Penn State’s David Taylor celebrates his second national title and the fourth straight title for his team at the NCAA Championships on Saturday night. Tony Rotundo photo.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Senior David Taylor stood with his teammates near the center of the mat and led the chant late Saturday night.
“We are,” Taylor called out.
“Penn State!” the Nittany Lion faithful shouted in response.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are the kings of the college wrestling world once again.
Taylor put the finishing touches on Penn State’s fourth straight team title by winning his second individual crown as the NCAA Championships concluded before 16,217 fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“You win four national championships,” Taylor told the crowd during a matside interview, “that’s pretty special.”
Taylor capped an excellent three-day tournament with a 6-0 win over two-time finalist Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State at 165 pounds to earn his second NCAA title. Taylor was a four-time NCAA finalist.
The top-ranked Nittany Lions took the lead when superstar 184-pound senior Ed Ruth capped a phenomenal career with his school-record third NCAA title.
Penn State became the first team to win four straight team titles since Oklahoma State won its fourth straight title in this same venue in 2006. The Nittany Lions finished with 109.5 points.
“Our kids did a fantastic job today,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We knew we had our hands full with Minnesota. They were killing it. All of our All-Americans won their last match and that's a big deal. It makes it easier as a coach when all your guys win their last match. We still have guys who didn't reach their goals, but it feels good for those guys to go out with a win.”
Second-ranked Minnesota had two chances to take the team lead in the finals, which started at 174, but both Gopher finalists dropped their finals bouts.
Minnesota had a superb weekend, placing second with 104 points after finishing third at the Big Ten tournament two weeks ago.
“It's extremely tough, it hurts, it's painful. That's what the whole thing is,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “You get your expectations that high and then they go that low, you're right there and it just gets pulled out from underneath you.”
Third-ranked Oklahoma State finished third with 96.5 points. The Cowboys had a pair of gold medalists in two-time champion Chris Perry (174) and champion Alex Dieringer (157).
“We finished third, and you obviously hope you do better than that, but overall this team came together,” OSU coach John Smith said. “We lost five dual teams this year, and we’re not used to that, but we came back strong in this tournament.”
Taylor finished his amazing career with a 134-3 career record. He was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
"When I think about my Penn State career, I think tonight will be something I remember for a long time,” Taylor said. “I don't know about watching the NCAA basketball tournament. Most kids dream about hitting the game-winning shot or scoring the game-winning touchdown. I dreamed about being part of the NCAA Championships, with the team title on the line. I get my hand raised and we win the team championship.
“That is what I dreamed as a kid, and it sums up tonight. Being able to wrestle for the best fans, and to have the best coaches in my corner, makes me pretty happy and I don't think this happiness will go away for a long time.”
Ruth scored two early takedowns and piled up over three minutes of riding time in controlling No. 1 seed Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland 7-2 in the 184 finals.
Ruth finished his collegiate career with a sparkling 136-3 record. He was third at the NCAAs as a freshman.
“It's big, because there have been a lot of great wrestlers that have come through Penn State,” Ruth said of his third title. “I see them every time they come in. I go like, wow. It just makes me proud to be one of those guys.”
Perry wrestled superbly in a 4-0 win over past NCAA champion Andrew Howe of Oklahoma in the first match of the finals at 174 pounds.
The match was scoreless after the first period before Perry escaped right away in the second. Perry then shot in on a beautiful high-crotch leg attack that lifted Howe off the mat and resulted in a takedown. Perry piled up over a minute of riding time for the final point.
“I haven't beaten a guy of an Andrew Howe quality in an NCAA finals or an NCAA tournament,” Perry said. “That's the best guy I've ever wrestled in an NCAA tournament. Hands down, he’s one of the best competitors I've ever competed against, counting even guys overseas. He's a tough dude.”
Perry joins his brother, Mark, as a two-time NCAA champion. Mark Perry won two national titles for Iowa.
Dieringer, a sophomore, came out strong in a dominating 13-4 win over Minnesota’s Dylan Ness in the 157 finals. Dieringer won a Junior World silver medal in freestyle in 2013.
“Winning on that big stage, there’s really nothing better,” Dieringer said. “I've been working so hard in the room, and doing extra workouts. So to know that it all paid off, it's a great feeling.”
North Carolina State sophomore Nick Gwiazdowski scored two third-period takedowns on leg attacks to knock off two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota 4-2 in the 285 finals.
“Right now, I can't really believe it,” Gwiazdowski said. “I grew up in a small town, with 80 kids in my graduating class. And a lot of them I'm still in contact with. So after the quarterfinals, when I became an All-American again, my Facebook, Twitter and text messages have been blowing up. It's bizarre.”
Freshman Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern drove in on a leg attack and finished for the winning takedown to defeat Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig 3-1 in sudden victory at 149.
“I went out there, I was confident, and I wasn't worried about it being NCAA finals,” Tsirtsis said. “I was just focused on winning that match and wrestling tough.”
Fourth-ranked Iowa finished in fourth place with 78.5 points.
Hawkeye senior Tony Ramos earned a dramatic 3-1 overtime win over Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff in the 133 finals. Graff rode Ramos out in the first 30-second tiebreaker before Ramos held Graff on his back for a two-point near fall in the second 30-second tiebreaker to earn the dramatic victory.
Ramos, second in this event last year, showed plenty of grit and moxie in this tournament. He won five tough matches by a combined 12 points.
