Since the start of Black Shoe Diaries, the Penn State Wrestling program has undergone a transition from a sleeping giant to ruling the roost in the college wrestling world. Thanks in no small part to the arrival of Cael Sanderson as head coach beginning with the 2009-2010 season, the Nittany Lions have collected five team national championships, twelve individual national championships, and forty three NCAA All-finishes since the beginning of the 2006-2007 and have shown no signs of slowing down.
With a glut of talent on the books, it would be nearly impossible to pick just one wrestler at each weight for an all-decade team. Instead, Garrett and I have drafted teams, serpentine-style, and created two dual meet teams of Penn State wrestlers beginning with the 2006-2007 season. The rules of the draft were simple. First, wrestlers would be drafted based on their performance for a certain season, but wrestlers previously drafted cannot be drafted using a different season later in the draft. For example, I took the 2011-2012 version of David Taylor with the first pick, meaning that Garrett could not pick the 2013-2014 version DT later. The second rule was that a wrestler must be used in the lineup at the weight they wrestled in the postseason the year they were drafted. Finally, match rules would be those currently set by the NWCA, perhaps most importantly including the new rules for back points. The draft shook out as follows:
1. Clay: 2011-2012 David Taylor (165)
2. Garrett: 2012-2013 Ed Ruth (184)
3. Garrett: 2015-2016 Zain Retherford (149)
4. Clay: 2012-2013 Quentin Wright (197)
5. Clay: 2015-2016 Jason Nolf (157)
6. Garrett: 2006-2007 Aaron Anspach (285)
7. Garrett: 2015-2016 Nico Megaludis (125)
8. Clay: 2011-2012 Frank Molinaro (149)
9. Clay: 2014-2015
10. Garrett: 2010-2011 Andrew Long (133)
11. Garrett: 2015-2016 Jimmy Gulibon (141)
12. Clay: 2010-2011 Andrew Alton (141)
13. Clay: 2015-2016 Jordan Conaway (125)
14. Garrett: 2007-2008 Phil Davis (197)
15. Garrett: 2009-2010 Dan Vallimont (165)
16. Clay: 2009-2010 Brad Pataky (125)
17. Clay: 2015-2016 Matt McCutcheon (184)
18. Garrett: 2015-2016 Bo Nickal (174)
19. Garrett: 2009-2010 Cyler Sanderson (157)
20. Clay: 2014-2015 Jimmy Lawson (285)
Ultimately, your vote will determine who has the stronger dual team. Here's how we see the dual playing out:
125: 2009-2010 Brad Pataky (Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2015-2016 Nico Megaludis (Garrett Carr)
2009-2010 Brad Pataky: (29-10, 5MD, 4 TF, 4 WBF, DNP and NCAA,4th Place)
While he failed to place at NCAA’s, Pataky was both consistent and aggressive throughout his Junior season. Pataky post an impressive 29-10 record with each of those losses coming at the hands of top-ten opponents, and only twice giving up bonus points. After taking down both the 8th and 9th ranked wrestlers in the country in his first two matches at the, Pataky was unfortunate to run up against top-seeded Angel Escobedo and second seeded Troy Nickerson in the consecutive matches that followed. While he’ll likely be an underdog, I’m confident in saying that Pataky could keep the bout with Megaludis to a regular decision.
2015-2016 Nico Megaludis: (32-3, 10MD, 4TF, 5WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten 2nd place)
When Nico decided to take a redshirt year for the 2014-2015 season coming off 2nd, 2nd and 3rd place finishes at the NCAA Tournament his first three years, he had one goal in mind for the 2015-2016 season: capture the NCAA title that had eluded him. Nico accomplished his goal in a very deep 125lb weight class featuring the defending national champion in Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello, and returning semifinalist Thomas Gilman of Iowa (2015 True Freshman and National Finalist Zeke Moisey of West Virginia missed the postseason due to injury). Megaludis finished the season with his only losses coming to Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament #2 seed Joey Dance in an early-season dual, and to Buckeye and Defending National Champion Nathan Tomasello twice, once in the dual meet and once in the Big Ten Tournament Final. After Iowa Hawkeye Thomas Gilman pinned Tomasello, who Megaludis did not match up well with, in overtime in the NCAA Semifinals, it seemed like Nico would get the fairy tale ending he deserved, and he got it when he defeated Gilman 6-3 in a match that showed of all of Nico’s trademarks; his relentless pace, great defense leading to counterattack offense, and a little bit of neutral offense of his own. Clay thinks that Pataky could keep it to a regular decision, and while that is the most likely scenario, there is certainly an outside chance of Nico getting bonus here, as he has bonused better wrestlers than this before.
