win matches - and that's why our choice here at 141 is Frank Molinaro. Left-handed high crotch -> cut off to a double -> lift -> slam -> figure-4 the leg -> brutally cross-face into a bow-and-arrow -> smile for the cameras as you rack up back points. Release, and repeat at will.
There are more podium finishes here than not in the last decade. Bubba Jenkins flashed his incredible talent (without a redshirt) here as a sophomore, when he made the national final. James English captured a permanent place in Nittany Lion hearts with his pure-guts 7th place finish in 2014 (and his chemical engineering degree). And the Gorilla Hulk made his Penn State mark here more than at 141 (but we've already taken him).
However, we took Frank at 141 because we still have Zain Retherford here at 149. Retherford's sophomore campaign was thunderous. A perfect 34-0, with 30 bonus point wins. He was so dominant in the national final against Iowa's Brandon Sorensen that he even made Dan Gable smile as he administered the whoopin'. Can you believe we get to watch Zpain for another two years? How fortunate.
Here's a crazy factoid for you: 157 (previously 150) is the only weight class where Penn State has yet to claim a national champion. Thirteen times a Nittany Lion has finished 2nd or 3rd here since the 1950s - but never first. The list of names pepper the PSU record books - Russ Hughes, Troy Sunderland, Clint Musser, Dylan Alton, David Taylor, and a host of others. Hard to believe isn't it?
Our choice here at 157 looks like he'll rectify that. Freshman Jason Nolf finished 2nd last season by the slimmest of margins, losing a heartbreaker 6-5 to defending champ Isaiah Martinez. But he also posted a 33-2 record with 31 bonus point wins. Yes - he bonused everyone, basically - including Martinez, whom he pinned in the January dual. It was in that match that Martinez learned a valuable lesson: do not scramble with Jason Nolf. You will lose.
One of our favorites of Nolf's, though, was the finish to his fight with Ryan Blees. Leading by 13 points - and needing a feet-to-back pinning combination so as not "to settle" for the mere tech fall, Nolf stays patient and waits for his move. And then he decks Blees.
This weight belongs to the Magic Man, David Taylor. Too many highlights to name them all. Here'sa video of a few.
Decision time, friends. Penn State's had an All-American here 7 of the last 10 seasons, and made the national final 4 times, winning twice. Some good wrestlers are going to get passed by.
Bo Nickal's freshman season was incredible - national finalist, 33-2 with 23 bonus point wins. And we get to watch him toss people with underhooks and overhooks for another 3 seasons. All Matt Brown did was become a 3x All-American, 2x national finalist, and NCAA Champion - while carrying a near perfect GPA, shepherding a family, and leading his ROTC detachment. Quentin Wright made the podium here as a true freshman.
Ed Ruth, though, gets the nod from us here at 174. He lost one match at NCAAs, ever. And he avenged that loss in his dominating sophomore season, with a complete destruction of Nick Amuchastegui in the NCAA final - one of our all-time favorite matches. His strategy in that one? "Lay it on him". Indeed.
With Ed Ruth off the board, you know where we're going with this one. Quentin Wright was a 4x All-American, 3x finalist, and 2x Champ, including a title here at 184 in the incredible run of 2011, that gave us the single sweetest wrestling moment in the last decade of PSU wrestling. You know what it is without the description, right? Plus, like Bo Nickal now, "Q" was an artist on the mat, coming up with throws that you just don't see from anyone else - like hitting this screwlock on a top 20 dude.
In the last 3 weights we've added 7 national titles, 10 Big Ten titles, and 12 AAs to our lineup. And we still have some more tough decisions to make.
Q was our most recent titlest here at 197 - but we put him at 184. Morgan McIntosh just appeared in the national finals about 6 weeks ago, dropping a painfully close, final seconds match to a guy who just made the 2016 Olympics. Oh by the way? Morg's 17th in all-time wins (114); 13th in bonus wins (60); a 2x Big Ten champion - including a win over Kyle Snyder about 2 months before Snyder won a world gold medal.
And yet, we're taking the current Mr. Wonderful, Phil Davis. Davis was a 4x AA, 2x finalist, 2x Big Ten Champ, and 2008 NCAA Champ. In case you forgot, here he is decking an Iowa Hawkeye to seal a PSU dual victory in 2007.
If not for some untimely injuries and horrible luck, this big boy weight probably goes to Cam Wade. Three different times Wade appeared in the NCAA blood round, only to come up juuuuust shy - often for crap reasons. Since Cam, we've had just one All-American finish here, by Jimmy Lawson. The future looks bright, though, with a healthy Nick Nevills taking the lineup this coming season.
But for now, we're taking Aaron Anspach. And that's kind of crazy, seeing as how he wasn't a full-time starter until his 5th season at Dear Old State. But what a 5th season it was. He finished 25-4, as a Big Ten runner-up, and NCAA runner-up. The only guy to beat him - really - was one of the best heavyweights of the last 20 years, Minnesota's Cole Konrad (who tallied 3 of the 4 losses). Anspach wasn't the biggest heavyweight - but he was fleet-footed, and had a varied and effective neutral offense (including a great double leg that you can watch here, in a win over Hawkeye Mark Fields).
That's 11 NCAA titles, 15 Big Ten titles, and 29 All-American finishes - with more on the way. Pretty strong team.
What's your starting 10 look like? Let us know in the comments.