Penn State wrestlers off to solid start in bid to defend NCAA title
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DES MOINES, Iowa — Nico Megaludis is halfway to returning to the 125-pound national championship match for the second consecutive year.
But that provided little solace to the Penn State All-American after winning the second of his two matches at Wells Fargo Arena to advance to the round of eight in his weight class.
Megaludis beat Central Michigan's Christian Cullinan, 5-2, on Thursday night to remain in pursuit of the national title that just eluded him as a freshman in 2012. The Franklin Regional graduate was one of six Penn State wrestlers to go 2-0 in the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the arena that holds 17,000 people and was filled to capacity.
David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174) and Ed Ruth (184) reeled off pins within minutes of each other Thursday night to give Penn State a big push at it tries to win a third consecutive national championship.
“We kind of feed off each other,” Ruth said.
Penn State will need that synergy with Oklahoma State staying close to the Nittany Lions by sending seven wrestlers to the quarterfinals. Penn State compiled 32.5 points and led Oklahoma State by 3.5 points late Thursday with all but a handful of consolation matches remaining.
Quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be held Friday.
“The big points are scored (Friday),” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “There are some big matches that will make a difference, so we need to be ready for them.”
Penn State went 6-0 Thursday night, also getting a major victory from Dylan Alton (157) and a win by Quentin Wright (197).
The Nittany Lions did so well in the second round that Megaludis' self scolding after a close win qualified as the low point of the evening.
Megaludis took a 4-2 lead into the third period but did not escape from the bottom until late. That is what left him visibly disgusted.
“I'm good on my feet, and bottom nobody can ride me, and he rode me for a minute and a half,” said Megaludis, who finished runner-up at 125 pounds last season. “I controlled the match, but I can't control a match and only win by three points.”
Megaludis was one of three WPIAL products to advance to the quarterfinals.
North Carolina 141-pounder Evan Henderson (Kiski Prep) and Pitt 197-pounder Matt Wilps (Chartiers Valley) also won handily to advance. Clarion 157-pounder James Fleming (West Mifflin) was upset in the second round. The fifth-seeded Fleming dropped a 4-0 decision to Jedd Moore, a No. 12 seed from Virginia.
Taylor and Ruth were as dominant as any wrestlers here.
Ruth recorded a pair of first-period falls, including over Lock Haven's Fred Garcia (Ringgold) in 28 seconds.
Taylor notched pins in the first and second rounds, and the defending national champion at 165 pounds remains on track to meet Cornell's Kyle Dake in the championship match Saturday night.
Dake, who is trying to win a fourth national title at a fourth weight class, won two matches by a combined score of 13-0.
Pitt sent three wrestlers to the quarterfinals, with Max Thomusseit (184) and Zac Thomusseit (285) joining Wilps in advancing.
Max Thomusseit will face Ruth, who has yet to be challenged as he chases a second consecutive national championship.
“It always gets tougher as you go along,” Ruth said.
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