133: 2015-2016 Jordan Conaway (Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2010-2011 Andrew Long (Garrett Carr)
2015-2016 Jordan Conaway: (30-8, 7MD, 2 TF, 2 WBF, NCAA Sixthh Place, Big Ten Fourth)
This one if probably closer in my books than Garrett has it in his. Aside from matchups with Nahshon Garrett (who’s a freak) and Zane Richards who we’ve seen this summer looks ready to make the next step, JC never looked out of his element this past season. While Long won a title and only lost 2 matches for the Nits in 2010-2011, he wasn’t particularly dominant in doing so. Conaway is an incredibly measured wrestler on the mat and game plans as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. Had it not been for some funk and Corey Brewer doing weird Corey Brewer things, JC could’ve won that match at NCAA’s and I think he can win this match here. That being said, I make Long the slight favorite and think he takes it by regular decision.
2010-2011 Andrew Long: (20-2, 7MD, 1TF 3WBF, NCAA Third Place, Big Ten Champion)
Long came to Penn State after finishing 2nd at NCAA’s at 125 the year before and instantly became an important cog in Penn State’s first National Championship since 1953, made even sweeter as NCAA’s were held in front of a large Penn State contingent in Philadelphia. Long was top dog at the Big Ten Tournament in a 133 weight class that was loaded in-conference, with notable names such as Iowa’s Tony Ramos, Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff, and Illini BJ Futrell, and gave the best finish that any 133lb. wrestler has had at Penn State in the Sanderson era. Long would run into off-the-mat problems, ending his career at Penn State, a true shame as he was incredibly gifted wrestler who still had two more years of eligibility. Had the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons been with Andrew Long in the lineup, Penn State could have challenged for team scoring records at the NCAA tournament. As inconsistent and unpredictable as Long’s life off the mat has been, he was the epitome of consistency in his only season competing for the Nittany Lions, as his two losses came by a combined four points to USA National Team Member Tony Ramos and that year’s NCAA runner-up Andrew Hochstrasser. Conaway is a great wrestler and maximized every ounce of his talent for the Nittany Lions, but Long is the better wrestler and I expect Long to win a regular decision against Conaway, with a slight chance of a major decision.
141: 2010-2011 Andrew Alton (Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2015-2016 Jimmy Gulibon (Garrett Carr)
2010-2011 Andrew Alton: (31-10: 4 MD, 0 TF, 20 WBF, NCAA R12, Big Ten 5th Place)
A moment, please, to appreciate a Big Ten bracket that had Andrew Alton seeded 5th behind names like Kellen Russell, Montell Marion and Jimmy Kennedy. So you can see what the then Freshman was dealing with. That being said, I’m getting six points back here and I’m pretty sure of it. Andrew Alton had one of the most ridiculous, violent headlocks I have ever seen and used it often en route to an insane 20 wins by fall in the ‘10-’11 season. Of his ten losses, 9 were to top-4 ranked wrestlers with one coming to NCAA runner-up and now olympian Boris Novachkov. As I see it playing out, Andrew comes out aggressive, Jimmy does something silly as he is wont to do, and before you know it he’s on his back staring at the lights. Six points. That being said, even if he doesn’t get the pin I’d be hard-pressed seeing Alton walking away without the victory here.
