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Penn State Wrestling: Nittany Lions Ready to Defend Big Ten Team Title

by on February 28, 2012 6:50 PM

When Penn State hits the mats at Purdue on Saturday to open the 2012 Big Ten wrestling tournament, it will be just three days shy of a year since it became Big Ten team champions.

With eight of 10 wrestlers ranked in the top three in their respective weight class, the Nittany Lions have a good chance to keep it that way.

"I think there are a couple teams that could win this tournament, and in a small tournament like this one, one match makes a huge difference and bonus points become huge," coach Cael Sanderson said of the upcoming tournament, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mackey Arena.

Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth all earned No. 1 seeds in the tournament pre-seed voting process, where each team ranks each weight class Nos. 1-12.

"The Big Ten sends out each guy's record, and each team is responsible for seeding every weight class, and then they pull them together and rank the wrestlers based on who receives the most points, and that's how they make the seeds," Sanderson said of the pre-seeding process.

Frank Martellotti and Bryan Pearsall both ranked eighth in his respective weight class.

Three Nittany Lions, Nico Megaludis, Dylan Alton and Morgan McIntosh find themselves in their first Big Ten tournament, and Sanderson feels Alton getting to watch his brother, Andrew, in last year's tournament can only help him.

"Dylan's a little different in that he's a redshirt, and he's seen the process - not personally - but when your brother is wresting it's like going through it yourself and even more difficult probably. He's seen it and he's looking really good. He's lean and mean and getting better every match."

As for Ruth, he returns to the mat after taking some time off to allow a nagging injury to heal that is still unspecified. Ruth said that time off can only benefit him.

"I hate sitting out ... but when you're not on the mat you feel better than the guys that have been on the mat for a while, and you feel a lot better than once you start wrestling again," Ruth said.

While the lights and expectations have never been brighter or higher for the Penn State wrestling program, Sanderson said he feels no added pressure.

"I don't feel any added pressure, and last year was a great thing, but it's over and been done for a long time, and we want to win now," Sanderson said. "I know these guys are the same way, and to have a good time at nationals, you have to have a good Big Ten tournament first."

Notes:

  • Penn State can send 15 wrestlers total to the tournament, and outside of the starting 10, Jordan Conaway, Matt Brown, Clay Steadman, Dirk Cowburn and Andrew Alton will all make the trip.
  • David Taylor took the overall lead in the most dominant wrestler standings released by the NCAA last Wednesday, squeaking past Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver with a rating of 5.0455. Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright came in third and fourth in the rankings, respectively. 
  • The seeding of the tournament can still change once all 12 Big Ten coaches meet prior to the tournament on Friday night, but Sanderson said he has no issues with where his wrestlers are currently seeded.

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Greg Pickel writes for StateCollege.com and Onward State. He's on Twitter as @GregPickel.
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