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Jeff Byers: The Penn State Wrestling Show Reaps its Rewards

by on February 17, 2012 6:00 AM

So, the Grammys are over and the Academy Awards are just around the corner. To fill in the awards gap for the week, I offer to you the Ironhead Granby Awards for the 2011-12 Penn State wrestling season.

Our New Artist of the Year has recorded his first Big Ten record, and while he has been working his way up the charts, his hope is to go gold in March. Ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for Nico Megaludis. Other nominees included Dylan Alton and Morgan McIntosh. (This is Nico’s first Granby Award and the Murrysville native has recorded 20 wins and took down the competition with a relentless style that reminds some of Katy Perry, where the hits just keep coming).

Our R&B Performance of the Year (R&B in this case stands for Riding and Bruises) goes to Frank Molinaro. The Nittany Lions senior 149-pounder has been downright nasty from the top position and some in Congress are calling for a warning label to be put on his singlet as the sheer brutality may not be suitable for some.

Frank the Tank has consistently been a riding and bruising force over his career, but this year he has taken his performance over the top. Molinaro beat out a strong field of contenders including fellow Nittany Nation label performers Ed Ruth and Cameron Wade. While it wasn’t clear who would come out on top, it was clear nobody wanted to be on bottom against this field. No truth to the rumor that Taylor Swift’s Grammy Award-winning “Mean” was about Molinaro’s rides this season.

Best Breakout Performance goes to downtown Matt Brown. The redshirt freshman has been impressive throughout the season and got his first national attention at the Southern Scuffle with a runner-up showing there to the aforementioned Mr. Ruth. But his breakout performance came on the weekend of Feb. 3-5 when he took the stage against bigger names and wore them out. If he was with another label and not Nittany Nation, some believe he could have been a strong contender for Performer of the Year.

Best Visual Effects may have been the most hotly contested category this season. From Ed Ruth’s crossface cradle and smile to David Taylor’s ankle picks and arm-up gesturing to the crowd, from Nico Megaludis dazzling fans with his barrage of takedowns to Frank Molinaro’s slick single to an over-the-shoulders double-leg, this team is not lacking in wowing its audience with a variety of visual effects. But, after considerable deliberation, this year’s Gramby goes to the inimitable Quentin Wright, who has an uncanny knack for surprising opponents and audiences alike with his wide array of eye-catching artistry that often leaves the competition looking up at the lights at about the same time they are going out for said opponent.

Our Best Editing goes to the Sanderson brothers for their decision to insert duals with Utah Valley and Pitt on the schedule while omitting the popular National Duals. A Utah Valley program that is averaging about 600 fans was able to pull in nearly 5,500 to watch the Nittany Nation label bring its full set of performers to Orem for a one-night only show. The fans did not leave disappointed, as they saw some of the best in college wrestling, including local product Matt Brown, perform their artistry. Autograph hounds and picture-seekers did not leave home empty-handed, as several wrestlers and coaches stayed long after the meet to sign and pose with the adoring youngsters (and some older “youngsters” as well).

While the National Duals is getting solid reviews in its own right, the excitement level at Utah Valley and the chance for a Eastern rivalry to be renewed with a pair of one-loss teams squaring off in front of a full house was certainly a victory in our eyes for the Sandersons.

Our Best Leading Man goes to Cael Sanderson. For the second-straight year, Sanderson seems to be pushing all the right buttons and the crowds his product is bringing in for home and away meets has people wondering if bigger venues will be needed in the future. Not only has he been leading his own team to new heights, in his spare time he earned a spot representing the US on the World Team and earned fifth place at the World Championships. He actually gets Best Director and Best Leading Man awards for his remarkable efforts.

Best Supporting Cast goes to a great ensemble of coaches (Cody Sanderson, Casey Cunningham and Aaron Anspach), the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club members, the redshirts and backups in the room and the administrators, office personnell, managers, trainers, boosters and fans who make up the greatest supporting cast not just of this wrestling season but in the history of the sport. While Cael Sanderson has earned his accolades, the large number of people doing their part and fulfilling their roles is what has allowed this remarkable performance to be put together.

And finally, our real awards show is just about a month away now and we will find out in St. Louis who gets the Performer of the Year and gets the Strong of the Year Award. We know that there will be some surprise performances and that staging the show live will involve plenty of risks. It’s pretty clear who the Best Group is going to be and regardless of what happens, we plan to roll out the red carpet when this ensemble returns from St. Louis with considerably more noteworthy hardware. After all, while the Ironhead Granbys have been fun, the show must now go on.

Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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