2015-2016 Jimmy Gulibon: (14-11, 1MD, 3TF, NCAA Round of 16, Big Ten 2nd Place)
Gulibon is one of the more interesting wrestlers to come through Rec Hall in the past 10 years. Coming off a high school career in which he captured four PIAA Championships, a feat that is as rare as any in high school wrestling, he entered Happy Valley with high expectations. Fair or unfair, Gulibon has not always lived up to those expectations in his time at Penn State, but with options at this weight limited after Molinaro and Retherford came off the board at 149lb., Gulibon was my choice because on a good day he can wrestle with any wrestler in the weight class, as evidenced by his win over #4 ranked Micah Jordan at the Big Ten Tournament and his demolition of NCAA Tournament #5 seed Matt Manley, whom he beat by technical fall 17-2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. When Gulibon is rolling he has great neutral offense and is a great scrambler, as well as having a pretty good gas tank. He is a tweener between 133 and 141 so he does struggle against the biggest and strongest 141lb. wrestlers, but most of Gulibon’s issues are mental and hopefully he is in the zone when he wrestles Alton, because while Alton is probably the favorite, he is not necessarily known for his consistency either, and it is not an unrealistic possibility for Gulibon to win this match. The Alton brothers famously struggled with their gas tanks in their time here at Penn State, and if Gulibon can avoid giving up a big move early and make it a match going into the 3rd period, my hope is he will have worn down Alton and will have a very good shot at taking the match.
149: 2011-2012 Frank Molinaro (Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2015-2016 Zain Retherford (Garrett Carr)
2011-2012 Frank Molinaro: (34-0, 10MD, 7TF, 4WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Champion)
Did somebody say something about a rock and a hard place? I got Frank, now an Olympian, relatively late in the draft after Garrett had locked up his pick at 149. Molinaro’s run to the title in ‘11-’12 was nothing short of clinical as he proved nearly impossible score on and his head outside single was probably the best in the NCAA at the time. Much of what Zain did last year, he learned from Frank. You can see the similarities in his tenacity, relentlessness and more specifically, in the types of turns. Replace Frank with Zain here in this Big Ten semifinal and you’d really have no clue who you’re watching. It’s nearly impossible to pick holes in Zain’s game from last season as he was the best wrestler in the country and should’ve won the Hodge Trophy, but Frank was nearly as impressive. While it may not play into the hypothetical matchup with Retherford, Molinaro has gone on to earn a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team by beating some of the nation’s best and has since proved himself on the world stage beating some of the best, nearly included defending Olympic champ Togrul Asgarov whom he lost to 5-4 on the back of some interesting shot clock calls after going up 5-4 (Asgarov didn’t record a takedown in match). I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. Zain may be the slight favorite here but a good deal of that could be recency bias and Retherford beating up on a pretty weak field at 149 last year. I give Zain the (very) slight edge, but there’s no reason I can’t see Molinaro outfoxing the younger (at the time) Retherford and finding a way to win 3-1 or 3-2.
2015-2016 Zain Retherford: (34-0, 7MD, 7TF, 15WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Champion, awarded the title of NCAA’s Most Dominant Wrestler)
Zain was my second round pick, and for good reason. Following a very impressive true freshman season at 141, Retherford took a redshirt year and merely came back as the most punishing wrestler in the nation. Always elite in the top position, Zain became unstoppable in neutral and improved on bottom during the redshirt year, while somehow becoming even better on top, allowing him to make a mockery of the 149lb class, despite some people doubting if he could handle the weight jump from 141lb. He answered the doubters with as good a of a season any wrestler at Penn State has ever had. He posted a ridiculous 47-1 takedowns scored-to-allowed in dual meets, and in the NCAA Tournament he was so dominant that his technical fall, three pins, and major decisions scored Penn State 28.5 team points, had the Zain Train been his own team at the NCAA Tournament, he would have finished tied for 16th, 2 ½ points ahead of perennial power Minnesota. There was never a moment in any of his 34 matches where Retherford was not the favorite to win the match, as the only way anyone could keep the score close with Retherford was by turtling up with the sole purpose of not giving up bonus points. In his three matches against Michigan Wolverine and current USA World Junior Freestyle Team Member Alec Pantaleo, ranked top eight in the country all year, Retherford dismantled him every time, all three ending in falls. Even after the Big Ten Tournament, when Retherford beat #2 Hawkeye Brandon Sorensen in the finals 4-0, people around the wrestling world still thought that maybe Sorensen could have a shot to knock of Retherford in the NCAA Tournament. With Sorensen having to wrestle a more aggressive style (for Sorensen that means going from not aggressive whatsoever to slightly aggressive), Retherford controlled the entire match, winning 10-1. Molinaro is obviously a stud and one of the reasons the Penn State program is the envy of the college wrestling world, but Retherford was arguably the best wrestler in college wrestling last year and that is something that Molinaro could never claim in his time in college. I expect Molinaro to make more of a match of it than any of the opponents ZPain faced in the 2015-2016 season, but I expect Retherford to give me a huge win over Molinaro and keep his undefeated record in Rec Hall intact.
