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Sophomore grappler Megaludis keeps eyes on prize at Penn State

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Franklin Regional graduate Nico Megaludis was a NCAA runner-up last season for Penn State. Courtesy Penn State athletics

Nico Megaludis rolled to a third consecutive PIAA wrestling championship in March 2011. Something, however, stood out to his future college coach even before the Franklin Regional star dominated one overmatched opponent after another.

“I was watching him pass everybody else up (while jogging), just even as part of the warm-up,” said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who had signed Megaludis the previous November. “That's the kind of kid he is. He's going to work a little harder than everybody else.”

That ethos — and an aversion to losing that can be traced to his days as a toddler — has Megaludis winning big at Penn State.

Megaludis already has helped the Nittany Lions capture a team national championship, and the Murrysville resident is chasing the individual title that just eluded him as a true freshman at 125 pounds last season.

He is one of the stalwarts of a lineup that could again make Penn State the team to beat at the NCAA championships.

And the only thing Sanderson has to worry about when it comes to Megaludis is Megaludis himself.

“Sometimes you have to help him realize you do need to recover and you do need to take some time off because it's real easy to think more is the answer,” said Sanderson, who never lost a match when he starred at Iowa State. “He's never going to be out of shape just because of the way he lives his life and the way that he trains, so it's more of us holding him back a little bit, just making sure he's saving it for the right times.”

Megaludis, who is ranked second in the country at 125 pounds, has been the equivalent of a basketball gym rat since his father introduced him to wrestling at an early age.

“We're all pretty competitive,” Dan Megaludis said with a laugh, “but he's at a different level.”

Indeed, it didn't matter if he missed while trying to hit a Wiffle Ball in the back yard or didn't win when the family played a board game, Nico Megaludis seethed if he didn't succeed.

That helps explain why he went 170-1 during a storied career at Franklin Regional.

So does the training facility that his father built as part of a new house when Nico was 12 years old. It includes a wrestling room that can hold almost 10 wrestlers at a time as well as a weight room.

Almost 10 years later, wrestling still isn't a sport as much as it is a way of life for Megaludis, who embraces the discipline that is required off the mat as well as on it.

“Sometimes people get the idea that wrestling is all starving yourself,” said Megaludis, who is 12-1 this season with his only loss coming to Pitt's Anthony Zanetta in the finals of the Nittany Lion Open. “That's really not it at all. It makes the sport look bad. If you're disciplined you don't have to cut much weight.”

Discipline won't be an issue for Megaludis as he chases an individual national championship. Neither will desire.

Wrestling on what Sanderson called “pretty much on heart and fight and hustle,” Megaludis advanced to the national final before falling to Iowa's Matt McDonough, 4-1.

Megaludis became the first Penn State true freshman to earn first-team All-American honors since 2009, and Sanderson said his technique has improved with experience.

What hasn't changed is that daunting path to the top of his weight class with McDonough back for a final season in Iowa.

McDonough is the only wrestler that Intermat ranks ahead of Megaludis in their weight class.

“Of course I think about him and the loss, but there's many other people to go through,” said Megaludis, who has Olympic aspirations. “Obviously he's one that I'm excited to wrestle.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ScottBrown_Trib.

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