WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team was simply dominating on Sunday (March 4), crowning three repeat champions in a perfect title match run and rolling to the team's second straight Big Ten Championship. Penn State was nearly perfect throughout the Sunday session and ran away from both Minnesota and Iowa in the team title race. Penn State has also qualified nine wrestlers for NCAAs with a 10th alive for an at-large bid.
For Penn State, the Big Ten finals were a major victory. Three Nittany Lions repeated as Big Ten champions with each posting bonus point victories. Three-time All-American Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.) became a two-time Big Ten champion at 149 with a tech fall over Minnesota's Dylan Ness, All-American David Taylor (St. Paris, Ohio) majored Iowa's Mike Evans at 165 and All-American Ed Ruth (Harrisburg, Pa.) majored Minnesota's Logan Storley at 174.
Penn State won the team title going away, tallying 149.0 points to second place Minnesota's 134.0. Iowa was in third with 126.0. Penn State dominated the team awards as well. Not only did Penn State follow up its 2012 Big Ten regular season co-title, it won its second straight tournament crown. Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson was named 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year, earning his second straight nod. Taylor was named 2012 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, earning his second straight Wrestler of the Year award. Molinaro was named 2012 Big Ten Championships Co-Outstanding Wrestler with Michigan's Kellen Russell. Ohio State's Logan Stieber was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The morning began with the consolation quarterfinals and seventh place bouts, with seven Lions looking for very important team points. True freshman Nico Megaludis (Murrysville, Pa.) opened up Penn State's day and was upset by fifth-seed Levi Mele of Northwestern, getting pinned in sudden victory at the 7:35 mark. Red-shirt freshman Dylan Alton (Mill Hall, Pa.) was up next for Penn State in consolations semis at 157. Alton worked his way to a hard-fought 3-2 win over No. 18 Josh Demas of Ohio State to move into the third place bout later in the day.
Two-time All-American Quentin Wright (Wingate, Pa.) picked up important bonus points with a 9-0 major over Michigan State's Ian Hinton in the consolation semis at 184. True freshman Morgan McIntosh (Santa Ana, Calif.) mounted a serious comeback against top-seed Sonny Yohn of Minnesota at 197 in the consolation semis before dropping a tough 4-2 decision. Senior Cameron Wade (Twinsburg, Ohio) picked up more bonus points by pinning Indiana's Adam Chalfant in the consolation semis at 285 at the 2:09 mark.
Two Nittany Lions wrestled for seventh place. Sophomore Frank Martellotti (Pittsburgh, Pa.) took on No. 18 Ridge Kiley of Nebraska for seventh at 133 with an automatic bid to NCAAs on the line. Martellotti locked up Penn State's nine automatic bid by riding out Kiley in the third and using the riding time point for a 4-3 win. The victory allowed Martellotti to place above seed in seventh. Junior Bryan Pearsall (Lititz, Pa.) closed out a very strong tournament with an 8-2 win over Purdue's Brandon Nelson for seventh at 141. Pearsall, who went 3-2 with a pin and a major, finished above seed in seventh and is 15-12 on the year. The junior is on the board to be considered for an at-large bid. The full field and brackets, including the at-large qualifiers, will be announced at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (March 7) on NCAA.com.
The afternoon's championship session featured the fifth, third and finals bouts at each weight. Megaludis posted a solid 4-1 win over Purdue's Camden Eppert and took fifth place. Molinaro was up next with his championship finals bout at 149 against No. 9 Dylan Ness of Minnesota. The Nittany Lion senior, still undefeated on the year and now a two-time Big Ten Champion, used a takedown, a reversal and four near falls to roll to a 15-0 technical fall at the 4:90 mark. Molinaro's dominating performance in a 3-0 weekend included a pin and two technical falls.
After Molinaro's fireworks, Alton stepped onto the mat at 157 to take on No. 9 Anthony Jones of Michigan State for fifth place. Alton posted a 2-1 tiebreaker win for a solid third place finish. Sophomore Taylor was next for Penn State and last year's 157-pound Big Ten champion made it two in a row with a dominating 11-2 major decision over No. 6 Mike Evans of Iowa in the 165-pound final. Taylor broke open a close match in the second period with a reversal and then added two takedowns and a near fall to post the 11-2 win (getting riding time).
Ruth then made it a perfect day for Penn State in the finals, posting a superb 13-2 major over No. 6 Logan Storley in the 174-pound title tilt. Ruth was in control from the start, leading 4-1 after one period and moving out to an 8-2 lead with a reversal and takedown in the second. Two two-point turns and nearly 5:00 riding time in the third pushed Ruth on to the 13-2 major decision.
Penn State continued to roll after its finalists were done. Wright posted an 8-7 win over Dallago of Illinois to finish third at 184 and McIntosh received a forfeit win in the fifth-place bout at 197, picking up two more bonus points in the process. Senior Wade closed out Penn State's championship run with a solid 4-3 win over No. 12 Mike McMullan of Northwestern to take third at 285.
The Nittany Lions were superb on the day, going 13-2 overall and picking up nine more bonus points. Penn State posted an outstanding 31-11 overall record with 17.0 bonus points. Penn State ends the day with 10 place winners: Three champions (Molinaro, Taylor and Ruth); three third place finishers (Alton, Wright and Wade); two fifth place finishers (Megaludis and McIntosh) and three seventh place finishers (Martellotti and Pearsall).
Penn State's nine national qualifiers, and perhaps ten depending on an at-large bid for Pearsall, now head to St. Louis, Mo., for the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 15-17. The three-day event takes place in the Scottrade Center and beings on Thursday, March 15, at 11 a.m. Central/noon Eastern. The Nittany Lions are the defending NCAA Champions.