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|No. 1 Penn State takes command in quarterfinal round of NCAA Championships|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Penn State’s Quentin Wright works for a fall in his quarterfinal win over Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett. John Sachs photo.
ST. LOUIS – Penn State’s Nico Megaludis is a true freshman, but he showed the grit and moxie of a fifth-year senior.
The No. 10 seed, Megaludis pulled off a stunning 7-4 quarterfinal win over second-seeded senior Zach Sanders of Minnesota at 125 pounds that provided a huge spark for the returning team champions.
Megaludis was one of five wrestlers to reach the semifinals for top-ranked Penn State, which grabbed a commanding lead before a sellout crowd of 18,694 fans Friday at the Scottrade Center.
The Nittany Lions hold the lead with 78.5 points. Top-seeded Penn State wrestlers Frank Molinaro (149), David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (174) also advanced to the semifinals, along with returning NCAA champion Quentin Wright (184).
Taylor and Wright both locked up cradles to record first-period falls for the Nitany Lions. Taylor needed just 29 seconds to pin No. 8 Robert Kokesh of Nebraska in the quarterfinals. The sixth-seeded Wright pinned No. 3 Ben Bennett of Central Michigan in 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
“Our philosophy all year is to go for bonus points,” said Wright, a junior who became a three-time All-American. “Seeing the other guys on our team having success, it’s contagious and it inspires you. Our guys are taking risks in matches and going for it. We are going for big moves and pushing ourselves to the limit.”
Fifth-ranked Cornell is in second place with 61.5 points and four wrestlers in the semifinals. Third-ranked Iowa is third with 58.5 points and four in the semis. Second-ranked Minnesota is fourth with 56 points and three in the semis. Fourth-ranked Oklahoma State is fifth with 50 points and three in the semis.
The semifinals are set for 6 p.m. Friday in St. Louis.
Cornell junior Kyle Dake, a two-time NCAA champion, moved within two wins of capturing his third national title after recording his third straight pin of the tournament at 157.
The top-seeded Dake pinned No. 8 Frank Hickman of Bloomsburg in the quarterfinals. He advances to face No. 5 Ganbayar Sanjaa of American in the semifinals. Dake won an NCAA title at 141 in 2010 before winning at 149 last year.
“I like to contribute to the team as much as I can, and we need it right now,” said Dake, who has pinned all three opponents in this tournament. “I just have to stay focused and not look too far ahead. It’s been fun. Dominating is fun.”
Returning champions Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State (133), Kellen Russell of Michigan (141) and Zach Rey of Lehigh (285) earned quarterfinal wins.
The top-seeded Oliver pinned No. 8 Zac Stevens of Michigan in the quarters.
“The pin is really big for me and big for the team race,” said Oliver, a junior. “I feel great and I feel like my best wrestling is still coming. I’m excited for the next two matches.”
The No. 1 Russell downed No. 9 Nick Dardanes of Minnesota 7-3 in the quarters.
“I wanted to go out and attack right away, and get a takedown in the first 30 seconds,” Russell said. “141 is a stacked weight class. All the matches are tough, and they are just getting tougher as the tournament goes along. I just have to stick to my game plan and keep the pressure on.”
Oliver will face No. 4 B.J. Futrell of Illinois in the semifinal round.
Russell will face No. 5 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State. Stieber, a true freshman, handed Russell his only loss this season in December at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas.
The No. 4 Rey downed No. 5 Bobby Telford of Iowa 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Rey will face No. 1 Ryan Flores of American in the semifinals. Rey beat Flores in the 2011 NCAA finals, but Flores beat Rey in overtime in the EIWA finals 12 days ago.
Iowa junior Matt McDonough, a two-time finalist who won this event in 2010, surrendered an early takedown before rolling to a 13-3 win over No. 8 Ryan Mango of Stanford. McDonough will battle No. 5 Nic Bedelyon of Kent State in the 125 semifinals.
Hawkeye senior Montell Marion won a battle of the last two NCAA runner-up finishers in the 141 quarterfinals. The No. 3 Marion edged No. 6 Boris Novachkov of Cal Poly 7-6 in the quarters. Marion will face No. 2 Kendric Maple of Oklahoma in the semis. Maple beat Marion in the Midlands finals this season.
One of the best semifinal bouts may come at 133 where Big Ten champion and second-seeded Logan Stieber of Ohio State battles No. 3 Tony Ramos of Iowa. Stieber edged Ramos in the Big Ten finals.
Seventh-seeded Dylan Ness, a Minnesota freshman, rode No. 2 seed and unbeaten Jamal Parks of Oklahoma State the final two minutes to earn a 3-2 upset in the 149 quarterfinals.
Ninth-seeded Austin Trotman of Appalachian State pulled out a wild 12-9 win over No. 1 seed Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming in the 184 quarters.
Matt McDonough (Iowa) vs. Nic Bedelyon (Kent State)
Frank Perrelli (Cornell) vs. Nico Megaludis (Penn State)
Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) vs. B.J. Futrell (Illinois)
Tony Ramos (Iowa) vs. Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
Kellen Russell (Michigan) vs. Hunter Stieber (Ohio State)
Montell Marion (Iowa) vs. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma)
Frank Molinaro (Penn State) vs. Justin Accordino (Hofstra)
Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh) vs. Dylan Ness (Minnesota)
Kyle Dake (Cornell) vs. Ganbayar Sanjaa (American)
Jason Welch (Northwestern) vs. Derek St. John (Iowa)
David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (Clarion)
Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) vs. Josh Asper (Maryland)
Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Logan Storley (Minnesota)
Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford) vs. Chris Perry (Oklahoma State)
Austin Trotman (Appalachian State) vs. Steve Bosak (Cornell)
Quentin Wright (Penn State) vs. Robert Hamlin (Lehigh)
Cam Simaz (Cornell) vs. Cayle Byers (Oklahoma State)
Matthew Wilps (Pittsburgh) vs. Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro)
Ryan Flores (American) vs. Zach Rey (Lehigh)
Clayton Jack (Oregon State) vs. Tony Nelson (Minnesota)