PSU's Taylor ready for match of year, joins 4 teammates in NCAA finals
DES MOINES, Iowa — David Taylor's fourth pin in as many matches at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships also went in the record books as his 100th career victory.
His 101st win will prove to be much more memorable if the Penn State redshirt junior can bag it on one of the biggest stages his sport has to offer.
Taylor and Cornell's Kyle Dake won within seconds of each other Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena, setting up a showdown for the ages Saturday night in the 165-pound national championship bout.
Taylor, the defending champion at 165, is trying to deny Dake a fourth national championship in four different weight classes. Taylor mowed through his side of the bracket, and his dominance has put Penn State in a solid position as it chases a third consecutive national championship.
The Nittany Lions have piled up 114.5 points. Oklahoma State is a distant second with 94 points. Even if Penn State joins Iowa and Oklahoma State as the only schools to win three consecutive national championships, the storyline will get trumped by what happens when Taylor and Dake meet for a third time this season.
“I'm taking the role as the guy who is not supposed to win, which is weird for me,” said Taylor, who lost a pair of 3-2 matches to Dake earlier this season. “I have the next day to relax and I have nothing to lose out there.”
The Nittany Lions sent a tournament-best five wrestlers to the finals, including 125-pounder Nico Megaludis, a Franklin Regional graduate; Matt Brown (174); Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197).
Megaludis outlasted top-seeded Alan Waters of Missouri in a second sudden victory period. Both wrestlers escaped in the second sudden victory period, but Megaludis won a point for riding time, and he will return to the 125-championship match for a second consecutive season.
Wright advanced to the finals much the same way Megaludis had. He and Pitt's Matt Wilps squared off for a third time this season — each recorded pins in the earlier meetings — and battled to a virtual draw.
Wilps, a Chartiers Valley graduate, nearly scored back points at the end of a 1-1 match, but Wright did just enough to extend the bout to sudden victory. Wright won after the second sudden victory period because of more riding time.
The four-time All-American will wrestle in the NCAA finals for the third time.
No one in Des Moines has been more dominant than Taylor, who had yet to wrestle past the first period before recording a second-period fall Friday night against Virgina Tech's Peter Yates.
“When he's on fire, he's on fire and there's no stopping him,” said Ruth, who is also trying to win a second consecutive national championship.
Dake has taken a more methodical to the finals.
He sandwiched a pair of major decisions with 3-0 and 2-0 wins, raising the question of how aggressively the senior will wrestle against Taylor.
“I can score points when I need to,” Dake said. “If it comes down to it, I'm willing to throw down.”
Their rematch has been so anticipated that the NCAA shuffled the order of the championship matches in hopes of spotlighting a Taylor-Dake final.
“That's what everyone's waiting for. It's like, ‘OK, let's skip all of the other stuff and just let Dake and Taylor wrestle right now,' ” said 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. “I can see and feel the buzz around the place this weekend. It's a historic weekend.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.