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A Look At Big Ten Wrestling’s Impressive Impact On National And Olympic Teams

By Leah Jenk | March 14, 2019, 6:27 p.m. (ET)

Kyle Snyder runs onto the mat at the NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 19, 2016 in New York.


While Penn State is the three-time reigning NCAA champion, it had not won the Big Ten Tournament since 2016. Last weekend, however, the Nittany Lions won five of the 10 weight classes (157, 165, 174, 197 and 285 lbs.) on their way to winning the tournament with 157.5 points. Ohio State, the previous Big Ten champions, finished second with 122.5 points. 

A Big Ten university has won the NCAA wrestling championship 12 years in a row, and 20 of the last 25. Not only have Penn State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota dominated the collegiate mats, they have also greatly contributed to Team USA’s legacy on the mat.

Of the current U.S. men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman national teams, nine of the 14 Big Ten universities are represented.

National team members include University of Illinois’ Isiah Martinez; Indiana University's Lucas Sheridan; University of Iowa’s Thomas Gilman and Anthony Ramos; University of Michigan’s Adam Coon; University of Minnesota’s Anthony Nelson; University of Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs, Hayden Tuma and James Green; The Ohio State University’s Kyle Snyder and Logan Stieber; Penn State University’s Nico Megaludis, Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Mason Manville; and the University of Wisconsin’s Jesse Thielke.

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Of the athletes who wrestled for Team USA at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, five of the 10 competed for Big Ten universities – Daniel Dennis (University of Iowa), Frank Molinaro (Penn State University), Jordan Burroughs (University of Nebraska), Kyle Snyder (The Ohio State University) and Jesse Thielke (University of Wisconsin).

The Big Ten is full of strong coaching ties as well.

The Nittany Lions are led by head coach Cael Sanderson who after finishing his collegiate wrestling career 159-0 with four NCAA championships, won gold for Team USA at the Olympic Games Athens 2004. When Sanderson was named the Penn State coach in 2009, the program had not won an NCAA championship since 1953. In just his second season at Penn State, the Nittany Lions were back on top, as they have been for seven of the last eight years. 

Iowa head coach Terry Brands won bronze for Team USA at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, and Maryland head coach Kerry McCoy competed for Team USA at both the 2000 and 2004 Games, finishing fifth in Sydney. Additionally, Nebraska head coach Mark Manning has coached on U.S. Olympic teams as an assistant in 1996, 2000, 2012 and 2016.

Additionally, Wisconsin head coach Chris Bono is a two-time U.S. national champion and three-time world team member, while Michigan head coach Sean Bormet and Indiana head coach Ange Escobedo have also competed on the U.S. national team.

The 2019 NCAA wrestling championships will take place March 21-23 in Pittsburgh, and the Big Ten is sure to make its presence known.