“It's awesome,” Ramos said. “I'm excited. I can't wait to get out of here, go take that drug test, and then celebrate with my family, get my bracket, and go home and put it on the wall.”
Ohio State junior Logan Stieber moved another step closer to history in a dominant 10-1 win over Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter in the 141 finals. Stieber won his third straight NCAA title. Only three wrestlers have won four NCAA titles.
Stieber becomes Ohio State’s first three-time national champion.
“It feels great,” Stieber said. “I know Devin is a really, really tough individual. I knew he had to be really tough to make it through that injury. It felt good to get to my offense and ride him tough. And my defense was great, and I just kept getting after him.”
Illinois junior Jesse Delgado finished a leg attack for a takedown late in the second period en route to topping Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett 3-2 in the 125 finals. Delgado captured his second NCAA title.
“They were both hard,” Delgado said. “I think it's always harder repeating, but they both presented their challenges. He threw me off in that match a little bit. He controlled the match again, but I came out with the win.”
Missouri freshman J’Den Cox edged Ohio State’s Nick Heflin 2-1 in the 197 finals. Cox scored the eventual winning point when Heflin was called for stalling with 30 seconds left in the match.
“It feels amazing,” Cox said. “It feels great. I've worked so hard. I'm very proud.”
Edinboro coach Tim Flynn, whose team finished fifth, was named Coach of the Year.
The NCAA Championships will return to St. Louis in 2015.
March 22, Oklahoma City
Team scoring (Top 10)
Penn State 109.5, Minnesota 104, Oklahoma State 96.5, Iowa 78.5, Edinboro 62, Ohio State 57, Cornell 53, Virginia Tech 49, Northwestern 46, Oklahoma 45
1st – Jesse Delgado (Illinois) dec. Nahshon Garrett (Cornell), 3-2
3rd – Nico Megaludis (Penn State) dec. Joey Dance (Virginia Tech), 6-1
5th – Cory Clark (Iowa) dec. Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa), 8-1
7th – Darian Cruz (Lehigh) dec. Earl Hall (Iowa State), 2-1 TB2
1st - Tony Ramos (Iowa) dec. Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), 3-1 TB1
3rd – Joe Colon (Northern Iowa) dec. A.J. Schopp (Edinboro), 1-0
5th – David Thorn (Minnesota) dec. Mason Beckman (Lehigh), 5-3
7th – Joe Roth (Central Michigan) dec. Cody Brewer (Oklahoma), 8-6
1st – Logan Stieber (Ohio State) dec. Devin Carter (Virginia Tech), 10-1
3rd – Mitchell Port (Edinboro) dec. Evan Henderson (North Carolina), 9-1
5th – Zain Retherford (Penn State) won by medical forfeit over Joey Lazor (Northern Iowa)
7th – Stephen Dutton (Michigan) dec. Richard Durso (Franklin & Marshall), 6-5
1st – Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) dec. Josh Kindig (Oklahoma State), 3-1 SV
3rd – Eric Grajales (Michigan) dec. David Habat (Edinboro), 4-2
5th – Drake Houdashelt (Missouri) dec. Mitchell Minotti (Lehigh), 3-0
7th – James English (Penn State) dec. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma), 2-1 TB1
1st – Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) dec. Dylan Ness (Minnesota), 13-4
3rd – James Green (Nebraska) dec. Ian Miller (Kent State), 13-1
5th – Derek St. John (Iowa) won by medical forfeit over Brian Realbuto (Cornell)
7th – Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) dec. Anthony Perrotti (Rutgers), 2-0
1st – David Taylor (Penn State) dec. Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State), 6-0
3rd – Steven Monk (North Dakota State) pinned Nick Sulzer (Virginia), 6:20
5th – Michael Moreno (Iowa State) dec. Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (Citadel) 9-3
7th – Danny Zilverberg (Minnesota) dec. Pierce Harger (Northwestern), 6-2
1st – Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) dec. Andrew Howe (Oklahoma), 4-0
3rd – Logan Storley (Minnesota) dec. Robert Kokesh (Nebraska), 3-1 TB1
5th – Matt Brown (Penn State) dec. Mike Evans (Iowa), 6-3
7th – Tyler Wilps (Pittsburgh) dec. Bryce Hammond (CSU Bakersfield), 4-2
1st – Ed Ruth (Penn State) dec. Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland), 7-2
3rd – Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. Jack Dechow (Old Dominion), 5-4
5th – Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota) won by tech. fall over Lawrence Thomas (Penn), 18-2
7th – Jacob Swartz (Boise State) dec. Ophir Bernstein (Brown), 6-1
1st – J’Den Cox (Missouri) dec. Nick Heflin (Ohio State), 2-1
3rd – Scott Schiller (Minnesota) dec. Kyven Gadson (Iowa State), 9-6
5th – Conner Hartmann (Duke) won by medical forfeit over Chris Penny (Virginia Tech)
7th – Morgan McIntosh (Penn State) dec. Nathan Burak (Iowa), 3-1
1st – Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State) dec. Tony Nelson (Minnesota), 4-2
3rd – Mike McMullan (Northwestern) dec. Bobby Telford (Iowa), 3-1
5th – Mike McClure (Michigan State) dec. Adam Chalfant (Indiana), 3-2
7th – Jeremy Johnson (Ohio) dec. Austin Marsden (Oklahoma State), 4-2