157: 2015-2016 Jason Nolf (Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2009-2010 Cyler Sanderson (Garrett Carr)
2015-2016 Jason Nolf: (34-2, 5MD, 11 TF, 16 WBF, NCAA Runner-Up, Big Ten Runner-up)
I’m getting bonus points here, because that’s what Jason Nolf does. Nolf didn’t score bonus in just two of his matchups last year, the first being his second match of the season against a RS Senior and returning All-American in Nick Brascetta, and the second coming against JoJo Smith of OkSt who he’d later beat via major decision at NCAA’s. Nolf’s only losses on the season came to 170-pound Isaiah Martinez in the NCAA and Big Ten finals after Martinez found all the protein and gatorade he can during a long rest period post weigh-ins. Yes, NCAA weigh-in rules are stupid. Yes, I’m shilling for my wrestler who I think beats Martinez, now at 165 (shocking coincidence), if weigh-ins were closer to the time of the match. That being said, Jason Nolf is god damn cyborg. He’s got leg attacks I didn’t even know existed until last year, he’s got some funk to him, and his top game is far more crafty than it ever should be for a redshirt freshman. Nolf’s pins of Ryan Blees of Oklahoma State and Ian Brown of Lehigh were two of the more ridiculous I’ve ever seen, not to mention his handling of Martinez when both were on weight in the dual. Cyler could well keep this to a major, but many of his losses in ‘09-’10 were to guy who weren’t on Nolf’s level and he was pinned and majored in his last two matches of the season in the NCAA tournament. I see Nolf coming out of this one with five big points.
2009- 2010 Cyler Sanderson: (34-7, 3MD, 4TF, 6WBF, NCAA 6th place, Big Ten Champion)
The youngest of the Sanderson brothers, Cyler was not too shabby of a wrestler himself. After Following brother Cael From Iowa State to Penn State following the 2008-2009 season, Cyler Sanderson helped lay the foundation for Cael’s program, capturing the first individual Big Ten Tournament title for a wrestler under Cael Sanderson at Penn State. When Cyler’s name is mentioned, many hardcore Penn State fans will immediately mention his win over a True Freshman by the name of David Taylor in the preseason intrasquad scrimmage, 11-4. That was not the only big win for Sanderson that year, as he followed that up with wins over #2 Matt Moley of Bloomsburg and and #5of Boise State, as well capturing the Big Ten title. Most importantly to the program, the youngest Sanderson helped Cody and Cael Sanderson instill the work ethic and program value system to young wrestlers that would become the backbone of four straight national team titles in Taylor, Ed Ruth, and Quentin Wright. Nolf is as talented as any wrestler Penn State has had, and while I concede a Nolf victory in this matchup, Sanderson only gave up bonus points one time the entire season and that was in his last match of the season after having just wrestled less than two hours earlier at the end of a grueling NCAA Championships weekend. I’m counting on Cyler Sanderson to help the team here by doing whatever it takes to keep it to a regular decision, though Jason Nolf could have something to say about that.
