Plenty of teams still in the mix after first day of NCAA Championships
Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes (left) battles Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor at the NCAA Championships on Thursday night. John Sachs photo.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cael Sanderson is fully aware that nothing is going to come easy in his team’s quest for its fourth straight national title.
Sanderson’s top-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions remain on top at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, but a number of other teams also showed they plan to make a run at the title as well.
Penn State went 5-4 in the second round and finished the tournament’s first day with 26.5 points before a crowd of 15,375 fans Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Nittany Lions are led by superstar quarterfinalists in two-time NCAA champion Ed Ruth at 184 pounds and NCAA champion David Taylor at 165. Taylor, a three-time NCAA finalist, recorded two pins on Thursday while Ruth won by fall and technical fall.
Two-time NCAA runner-up Nico Megaludis (125) and NCAA runner-up Matt Brown (174) also reached the quarters for Penn State along with true freshman Zain Retherford (141).
Penn State did suffer a key setback at 197 when No. 3 seed Morgan McIntosh fell 3-2 to No. 14 Chris Penny of Virginia Tech in the second round.
“Anytime you lose matches you don’t need to lose it’s frustrating,” Sanderson said. “But we had some gutsy performances, too. Tomorrow’s a big day, it always is. The guys that lost have to come back strong. We’ll see tomorrow what we’re made of.”
Second-ranked Minnesota and third-ranked Oklahoma State are tied for second with 21.5 points apiece.
Oklahoma State, winners of 34 national team titles, advanced five wrestlers to the quarterfinals.
“We had some good things happen and a few bad things,” OSU coach John Smith said. “Overall, we lost a few early and then reeled off five straight wins. We got tough and that’s something you like to see. It’s a tough tournament and we have to come back strong tomorrow.”
Minnesota has six wrestlers in the quarterfinals.
“We’re wrestling well for the most part, even though we lost a couple of heartbreakers,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “The team race is close, but we have to control what we need to control. We need to pull off some upsets and wrestle above our seeds tomorrow.”
Fourth-ranked Iowa and sixth-ranked Oklahoma are tied for fourth place with 20.5 points. The Hawkeyes placed six wrestlers in the quarterfinals and Oklahoma has four still left on the front side of the bracket.
Past NCAA champions Derek St. John of Iowa (157) and Andrew Howe of Oklahoma (174) rolled into the quarterfinals with lopsided wins Thursday night.
Two-time NCAA champions Logan Stieber of Ohio State (141) and Tony Nelson of Minnesota (285) won their first two matches Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals.
Stieber, a junior, is trying to stay on course to become a rare four-time champion. Nelson, a senior, is trying to become Minnesota’s first three-time NCAA champion.
Day 2 of the three-day event is set for Friday in Oklahoma. Quarterfinal action is set for 10 a.m. with the semifinals scheduled for 7 p.m.
Team scoring (Top 10)
Penn State 26.5, Minnesota 21.5, Oklahoma State 21.5, Iowa 20.5, Oklahoma 20.5, Ohio State 19.5, Edinboro 18, Wisconsin 15.5, Iowa State 15, Cornell 14, Nebraska 14, Virginia Tech 14