MADISON, Wis. – Penn State’s title hopes were placed squarely in the hands of two of the best wrestlers in Big Ten history.
And as they’ve done over a magical four-year run, seniors David Taylor and Ed Ruth delivered.
Taylor and Ruth both collected their fourth Big Ten titles to enable the top-ranked Nittany Lions to overtake No. 4 Iowa at the 100th Big Ten Championships on Sunday afternoon.
Taylor (165 pounds) and Ruth (184) both earned finals wins over Hawkeye opponents to boost Penn State to its fourth straight Big Ten tournament title before 10,011 fans at the University of Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.
“Those two guys are obviously very special,” said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. “When the lights are on, they love that. But I think our whole team wrestled well. We had 10 guys qualify for nationals and that was big for us.”
Penn State edged Iowa 140.5-135 for the team title. Taylor beat Iowa’s Nick Moore 14-5 in the finals to give Penn State the lead in the team race before Ruth downed Iowa’s Ethen Lofthouse 10-2 in the finals to clinch the crown for the Nittany Lions.
Taylor and Ruth became just the 12th and 13th wrestlers to earn four Big Ten titles. Taylor was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year for the third time in his amazing career. He also was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
“It feels like just yesterday when I won my first Big Ten title as a freshman at Northwestern,” said Taylor, who won an NCAA title and the Hodge Trophy in 2012. “We came back from 20 points down that year and found a way to come back and win the championship. Every year, we’ve been trailing and have come back to win. This year, it’s been a great battle with Iowa and that’s what we expected. This is what you dream about as a kid.”
Ruth will be seeking his third straight NCAA title in two weeks.
“I can’t be any happier with the results,” said Ruth, the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year in 2013. “I’m more proud than emotional. I’m happy. This has been one of the best Big Tens for me, especially because it’s my senior year and how we wrapped it up. It feels good to clinch the title for our team. A lot of effort and dedication has gone into this.”
The Hawkeyes held the lead early in the finals when senior Tony Ramos topped Wisconsin senior Tyler Graff 2-1 in the 133 finals. Ramos won Big Tens after finishing second in this event the past two years.
Iowa made a strong statement that it is prepared to challenge Penn State at the NCAA Championships on March 20-22 in Oklahoma City. The Hawkeyes have nine automatic qualifiers for NCAAs and may add a 10th with 149-pounder Brody Grothus expected to earn a wild card on Wednesday.
“I believe that we have a team to win it here and I believe we have a team to win it in a couple of weeks, that’s how you go forward,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “That’s what our next mission is. We have to get ready for the next tournament. Even if we come out on top here, there are things to work on and there are things to work on now. It’s the same either way. We have to go to work.”
Second-ranked Minnesota, led by three-time Big Ten champion Tony Nelson, finished third with 118.5 points. Nelson will be shooting for his third straight NCAA title.
“It’s awesome to win another one of these,” Nelson said. “A lot of great guys have won three and it’s cool to be a part of that group. I had an attitude of going hard the whole time. This is a big confidence booster going into the NCAAs and I’m excited to have another opportunity there.”
The Big Ten has secured 74 automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships. 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 champion, captured his third Big Ten title with a decisive 7-3 win over Penn State true freshman Zain Retherford in the 141 finals.
Stieber avenged an early season loss to Retherford, who suffered his first loss in college. Stieber is a past Junior World silver medalist and Retherford is a past Cadet World champion.
“Zain’s really, really good,” Stieber said. “Obviously, he has great coaches at Penn State. He’s wrestled at a really high level as a Cadet World champion. By the time guys like him are in college, they have wrestled in tournaments just as big as this and it doesn’t faze them.”
Stieber’s teammate, Nick Heflin, downed Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh in the 197 finals.
Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He defeated Nebraska’s Jake Sueflohn in the 149 finals.
Two-time All-American James Green of Nebraska fired in for two early takedowns en route to a 7-4 win over returning NCAA champion Derek St. John of Iowa in the 157 finals. St. John won a league title two years ago.
Nebraska junior Robert Kokesh started strong in a 6-4 win over Iowa’s Mike Evans in the 174 finals. Kokesh placed third in the country last year and trains with Olympic and World champion Jordan Burroughs in Lincoln.
Green and Kokesh became Nebraska's first Big Ten champions.