(Video via YouTube.com and GoPSUSports)
165lb.: 2011-2012 David Taylor (Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2009-2010 Dan Vallimont (Garrett Carr)
2011-2012 David Taylor: (34-0, 7MD, 9TF, 16WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Champion, Hodge Trophy Winner, Most Pins in Least Amount of time @ NCAA tournament)
Have I said how much I love the middle of my lineup? I really love the middle of lineup. Dan, buddy, I’m sorry, but you’re going to be staring at the lights here as the ref slaps the mat. DT’s 2011-2012 season was nothing short of incredible, highlighted by an NCAA Tournament run that few have ever seen before. In his five tournament matches, Taylor went Fall (1:40), Fall (1:52), Fall (:40), Fall (4:42, what took him so long?) and Technical fall (22-7) in one of the most dominant performances in tournament history. While Vallimont had a more than impressive season, he had just one "elite" win over Edinboro’s Jarrod King and his close losses to eventual champ Andrew Howe are the most impressive part of his resume. While Howe is an outstanding wrestler in his own right, he’s not on the level of Taylor and certainly doesn’t have the same type of craft and guile from top. I expect Taylor to push the pace against Vallimont who poses no big threat on his feet against elite competition and late in the 2nd or 3rd I think he takes him over for the Fall.
2009-2010 Dan Vallimont: (30-9, 5MD, 1TF, 2WBF, NCAA Runner-Up, Big Ten Third Place)
Vallimont had an inconsistent season, but in typical Dan Vallimont fashion, got hot during the postseason, as his only two postseason losses were to National Champion Andrew Howe of Wisconsin. Nine losses may be alarming, but seven of them were to wrestlers ranked in the top ten at the time of the bout, and one of the other two was to teammate Jake Kemerer in the intrasquad scrimmage, and in none of the losses did Vallimont give up bonus points. Vallimont was not a high-volume scorer, but he did have some clever moves from neutral and was solid on top and bottom. His runner-up finish in 2010, to go along with his third place finish in 2008, makes one wonder what his career would have looked like had he been able able to wrestle under the tutelage of Cael Sanderson and his coaching staff for more than his final year in a Nittany Lion singlet. Unfortunately for Vallimont, his opponent is not only one of the best college wrestlers ever, but the best version of said wrestler, as 2011-2012 David Taylor was not letting anything get in his way of a national title after coming so close the year before. Vallimont did a nice job of not giving up bonus points in matches, even when team score was not a factor, such as in his 9-3 NCAA title match loss to Andrew Howe. The odds would certainly be on Taylor being able to at least get a major out of this, but there’s at least some optimism on my end that Vallimont can keep it to a regular decision. After all, he was an NCAA runner-up, he’s no scrub.
174: 2014-2015(Clay Sauertieg) VS. 2015-2016 Bo Nickal
2014-2015: (31-3, 8MD, 1TF, 10WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Runner up)
Is it weird to start a post aboutby talking about his competitor? Because Bo should’ve been an NCAA Champion last season, but Bo beat Bo. And for that reason, I think Brown takes this matchup. The ‘14-’15 NCAA Champ was the picture of consistency on a rare recent PSU team that was lacking it given the losses of Taylor and Ruth and the redshirts of Megaludis and Retherford. Brown had impressive wins over , Logan Storley (who can now be seen ripping guys’ heads off in a cage) and young Mr. Nickal himself. Now, surely Bo improved greatly from his redshirt year to his first year of competition, but often times he put himself in very compromising positions and I believe that plays right into the hands of the cerebral Matt Brown. Brown, affectionately called "Hulk Hands" by a few of us in the BSD community, is a work horse who plays to strengths, and boy does he have a lot of strength. The senior was probably the one of, if not the strongest got at his weight the year he won an NCAA title and put his strength on full display in a pair of 2-0 victories over Iowa’s where he was able to ride out the entire third period. Bo likely didn’t wrestle anyone all last year with the Brown’s combination of strength and guile, and while the young Nickal may be the more slick and explosive wrestler I think the teacher gets the better of the student in this one.
