March 22, 2010

Wrestling Wreport: Penn State finishes 9th

The Penn State Wrestling team ended the season in 9th place at the NCAA Wrestling championships this weekend. The Nittany Lions had three All-Americans lead by 165-pounder Dan Vallimont who lost in the finals to Andrew Howe of Wisconsin. Frank Molinaro took 5th at 149 and Cyler Sanderson took 6th at 157 both finishing as All-Americans. In four years head coach Cael Sanderson has always finished in the top ten, while Penn State had placed out of the top ten in seven of the last ten years.

Vallimont came up just short finishing 2nd

1: Iowa - 134.5
2: Cornell - 90.0
3: Iowa State - 75.0
4: Wisconsin - 70.5
5: Oklahoma - 69.0
6: Oklahoma State - 65.0
7: Minnesota - 63.0
8: Ohio State - 62.0
9: PENN STATE - 49.0
10: Missouri - 48.0

As expected Iowa ran away with the championship getting 3 individual champions while getting 5 in the championship finals. Cornell had a surprising run to finish 2nd in the team race. As is usually the case, 5 of the top 10 were schools out of the Big Ten. The Big Ten lead all conferences with 25 All-Americans followed by the Big 12 with 15.

125: Brad Pataky (28-10) 2-2 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 6-4 dec. #9 Jarrod Patterson, Oklahoma
Rd. 2: W, 3-2 dec. #8 Matt Steintrager, Central Michigan
Qtrs: L, 0-15 tech. fall #1 Angel Escobedo, Indiana (TF; 6:27)
Round of 12: L, 5-9 dec. #2 Troy Nickerson, Cornell

Out of all the Penn State wrestlers, Pataky got a serious screwing by the bracket. He proved the seeding wrong by beating two ranked wrestlers in the first two rounds. When a wrestler has to wrestle four wrestlers in the top 10 including both No. 1 and No. 2 something is screwed up. In the quarterfinals not only did Pataky have to wrestle Escobedo but on his side of the bracket the only unseeded wrestler left was Pataky himself, on the other side out of the four wrestlers left only one was seeded. Pataky's season ends like it did last season: one win away from All-American status. Brad has one year left to get the elusive finish that all wrestler dream of, hopefully this will drive him. It sounds like it will.
"I've never had a feeling like this before," Pataky said, "coming so close to something that you prepare for all your life and falling short of it. Coming away from the tournament, I think I grew mentally as a wrestler," Pataky said. "It will fuel my fire for next year."

149: Frank Molinaro (33-7) 4-2 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 9-4 dec. Donald Vinson, Binghamton
Rd. 2: W, 8-0 maj. dec. Eric Albright, Pittsburgh
Qtrs: W, 8-0 maj. dec. Torsten Gillespie, Edinboro
Semis: L, 0-2 dec. Lance Palmer, Ohio State
Cans Semis: L, 1-7 dec. #4 Kyle Ruschell, Wisconsin
5th Place: W, 10-1 maj. dec. Torsten Gillespie, Edinboro

Frank the Tank ended to his seed finishing 5th. In the semis Molinaro lost a heart breaking 2-0 decision to Lance Palmer of Ohio State getting rode out the entire third period after giving up and escape in the second. The good news for Frank is that Metcalf, Palmer, and Ruschell, wrestlers that finished ahead of Molinaro, are all seniors.

157: Cyler Sanderson (32-7) 4-3 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 16-12 dec. Bryan Deutsch, Northern Illinois
Rd. 2: W, 4-2 dec. Dan Gonsor, Virginia
Qtrs: L, 4-9 dec. #5 Steve Fittery, American
Rd. of 12: W, 6-3 dec. Anthony Jones, Michigan State
Cns Qtr: W, 9-6 dec. Justin Gaethje, Northern Colorado
Cns Semis: LBF Justin Lister, Binghamton (4:04)
5th Place: L, 6-15 maj. dec. #5 Steve Fittery, American

Although he finished an All-American in 6th place, I think Cyler had bigger plans that fell through. Not to make a pun (ok, yeah I'm making a pun) but American's Steve Fittery gave Sanderson fits. In fact in his three losses the same thing that haunted Sanderson all season long hurt him in the Nationals: getting out from the bottom position. Sanderson got caught in a cradle for the pin against Lister and got caught on his back several times in the 5th place bout. Sanderson actually built up a 6-3 lead against Fittery before back points turned the bout into a major.

165: Dan Vallimont (30-8) 4-1 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 8-3 dec. Matt Epperly, Virginia Tech
Rd. 2: W, 9-0 maj. dec. #11 Rick Schmelyun, Bloomsburg
Qtrs: W, 5-2 dec. Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford
Semis: W, 3-1 (sv) #2 Jarrod King, Edinboro
Finals: L, 9-3 dec. #1 Andrew Howe, Wisconsin

Dan finished his career wrestling well, ending the national runner-up. Really, beating an undefeated Howe was a tough chore and Vallimont never gave up, but it was a tough match that didn't go his way. All in all though, Dan had a great tournament dominating his first three opponents and getting the take down in sudden victory against second seeded King of Edinboro to send him to the finals. Dan finishes his Penn State career a two time All-American with a 3rd and a 2nd place finish.

184: David Erwin (31-10) 2-2 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 4-0 dec. Erich Schmidtke, Oklahoma
Rd. 2: LBF #6 Max Askren, Missouri (3:51)
Cn Rd. 3: W, 8-3 dec. Jerome Ward, Iowa State
Cn Rd. 4: L, 2-6 dec. #10 Mike Pucillo, Ohio State

Like I said in my preview, it was a tough first outing for Erwin at the championships. The nationals can be intimidating, everyone is wrestling hard. Erwin did lose to the eventual 184 pound champ, Max Askren but the loss to Pucillo is tough.

HWT: Cameron Wade (22-11)
Rd. 1: L, 1-3 (SV) #3 Zach Rey, Lehigh
Cns. Rd. 2: W, 1-0 dec. David Wade, Eastern Michigan
Cns. Rd. 3: W, 8-3 dec. #8 Ryan Tomei, Pittsburgh
Cns. Rd. 4: L, 0-7 dec. #11 Mitchell Montiero, CS-Bakersfield

Cameron actually wrestled well, coming within a sudden victory takedown of #3 Zach Rey in the opening round. Wade bounced back with two solid wins in a row including an 8-3 decision over Ryan Tomei, a wrestler Wade lost to earlier in the year. If anything, Wade got a lot of good experience from the nationals. Hopefully he can get back next season.

Final Thoughts
So ends the inaugural season for Cael Sanderson directing the Nittany Lions. It wasn't a great finish but considering PSU finished 17th last season it is improvement. The season had mixed results with some highlights and some not-so-great moments, but not a bad start. I think Molinaro had about the most consistent year of all the Penn State wrestlers and of course Dan Vallimont finished out peaking at the right time. It was great to see Cyler Sanderson finish out his career in a Penn State singlet. The Nittany Lions will return next season with two All-Americans in Molinaro and Quentin Wright (after a redshirt year). With Pataky and Wade at either end of the lineup, Penn State will have a decent foundation. With all the big recruits currently redshirted and the ones coming in after this season Penn State should be poised to put together a decent dual team.


  1. This season was certainly and improvement over the past several years. I think the incoming recruits and those that redshirted this year will be the nucleus of a very strong team in the years to come.

  2. Things are definitely looking up for PSU grapplers. Sanderson was the single best hire since Joe Paterno and Russ Rose.

  3. It's hard not to get overly excited about the future of this team but we have to remember they are going to be very, very young next season. That said, I think everyone is ready to see what they can do.