Returning Big Ten and NCAA champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois edged Penn State’s Nico Megaludis in the 125 finals.
Delgado beat Megaludis in the 2013 NCAA finals and avenged a loss to Megaludis from the regular season.
Penn State 140.5, Iowa 135, Minnesota 118.5, Ohio State 86.5, Nebraska 79, Illinois 78.5, Wisconsin 73, Michigan 71.5, Northwestern 58, Indiana 37, Purdue 34.5, Michigan State 21.5
1st – Jesse Delgado (Illinois) dec. Nico Megaludis (Penn State), 3-2 TB2
3rd – Ryan Taylor (Wisconsin) dec. Cory Clark (Iowa), 9-5
5th – Tim Lambert (Nebraska) pinned Nick Roberts (Ohio State), 4:24
7th – Conor Youtsey (Michigan) dec. Camden Eppert (Purdue), 2-1
1st – Tony Ramos (Iowa) dec. Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), 2-1
3rd – Cashe Quiroga (Purdue) dec. David Thorn (Minnesota), 6-3
5th – Zane Richards (Illinois) dec. Johnni DiJulius (Ohio State), 10-4
7th – Jimmy Gulibon (Penn State) dec. Dominick Malone (Northwestern), 9-1
1st – Logan Stieber (Ohio State) dec. Zain Retherford (Penn State), 7-3
3rd – Chris Dardanes (Minnesota) dec. Stephen Dutton III (Michigan), 7-6 TB1
5th – Josh Dziewa (Iowa) dec. Steven Rodrigues (Illinois), 3-2
7th – Jesse Thielke (Wisconsin) dec. Danny Sabatello (Purdue), 18-6
1st – Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) dec. Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska), 6-2
3rd – Nick Dardanes (Minnesota) dec. Eric Grajales (Michigan), 12-5
5th – James English (Penn State) dec. Rylan Lubeck (Wisconsin), 3-2
7th – Ian Paddock (Ohio State) dec. Caleb Ervin (Illinois), 15-3
1st – James Green (Nebraska) dec. Derek St. John (Iowa), 7-4
3rd – Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) dec. Brian Murphy (Michigan), 3-1 SV
5th – Taylor Walsh (Indiana) won by medical forfeit over Dylan Ness (Minnesota)
7th – Zach Brunson (Illinois) dec. Dylan Alton (Penn State), 13-4
1st – David Taylor (Penn State) dec. Nick Moore (Iowa), 14-5
3rd – Danny Zilverberg (Minnesota) dec. Pierce Harger (Northwestern), 4-3
5th – Jackson Morse (Illinois) dec. Austin Wilson (Nebraska), 6-2
7th – Dan Yates (Michigan) dec. Ryan LeBlanc (Indiana), 4-0
1st – Robert Kokesh (Nebraska) dec. Mike Evans (Iowa), 6-4
3rd – Matt Brown (Penn State) dec. Logan Storley (Minnesota), 2-1
5th – Tony Dallago (Illinois) dec. Scott Liegel (Wisconsin), 6-4
7th – Mark Martin (Ohio State) dec. Collin Zeerip (Michigan), 6-2
1st – Ed Ruth (Penn State) dec. Ethen Lofthouse (Iowa), 10-2
3rd – Domenic Abounader (Michigan) dec. Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 6-4
5th – Kenny Courts (Ohio State) dec. Nikko Reyes (Illinois), 16-6
7th – John Rizqallah (Michigan State) dec. Luke Sheridan (Indiana), 4-2
1st – Nick Heflin (Ohio State) dec. Morgan McIntosh (Penn State), 5-3 SV2
3rd – Scott Schiller (Minnesota) dec. Alex Polizzi (Northwestern), 6-1
5th – Nathan Burak (Iowa) dec. Braden Atwood (Purdue), 2-1
7th – Timmy McCall (Wisconsin) won by injury default over Mario Gonzalez (Illinois)
1st – Tony Nelson (Minnesota) dec. Adam Chalfant (Indiana), 2-1 TB1
3rd – Bobby Telford (Iowa) dec. Mike McClure (Michigan State), 3-2
5th – Michael McMullan (Northwestern) dec. Jon Gingrich (Penn State), 8-2
7th – Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) dec. Nick Tavanello (Ohio State), 7-0