January 5, 2011

Wrestling Wreport: The ‘everybody wants to rule the world’ edition

*Cue mid-80's nostalgia*

Last week the Penn State wrestling team traveled to Greensboro, N.C. to participate in the Southern Scuffle, a 30-team tournament that included 6 top-25 programs including No. 1 Cornell and No. 3 Minnesota – both teams ranked ahead of Penn State. After the dust settled Penn State and Cornell tied for top honors each amassing 151.5 points (hence the title, get it?!? Never mind).

The Scuffle is a bit unique in that each team is allowed to enter 15 attached wrestlers instead of the standard 10, which allowed Penn State to showcase some depth. It's in typical tournament style where each weight class ranks the wrestlers in that class and they each crown individual champions unlike the upcoming Virginia Duals which will be a team tournament of duals. It allowed Penn State to get some backups some work and they didn't disappoint. The Lions sent out and extra wrestler at 125, 141, 149, 157, and 165. At 125 Senior Brad Pataky got his first action of the season coming off an injury. He didn't place but considering it was his first action it was just good to get him back. Frank Martellotti, the starter in Brad's place all season, finished 6-3 and took 5th place. James English, the backup to Frank Molinaro, went 5-2 to take 7th. The most impressive non-starter of the tournament though was James Vollrath. While undefeated David Taylor was sailing through the 157 pound bracket, Vollrath was cruising along in his wake going 9-1 to take third including a 5-3 decision over #7 Bryce Saddoris of Navy.

The Good
Penn State sent four wrestlers to the finals and came within a point of getting the sweep. The only loss was Frank Molinaro who lost a tough 0-1 decision to No. 1 Kyle Dake of Cornell. Molinaro is right there with the top wrestlers in his weight class. Andrew Alton suffered his first loss of the season, a heart-breaking last second takedown loss to No. 1 Kellen Russell of Michigan (3-4) but it shows that Andrew is right there with the top guys as well. Oh did I mention he had 3 pins and two wins over No. 10 Cole Von Ohlen of Air Force including a 15-7 major and 9-5 decision to take 3rd.

The Better
Cameron Wade had 3 falls and two wins over ranked wrestlers including No. 7 Ben Apland of Michigan in the finals. Against Apland Wade had to win to secure the tie and with time running out turned the Wolverine wrestler for 2 back points on his way to a 4-2 win. Wade is finally looking like he may fulfill some of the lofty potential he came to Penn State with. Like I mentioned previously, David Taylor destroyed the class at 157 amassing 4 technical falls (including one over No. 9 Paul Young of Indiana in the finals) and two regular falls. Basically David didn't have to finish a single match. It was the kind of performance that would have won him the tournaments outstanding wrestling award if not for….

The amazing
Ed Ruth redshirted last season and came to Penn State as their most decorated recruit before the Sanderson era. Ruth stuck with Penn State even through the coaching transition and it's paying off for him. He lost a

That's not a kid that's how little
Ed makes other wrestlers look
tough match early in the season in the Nittany Lion Open finals to No. 8 Mike Letts of Maryland 9-4 but has shown steady improvement. He definitely has the confidence to be one of the best but he doesn't have the resume. That's all changed now. Ruth had two pins and a major on his way to the semifinals where he faced the top ranked wrestler in the country, Mack Lewnes of Cornell. Not only did Ruth manage the mild upset (he was ranked No. 10) he did it in dominating fashion with an 11-5 decision. As impressive as that is, he wasn't done there. He moved on to the finals were he beat No. 2 Chris Henrich of Virginia 7-2 to take the championship at 174. Beating No. 1 and No. 2 in the same tournament is impressive for any wrestler but considering he's a freshman it's just down right amazing. How impressive was it? He was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler, this week's Big Ten Wrestler of the week, and is now the second ranked wrestler in the nation. I don't know how he's going to top that performance.

It's hard to find anything wrong with this performance. Penn State stood toe to toe with the top-ranked team in the country and didn't flinch. The Lions top-performers all wrestled well and gave the team bonus points when they needed them. For their effort Penn State moves up to No. 2 in the latest USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll.

Getting healthy
As exciting as their effort was in the Scuffle keep in mind they were without the services of returning All-American 184-pounder Quentin Wright and returning 125-pound NCAA runner up Andrew Long who has finally made weight at 133. That will probably change this week when Penn State travels to the Virginia duals this weekend in Hampton, Va.
Long, a 2010 NCAA finalist at 125 who transferred from Iowa State to Penn State last month, will wrestle in a Nittany Lion singlet for the first time this weekend. He traveled to last week's Southern Scuffle but couldn't compete at 133 because of NCAA weight certification rules
Sophomore 184-pounder Quentin Wright's injured shoulder is healing faster than expected.

Wright has returned to full-squad workouts and Sanderson expects the All- American to return for the Pitt match. Sanderson initially told reporters Wright, who injured the shoulder in the finals of last month's Nittany Lion Open, would be out until February.
So yeah, things are getting better, how much better can they get? Only time will tell.


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