2015-2016 Bo Nickal: (33-2, 6MD, 7TF, 8WBF, NCAA Runner-Up, Big Ten Champion)
Bo Nickal started the season as a sleeper in a deep 174-pound weight class and by the time the NCAA Tournament rolled around was the prohibitive favorite to win the national championship. Two bad decisions that ultimately took Nickal to his back kept him from an undefeated season as a redshirt freshman. While his finals loss to Ohio State’s Myles Martin, a wrestler that Bo had defeated three times previously that season, including by fall in the Big Ten Tournament and a dominant 11-5 decision at the dual meet at the Bryce Jordan Center, left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, there is no doubt that Nickal was the dominant wrestler in the 174lb. class in the 2015-2016, and I would venture to guess that Nickal would never try to throw Martin again when he did not need to, as that is what cost Bo the national title. To put it simply, Martin beating Nickal was a fluke. Nickal defeated ranked wrestlers sixteen times, including then-#1 Cornell’s Brian Realbuto 14-7 at the Southern Scuffle in a match that was one of college wrestling’s most exciting last year. Though going for big moves using throws ultimately cost Nickal a national title, it was nearly unstoppable against most opponents, and had the weigh in structure for NCAA finalists been a little different (Martin was cutting a lot of weight, but the early weigh in for finalists on Championship Saturday allows wrestlers to put on significant weight leading up to their match) the throw that got him in trouble against Martin probably would have worked, too. To go along with his great upper-body offense, Nickal featured an elite ankle pick. His best skill, however, is his incredible scrambling ability and it is not a stretch to say that Nickal might have been the best scrambler in all of college wrestling last year. That scrambling ability allowed him to rack up an absurd 54-1 takedown ratio in duals last season, all that while wrestling a grueling schedule. This matchup with Matt Brown is certainly one of the matches that realistically could go either way. Brown is an outstanding wrestler and encompasses everything that a student-athlete should be, but I think Nickal is the better wrestler between the two. Brown might have a slight strength advantage, but Bo is stronger than he looks, and I think Bo is the quicker wrestler and better scrambler out of the two. Brown made a living against top competition of riding out periods, but he never scored much from neutral against the top wrestlers and I think Bo’s scrambling ability when Brown is trying to ride him coupled with Bo having just enough offense to get a takedown that Brown will not be able to get on Nickal will give Bo Nickal a regular decision over Matt Brown.
184lb.: 2015-2016 Matt McCutchen (Clay Sauertieg) Vs. 2012-2013 Ed Ruth (Garrett Carr)
2015-2016 Matt McCutcheon: (26-14, 3MD, 1TF, 3WBF, DNP NCAA Tournament, 5th at Big Ten)
It’s hard to get a gauge on Cutch’s ‘15-’16 season. He started the year 6-0 before a back injury cost him his first match in the Nittany Lion Open. After returning from injury, he would win six more matches in a row, including a big win over national runner-up TJ Dudley of Nebraska, before a serious knee injury cost him a match against Illinois’ Jeff Koepke. Following the knee injury it was clear that Cutch wasn’t the same wrestler. He went into that bout at 12-1 on the year and would finish the year 4-7. It was clear throughout the remainder of the season that Cutch wasn’t comfortable posting on the knee or using it to drive and finish his shots. Had he been healthy, I think there’s reason to believe he could’ve finished as high as second at NCAA’s, especially given the fact that Dudley did it despite gas tank issues. While it’s fairly clear to anybody with a set of eyes and the slightest of wrestling knowledge that Cutch isn’t in the same league as Ruth, I think a healthy version of him keeps it from getting too ugly. I imagine Ruth would probably win by major, but I think Matt does a good job of damage control, something like 14-5 sounds about right.
