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Top-ranked Penn State uses bonus points to grab early lead at NCAA Championships

Penn State's Ed Ruth records a first-round pin as referee Gary Mayabb slaps the mat. Tony Rotundo photo.

ST. LOUIS – Top-ranked Penn State is a team capable of scoring plenty of bonus points.

That was evident during the opening session of the three-day NCAA Championships on Thursday at the Scottrade Center.

The Nittany Lions scored bonus points in 7-of-8 first-round victories. Penn State leads with 25.5 points. Second-ranked Minnesota is second with 25 points and eight wrestlers in the second round.

Fourth-ranked Oklahoma State is third with 17.5 points while No. 3 Iowa and No. 5 Cornell are tied for fourth with 17 points apiece. The second round is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in St. Louis.

Top-seeded Penn State wrestlers Frank Molinaro (149 pounds), David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (174) scored bonus points in their wins, as did returning NCAA champion Quentin Wright (184).

Wright blanked North Carolina’s Thomas Ferguson by an 11-0 major decision in the first round.

“I just went out there and went after it,” Wright said. “I really pushed hard to get that major at the end. Every guy I wrestle is going to be tough. I have the same mindset as last year. You have to be prepared every match.”

Wright is one of the leaders on a team favored to repeat as NCAA champions.

“We just realize last year was last year,” Wright said. “We have to take it and go after it again. Nothing is going to be given to us. We just need to have fun and give it everything we have. That’s our mindset. This is a brand-new year and brand-new tournament."

Cornell junior Kyle Dake, halfway to winning four NCAA titles, earned a quick fall in his first match at 157. Dake won an NCAA title at 141 in 2010 before winning at 149 last year.

In addition to Wright, returning champions Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State (133), Kellen Russell of Michigan (141) and Zach Rey of Lehigh (285) passed their first tests.

The top-seeded Russell beat Missouri's Hucke 6-1 in the opening round.

“I got the first match out of the way, and that’s good,” Russell said. “I hope to be a little more offensive and open up a little more in my next match. That first match is always the toughest for me. I just have to keep my focus and have fun out there.”

The fourth-seeded Rey pulled out a 6-4 overtime win over Indiana’s Adam Chalfant in the first round. Chalfant shot in and nearly scored a takedown before Rey somehow scrambled out of danger to gain the winning takedown.

Iowa junior Matt McDonough (125), a two-time finalist who won this event in 2010, won by fall in the first round.

The Hawkeyes did suffer one key setback when returning third-place NCAA finisher Grant Gambrall, who is not seeded, fell 2-1 to Northern Iowa’s eighth-seeded Ryan Loder in the first round. Gambrall was in on a shot in the closing seconds, and nearly scored a takedown, but time ran out.

“We had wrestled two times before, and split our matches,” Loder said. “It’s NCAAs, so you are going to wrestle a stud in every match. You have to be ready for everybody you face.”

Iowa sophomore Tony Ramos provided an early spark with his 9-2 win over Boise State’s Brian Owen in the first round at 133.

“I got to my offense and scored,” said Ramos, who is seeded third. “I knew I had to finish my shots quick because he likes to roll around and scramble. I had to control the match and the pace.”

Seventeen seeded wrestlers lost, including three No. 4 seeds.

Oklahoma's Nick Lester defeated No. 4 Donald Vinson of Binghamton at 149. Northern Iowa’s David Bonin pinned No. 4 Harvard’s Walter Peppelman in the first round at 157. Binghamton’s Cody Reed upset No. 4 Christian Boley of Maryland 2-1 at 197.
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