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Closing time for Penn State 125-pound junior wrestler Megaludis

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 10:45 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State's Nico Megaludis works out at a practice session earlier this season on November 13, 2013. Megaludis and his teammates will be begin their pursuit of their fourth consecutive NCAA team title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State's Nico Megaludis laces his shoes up for a practice session earlier this season on November 13, 2013. Megaludis and his teammates will be begin their pursuit of their fourth consecutive NCAA team title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State's Nico Megaludis (top) ties up with Pitt's Anthony Zanetta during their 125-pound bout in their dual meet at Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday Dec. 08, 2013 in University Park. Megaludis and his teammates will be begin their pursuit of their fourth consecutive NCAA team title at the NCAA Division I Championships in Oklahoma City on Thursday.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Nico Megaludis knows how he wants to wrestle.

“I don't want to hold anything back,” Penn State's 125-pounder said. “I'd rather win a match 10-9 than 2-1 and hold stuff back.”

Megaludis, a Franklin Regional graduate, doesn't struggle wrestling an offensive style. What has bugged Megaludis has been finishing the job, especially on the season's biggest stage.

The junior has lost in the past two NCAA Division I finals at 125 pounds, the most recent a 7-4 decision in 2013 to his top rival, Jesse Delgado of Illinois.

“I want to get back to where I was,” Megaludis said, “but this time finish it and win.”

Megaludis is seeded third here at 125 pounds. A rematch with Delgado, to whom he lost in the Big Ten Tournament, won't be possible until Saturday night's finals.

That's why Megaludis is more focused on his first-round opponent: Darian Cruz of Lehigh.

“I'm not really thinking of him right now,” Megaludis said of Delgado, who's 25-2 this season. “He's not on my side. He has to make it. I have to make it. I have four other matches beforehand.”

One of those could come against Cornell's Nahshon Garrett, who's 30-1 and seeded second. Garrett defeated Megaludis twice this season — 6-5 on Nov. 10, 2013 and 6-4 on Jan. 2 of this year.

Neither, as the scores indicate, was a particularly conservative match.

Megaludis' matches with Delgado are typically the same way, although some of that has to do with the “funk” style that Delgado prefers, one heavy on improvisation and putting opponents into unconventional positions.

“Delgado is obviously very good at what he does,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Very tricky in those positions. It's kind of a weird matchup style-wise. That's better for Nico in the long run here because he has to figure that out, and he has to make some adjustments.

“Sometimes it's trial and error, and he's a guy who gives you 100 percent. When you have a guy who's willing to do that, eventually he figures it out.”

Sanderson has been encouraged by Megaludis' work of late, which includes a 5-4 win over Delgado on Jan. 24 and a 4-3 defeat of Wisconsin's Ryan Taylor (ranked No. 6 by InterMat) in the Big Ten semifinals.

Those have resulted in a 26-3 record and a ranking of No. 3 by InterMat heading into the national tournament.

The problem with finishing came up in again in the Big Ten finals, however, as Megaludis attempted eight takedowns, completed only one and suffered a 3-2 loss to Delgado, who had 15 seconds of riding time advantage.

“He's got to score points,” Sanderson said of Megaludis. “He's got to convert those shots into points. That's what he's been working on.”

Megaludis, who finished his high school career with three PIAA Class AAA titles and record of 170-1, said he's not changing anything this time around.

He'll sleep in his bed the same way. Tie his shoes the same. Eat the same food. Preparation isn't the problem. He knows he needs to execute when it matters the most.

“Just stick with what's working, relaxing during each session and believing in myself,” Megaludis said. “NCAAs are all mental. Everyone out there wants to win. Everyone's good. There are 33 guys there for a reason. Everyone you wrestle you have to be ready for.”

Especially, as Megaludis could attest, that fifth opponent.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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