2012-2013 Ed Ruth: (34-0, 10MD, 4TF, 12WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Champion)
A hundred years from now, when wrestling coaches are teaching youth the art of the cradle, they’ll pull up some footage of Ed Ruth as an example of one sick cradle. Ruth was the total package as a wrestler, especially in his best season in 2012-2013. That cradle is as signature of a move as any we have seen in recent memory in the sport. It was simply devastating, and top-caliber wrestlers frequently stalled on bottom, decreasing their own chances of winning, just so they would not get embarrassed by the cradle. After Ruth made the jump to from 174lb. to 184lb. going into this season, his quickness advantage in neutral over wrestlers was so severe that opponents would try to wrestle like a heavyweight in neutral against Ruth, trying to get Ruth in ties, while Ruth moved around like a lightweight, poking and prodding with jab steps and level changes until he found an opening for his elite leg attacks. Ruth would almost look bored at times during matches, but he had a switch that could be flipped whenever he got in trouble, and at that point his talent overwhelmed even the best foes at 184lb. in the 2012-2013 season. His 27 team points at NCAA’s would have given Ed Ruth University a 20th place finish at the tournament, and he made a statement when he finished the tournament off with a 12-4 major decision against Lehigh stud Robert Hamlin. Kyle Dake won all the major awards that year, but in my opinion Ruth was the best wrestler in college wrestling in the 2012-2013 season. There’s no doubt that Ruth could look unimpressive at times, something that most likely infuriated Cael Sanderson, but there is one thing that is not arguable, and that is when Ed Ruth and Penn State needed a result out of Ed Ruth, Ed Ruth did what was needed to be done. Matt McCutcheon is a good wrestler who, on his best days and when healthy, is a very good one. However, we are talking about Ed Ruth, a wrestler who accomplished as much as any wrestler ever at Penn State, and the best wrestler at this weight nationally since Coach Cael Sanderson one undefeated national championship at 184 in 1999, 2000, and 2001. I don’t really see what McCutcheon can do to try to keep Ruth in check, as it is a terrible matchup for him. He is not big and strong enough to keep Ruth tied up, Ruth is considerably longer, McCutcheon struggles to get out on bottom against top wrestlers, and Ruth has a definite quickness advantage. McCutcheon’s only chance to keep this to a regular decision is if Ruth goes through the motions. If Ruth bring his C game, it’s a major. If it’s Ruth’s A game, I think he hits McCutcheon in that cradle at least once, and with the current scoring rules making it even easier for hammers like Ruth to accumulate back points, Ruth, who came up big whenever the Lions needed him, can easily win by technical fall or deck McCutcheon, getting me two or three key bonus points, and elicit the famous "Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuth" chants from the Nittany Lion faithful.
197lb.: 2012-2013 Quentin Wright (Clay Sauertieg) Vs. 2007-2008 Phil Davis (Garrett Carr)
2012-2013 Quentin Wright: (31-1, 4MD, 0TF, 12WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Champion)
Matt Wilps of Pitt is the one behind the one in thirty-one and one. He was also Q’s first opponent of the season in the All-Star Classic, and that was last blemish you’d see on Quentin’s record. I’m not saying Q is better than the Undertaker, I’m just sayin'. On a far more serious note, Wright was an absolute Swiss army knife up at 197. He’d use his length and strength to land a series of sweeps and trips and throws and it was one of the more incredible things to watch every time he went out there. His NCAA final against previously undefeated Dustin Kilgore of Kent State was one of the best matches of the year at any weight class and showed what a wide variety of tools Wright had in his bag. The win gave Wright his second national championship and first at 197 pounds. It also helped him complete the feat of becoming just Penn State’s sixth 4-time All-American at that time. Davis is probably the quicker of the two wrestlers here but everything Wright seems to do is just so smooth. While I expect this matchup to be an absolute war with a lot of hand fight and tie-ups, I think Wright uses a bit of craft and some strong defense to pull out a tight, low scoring decision.
2007-2008 Phil Davis: (26-1, 6MD, 3TF, 8WBF, NCAA Champion, Big Ten Champion)
Phil Davis, now known as Mr. Wonderful in the world of MMA, was pretty wonderful in a Penn State singlet as well. The four-time All-American capped off one of the best careers in school history with a national title in the Spring of 2008. Davis nearly produced an undefeated season, with his only loss coming to Northwestern hammer Mike Tamillow, a loss he avenged at the Big Ten Tournament. Davis was as athletic as any wrestler in the country, possessing a size, speed, flexibility, and strength combination that is rarely matched in wrestling. This caused problems for his foes in the 197lb. weight class, as they simply could not match his quickness and his ability to scramble like a wrestler much lighter than what he actually was. He put together a dominant postseason in which all but one of his matches in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament’s were decided by five points or more, the lone exception being his 3-2 win over Tamillow in the Big Ten finals. Granted, this will not help me in this hypothetical dual, but one cannot help but think what Phil Davis would have accomplished had he been in the program just a few years later under Cael Sanderson, because his natural talent was tremendous. Opponent Quentin Wright captured two national titles under Sanderson and came close to a third, and there is no reason that Davis could not have accomplished that with some different coaching and a better culture in the wrestling room. This is a match that to me is a coin flip. Both are incredibly gifted wrestlers and had great postseasons in their respective seasons. They are both great big-match wrestlers and will know the significance of this match in the dual. To me, this match comes down to the athleticism of Davis and how it matches up against the great technical ability of Quentin Wright. This match could very well clinch the dual for one of these two teams and hopefully Davis gets it done in a close match for me.
