Lion wrestlers on verge of claiming 2011 NCAA Championship

Philadelphia — Barring the loss of any team points in tonight's national finals, the Penn State Nittany Lion wrestlers have clinched the 2011 NCAA Wrestling National Championship here in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. All-Americans Andrew Long (Creston, Iowa) and Ed Ruth (Harrisburg, Pa.) were a perfect 4-0 and stormed their way to third place finishes to push Penn State towards the crown.

Penn State leads the team race with 103.5 points with Cornell a distant second at 89.5. Iowa is in third with 86.5. Unless the Nittany Lions give points back, Penn State cannot be caught and have clinched the school's first national championship since 1953. This also marks the first time an east coast school has won the NCAA crown since that Nittany Lion title in 1953.

Long met Cornell's Mike Grey, the eighth-seed, in a key 133-pound consolation semifinal bout to start Penn State's session. The two-time All-American continued his quest for a third place finish by catching Grey with one arm, pushing him to his back and getting a thrilling pin with just one second left in the second period. The fall, at the 4:59 mark, moved Long into the third place bout where he took on CMU's Scotti Sentes.

Long, who pinned Sentes in the quarterfinals on Friday, battled the CMU grappler hard again and used a third period takedown and riding time to notch a key 7-5 win and take third place. Long came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first period to claim the bronze medal and keep Penn State rolling towards a team title. Long, who was the third seed, claimed third place with a 5-1 record with two pins. His only loss was a tough 6-4 decision to second-seeded Andrew Hochstrasser of Boise State. Long posted a 20-2 record this season, beginning in January. Now a two-time All-American after a second place finish at 125 last season, Long will head into his junior campaign as a Nittany Lion with a 47-9 record.

Ruth took on fifth-seed Chris Heinrich of Virginia in the consolation semifinals at 174 and, in a rematch of December's Southern Scuffle title bout won by Ruth, dominating the Cavalier once again. Ruth used a first period takedown, a strong ride in the second period and a reversal and takedown in the third to roll to a 7-2 win and move into the third place bout against Cornell's Mack Lewnes.

Ruth, who downed Lewnes in the Southern Scuffle semifinals, once again dominated the Big Red grappler. The Nittany Lion freshman took Lewnes down once in the first period and once in the second and added on an escape and a riding time point to notch a 6-2 win and claim third place. Ruth, who was injured in his semifinal match forcing him to take a default, rebounded for two wins today and leaves the tournament with his first All-America honor and a 5-1 record. Ruth ends his rookie season with a stellar 37-2 overall record.

Penn State was a perfect 4-0 in session five and is now 28-8 after two full days of the tournament. The Nittany Lions picked two more bonus points from Long's pin and now have 16.5 bonus points from six pins, three majors and a tech fall. Penn State's five All-Americans up the all-time total at Penn State to 171 and is the most All-Americans for Penn State in one year since the team had five in 1998. The record is eight set in 1987.

The 2011 NCAA Championships conclude tonight with the championships finals at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN HD. The Nittany Lions will have three grapplers wrestling for a national title, Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.) at 149, David Taylor (St. Paris, Ohio) and 157 and Quentin Wright (Wingate, Pa.) at 184.

2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships - After Session 5
Saturday, March 19, 2011 - Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, Pa

1: PENN STATE - 103.5
2: Cornell - 89.5
3: Iowa - 86.5
4: Oklahoma State - 66.5
5: American - 65.0
6: Minnesota - 61.0
7: Boise State - 57.5
8: Lehigh - 54.5
8: Wisconsin - 54.5
10: Arizona State - 52.5

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Last Updated March 21, 2011