Penn State leads Iowa by 1 point entering second and final day of Big Tens
Iowa's Derek St. John (right) downed Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan in the Big Ten semifinals on Saturday night. Mike Smith photo.
MADISON, Wis. – It is setting up for another dramatic finish at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
Top-ranked Penn State holds a 122-121 lead over No. 4 Iowa as the 100th Big Ten tournament heads into its second and final day Sunday at the University of Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.
The Nittany Lions, seeking their fourth straight league title, advanced five wrestlers into the finals before 9,405 fans on Saturday night. The Hawkeyes, seeking their 35th league title and first since 2010, also advanced five wrestlers into the finals.
Second-ranked Minnesota went 1-8 in the semifinals and is in third place with 86 points.
Wrestling resumes with consolation semifinals at 11 a.m. Central Time. The finals will be televised live on the Big Ten Network on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Penn State senior standouts David Taylor (165 pounds) and Ed Ruth (184) each moved within one win of capturing their fourth Big Ten titles. Just 11 wrestlers have earned four Big Ten titles.
Taylor is a two-time Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and Ruth was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year in 2013. Taylor is a three-time NCAA finalist who won NCAAs and the Hodge Trophy in 2012. Ruth is a two-time NCAA champion and three-time All-American.
The Nittany Lions also have won the last three NCAA titles.
“It’s been a really good tournament with a real close battle in the team race with us and Iowa,” Ruth said. “I’m excited to step back out there in the finals. It would be a great accomplishment for me to win this again. I really want to be a four-timer.”
Returning NCAA champion Derek St. John of Iowa (157) is back in the Big Ten finals. St. John won a league title two years ago. St. John outlasted No. 1 seed Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin in overtime in the semifinals.
“We’ve got to win a bunch of individual titles,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “We’ve got to win five titles and keep our other guys on the backside moving forward. We had some guys that were behind and came back and won. They didn’t panic and that was big for us.”
Hawkeye senior Tony Ramos reached the league finals for the third time. He is seeking his first Big Ten title at 133. Ramos used a late takedown and rideout to rally past Purdue’s Cashe Quiroga in the semifinals.
“I think the experience of being in the finals helps the most because I’ve felt the pain every time,” Ramos said. “I never had the glory at the end, so I’m excited for this.”
The Big Ten has secured 74 automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships, set for March 20-22 in Oklahoma City. An additional 40 at-large spots from all conferences for the NCAA tournament will be awarded on Wednesday.
The Big Ten has earned seven automatic qualifying spots at 125, eight at 133, six at 141, six at 149, eight at 157, eight at 165, seven at 174, seven at 184, eight at 197 and nine at 285.
Ohio State junior Logan Stieber, a two-time NCAA and two-time Big Ten champion, advanced to the league finals for the third straight time. Stieber owns a pair of conference titles at 133.
Stieber will battle Penn State true freshman Zain Retherford in the 141 finals. Stieber lost to Retherford early in the season. Stieber is a past Junior World silver medalist and Retherford is a past Cadet World champion.
“I’m excited for tomorrow,” Stieber said. “I’m looking forward to it because he beat me before, but I’m not overthinking it or anything. It’s big to get some momentum going into NCAAs. Hopefully, I can come out tomorrow and have some fun and get ready for the big show in two weeks.”
Minnesota senior heavyweight Tony Nelson, also a two-time NCAA and two-time Big Ten champion, advanced to the conference finals again.
Nelson entered the tournament as just the No. 5 seed.
Returning Big Ten and NCAA champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois will face Penn State’s Nico Megaludis in the finals at 125. Delgado beat Megaludis in the 2013 NCAA finals, but Megaludis owns a win over Delgado this season.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have a trio of finalists in juniors Jake Sueflohn (149), James Green (157) and Robert Kokesh (174). Sueflohn and Green were second in this event last year and Kokesh third.
Penn State 122, Iowa 121, Minnesota 86, Ohio State 73.5, Illinois 69.5, Nebraska 68, Wisconsin 58, Michigan 49.5, Northwestern 44, Indiana 34, Purdue 30, Michigan State 15
Nico Megaludis (Penn State) vs. Jesse Delgado (Illinois)
Tony Ramos (Iowa) vs. Tyler Graff (Wisconsin)
Zain Retherford (Penn State) vs. Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska) vs. Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)
Derek St. John (Iowa) vs. James Green (Nebraska)
David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Nick Moore (Iowa)
Robert Kokesh (Nebraska) vs. Mike Evans (Iowa)
Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Ethen Lofthouse (Iowa)
Morgan McIntosh (Penn State) vs. Nick Heflin (Ohio State)
Tony Nelson (Minnesota) vs. Adam Chalfant (Indiana)