PSU captures 4th straight title NCAA wrestling title
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OKLAHOMA CITY — Coach Cael can cut the cake. It's time for Penn State to celebrate once again.
The Nittany Lions captured a fourth consecutive team title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday night, getting finals wins from Ed Ruth and David Taylor.
Penn State slipped past Minnesota, and only after Golden Gophers heavyweight Tony Nelson's upset loss in the fourth match of the night did the Nittany Lions pull ahead for good.
Not that anyone associated with Penn State doubted it would happen.
Nittany Lions coach Cael Sanderson has his wrestlers eat cake to celebrate accomplishments before they happen, a way to visualize their success.
Doubtful whether anyone saw this coming. Penn State's pursuit took many twists and turns, though it still got to the same place. The Nittany Lions finished with 109.5 points before 16,217 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Minnesota had 104 and Oklahoma State 96.5.
“I've been planning on winning this thing since last year,” Sanderson said. “There are obviously times where you think that's not going to happen, but you have to do what you tell the guys to do and stay positive.”
Ruth opened the night with a 7-2 win over Maryland's Jimmy Sheptock, who was undefeated and seeded No. 1 overall, in the second of 10 finals matches.
He scored a few early takedowns, then a reversal in the third period, piling up more than three minutes of riding time in the process.
The outcome was hardly in doubt for the freewheeling Ruth, who approaches wrestling almost like improvisation.
“I never really have a game plan,” Ruth said. “The first thing I'm thinking about is taking 10 or 20 shots until I get to his legs. In my head, I like to believe that people can't fend me off.
Ruth (34-1) finishes his career 136-3, with an 84-match win streak and four Big Ten titles, among other accolades.
Taylor has a different style but has been equally as dominant, especially the past three days.
He finishes his career with 53 pins, tied with Josh Moore for the all-time mark at Penn State. Three of those came in the first three rounds of this tournament.
His other outcomes were a major decision in the semifinals and a 6-0 win over Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell in the 165-pound final, the last match Saturday.
Taylor's career record will go down as 133-3, with a 34-0 mark this season, and two national titles.
“I've always dreamed of being part of the NCAA championship and having the championship on the line,” Taylor said. “That kind of sums it up tonight.”
The fretting over this one started with a second-round loss by third-seeded Morgan McIntosh at 197 pounds. Then Derry's Jimmy Gulibon went out at 133. Matt Brown wasn't able to wrestle back at 174.
Still, the Nittany Lions had seven All-Americans — the most during Sanderson's tenure — and benefited from a third-place effort from Franklin Regional graduate Nico Megaludis at 125 pounds.
Elsewhere, Oklahoma State's Chris Perry won a second consecutive title at 174 pounds. Freshman J'Den Cox got his first at 197, and Nick Gwiazdowski of N.C. State upset Nelson, a two-time defending champion, at heavyweight.
Illinois' Jesse Delgado defended his title at 125. Iowa's Tony Ramos got his first at 133, running into the stands to celebrate afterward, and Ohio State's Logan Stieber won his third at 141.
Northwestern's Jason Tsirtsis scored a takedown in overtime to win his first national title at 149. Oklahoma State's Alex Dieringer clinched the title with his 13-4 major decision over Minnesota's Dylan Ness at 157 pounds.
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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