285: 2014-2015 Jimmy Lawson (Clay Sauertieg) Vs. 2006-2007 Aaron Anspach (Garrett Carr
2014-2015 Jimmy Lawson: (21-6, 6MD, 3TF, 2WBF, NCAA 6th Place, Big Ten 6th Place)
Don’t let the numbers fool you, LawDog was pretty outstanding in ‘14-’15. His only losses came to Mike McMullan, Bobby Telford, Adam Coon and eventual Champion Nick Gwiazdowski. Not exactly a bad group of guys. On his way to a 21-6 record, Lawson picked up two impressive victories of Virginia Tech’s Ty Walz in addition to five other wins over ranked wrestlers. Lawson wrestled three years for the Nittany Lions following a transfer from Monmouth University where he was playing football and was always a known quantity for the Cael Sanderson. A 3x New Jersey state champ and highly coveted recruit out of high school, I’m comfortable in saying that Lawson had the potential to compete for national championships had he forgone two years of football at Monmouth and received the right coaching. While I’m not sure Jimmy had the offense to beat the always solid Anspach, it would certainly be close and at very worse would result in Anspach winning by regular decision.
2006-2007 Aaron Anspach: (22-4, 7 MD, 1 TF, 1 WBF, NCAA Runner-Up, Big Ten Runner-Up)
Anspach is the best Penn State wrestler whose name you may not recognize over the past ten years. Despite heavyweight being without a doubt the weakest weight for Penn State over the last decade, Anspach had an impressive senior season in which three of his four losses were to two-time NCAA Champion Cole Konrad of Minnesota, a school known for dominating this weight. Anspach wrestled less than sixty matches for the Nittany Lions in his career as he missed most of two seasons with injuries. Were it not for those injuries, Anspach could have ended his career as possibly the finest heavyweight Penn State has ever had, as he was a very gifted wrestler with athleticism for his size. Anspach had some standout offense for a heavyweight, garnering nine bonus point wins wrestling a grueling schedule of heavyweights in the best wrestling conference in America. These are three points I was counting on as Anspach is without a doubt the best heavyweight Penn State has had in the past ten years, which is why I drafted him ahead of some other well-known wrestlers.
Clay's dual recap: So, following the run down I’ve got my side winning 23-16 with victories at 141, 157, 165, 174 and 197 and big bonus from Alton, Nolf and Taylor. That includes a few toss-up matches and the very likely chance that I get far less bonus points than I anticipated. I’m comfortable saying that even without the huge bonus I anticipate that my team could pull it out something like like 19-16 and that number includes Retherford over Molinaro which I consider a bit of a toss up. What I’m saying here is it’s really close and that Penn State has had an embarrassment of riches in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex in recent years. The draft has led me down a YouTube wormhole of Penn State Wrestling abundance and I’m looking forward to add to the catalogue in the foreseeable future.
Garrett’s dual recap: First off, it is truly incredible to see how much talent we have had in the last ten years, and yet I would bet on there being an even more impressive group of talent in the ten years following this compared to the ten years preceding. I have the dual scored at 21-13 with my team coming out victorious thanks to regular decision wins by Megaludis, Long, Retherford, Nickal, and Anspach, and an Ed Ruth pin over Matt McCutcheon, and wins for Clay from Alton, Taylor, and Wright to go along with a major decision for Jason Nolf over Cyler Sanderson. However, I could totally lose the dual, as all it would take for Clay to overtake me is for Matt Brown to beat Bo Nickal and Frank Molinaro to upset Zain Retherford, among many scenarios. Ultimately, it is up to you, the Black Shoe Diaries community, to decide who has the superior dual meet team.
(statistics provided by GoPSUSports.com, The Penn State Wrestling Club, and Penn State Wrestling Communication Director Pat Donghia)