University Park, Pa. — The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team was honored by the Big Ten Network during the fourth annual BTN Awards Show as the Big Ten's 2010-11 Men's Team of the Year. Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson was also tabbed as the 2010-11 Big Ten Men's Head Coach of the Year.
The Nittany Lion wrestlers were the 2011 Big Ten Champions, claiming the school's first ever conference title, in early March in Northwestern and then winning the 2011 NCAA National Championship in Philadelphia on March 17-19 in front of a partisan Penn State crowd at the Wells Fargo Center. Penn State posted a superb 17-1-1 dual meet record which included both the Virginia Duals title and a co-championship at the Southern Scuffle. Penn State set a school record with a 6-1-1 Big Ten dual meet as well.
Penn State beat out the Ohio State men's basketball team and the Wisconsin football team to claim the honor.
Sanderson's Lions rode the strong performances of eight national qualifiers including five All-Americans (all of whom finished in the top three and one of which won a national crown). Sophomore Quentin Wright (Wingate, Pa.) capped off an historic March run by winning the 184-pound crown as the No. 9 seed. Wright began March with a Big Ten title as well as Big Ten Championship Most Outstanding Wrestler honors. Junior Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.) became a three-time All-American by advancing to the finals at 149. Molinaro also won the 149-pound Big Ten title. Red-shirt freshman David Taylor (St. Paris, Ohio) capped off a stunning rookie campaign by advancing to the finals at 157 to become a freshman All-American as national runner-up. Taylor was the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Sophomore Andrew Long (Creston, Iowa) rolled to a third place finish at 133 at the NCAA Championships to become a two-time All-American. Long also won the Big Ten crown. Red-shirt freshman Ed Ruth (Harrisburg, Pa.) also rolled to a third place finish at 174 and collected the Gorriaran Award at NCAA's for most pins in the least time. Ruth was the Big Ten champion as well.
Penn State's run at NCAAs was historic for the school and east coast wrestling as well. The crown was Penn State's first since 1953 and the Nittany Lions became only the sixth team to win more than one NCAA team wrestling title. The 107.5 team points is a Penn State record (and marks the first time PSU scored over 100). The Nittany Lions now have 22 individual champions (among 19 individuals), 7th all-time in the nation. Penn State had five All-Americans for the first time since 1998 (the school record is eight, set in 1987) and had five wrestlers finish in the top three nationally for the first time since 1953. Penn State had three national finalists for the first time since 1999.
Sanderson's overall conference Coach of the Year honor is the latest in a long line of accolades won the veteran mentor. He was named 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Coach of the Year and earned numerous national Coach of the Year awards from various national publications. Sanderson's Big Ten Wrestling Coach of the Year honor, combined with his Big 12 Coach of the Year honors won while at Iowa State, makes him the only coach in NCAA history to earn coach of the year laurels from both the Big Ten and Big 12. Sanderson now sports a 30-7-2 dual meet record at Penn State in two seasons and is 74-17-2 in five years as a head coach. The 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist has also returned to the competitive arena, winning the 2011 U.S. World Team Trials crown at 84 kg and will head to Istanbul, Turkey, this September for the 2011 World Championships. Sanderson beat out Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta and Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter for the honor.