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|5-for-5! No. 1 Penn State places five in finals to close in on second straight NCAA title|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Penn State senior Frank Molinaro is one of five finalists for the Nittany Lions. Larry Slater photo.
ST. LOUIS – Nico Megaludis started it.
Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth followed suit.
And Quentin Wright capped it.
Top-ranked Penn State went a perfect 5-for-5 in the semifinal round of the NCAA Championships as it closed in on its second straight team title before a sellout crowd of 18,694 fans Friday night at the Scottrade Center.
The Nittany Lions finished the day with 124 points while No. 2 Minnesota is second with 101.5 points and No. 3 Iowa is third with 93. The Gophers have two finalists and the Hawkeyes three. Fifth-ranked Cornell is fourth with 86 points and three finalists.
Top-seeded wrestlers Molinaro (149 pounds), Taylor (165) and Ruth (174) will gun for titles for Penn State on Saturday night along with a returning NCAA champion in Wright (184) and a true freshman in Megaludis (125). The Nittany Lions went a combined 13-4 in Friday's two sessions.
Taylor gave up the first takedown to Clarion’s Bekzod Abdurakhmonov in the semifinals, but bounced back to lead 11-5 before recording a fall in the third period. Taylor has pinned all four opponents in this tournament. Taylor will face No. 11 seed Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh in the finals.
“Our team is a little different,” Taylor said. “For some people, the biggest goal in their life is to be an All-American. Being an All-American is great, but the goal for guys on our team is to be a national champion.”
The No. 10 Megaludis continues his amazing march in St. Louis with a 3-2 semifinal win over No. 6 Frank Perrelli of Cornell in overtime. Megaludis upset No. 2 Zach Sanders of Minnesota in Friday morning’s quarters.
“This is the most fun time of the year,” Megaludis said. “This is exciting. I’m the underdog, and these guys are the big dogs.”
Molinaro will face Minnesota freshman Dylan Ness in the finals. Molinaro beat Ness by technical fall in the Big Ten finals. Ruth will battle Stanford's Nick Amuchastegui in a matchup of unbeaten wrestlers. Amuchastegui beat Ruth in this tournament last year. Wright will face Cornell's Steve Bosak in the finals.
The consolation semifinals are set for 10 a.m. Saturday with the placing matches to follow. The finals are set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday in St. Louis.
Cornell junior Kyle Dake, a two-time NCAA champion, moved within one win of his third title after blanking No. 4 Ganbayar Sanjaa of American 4-0 in the 157 semifinals.
The top-seeded Dake will face No. 2 Derek St. John of Iowa in the finals. Dake won an NCAA title at 141 in 2010 before winning at 149 last year.
“I’ve never wrestled him,” Dake said of St. John. “I don’t really know much about him, just that he’s an Iowa guy and he seems to win a lot of close matches. It will be fun.”
Returning champions Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State (133), Kellen Russell of Michigan (141) and Zach Rey of Lehigh (285) advanced to the finals.
The top-seeded Oliver controlled No. 4 B.J. Futrell of Illinois 8-2 in the semifinals. Oliver will face No. 2 Logan Stieber of Ohio State in the finals. Oliver beat Stieber earlier this season.
“I am feeling great,” Oliver said. “I am real excited about this next match. I have wrestled Logan before, but this is a new match. Anything can happen. I have to wrestle my style and my pace, and put pressure on the other guy.”
The top-seeded Russell downed No. 5 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State 5-2 in the semis. Stieber, a true freshman, handed Russell his only loss this season. Russell will face Iowa’s third-seeded Montell Marion in the finals. Marion shot in for a takedown in overtime to beat No. 2 Kendric Maple of Oklahoma 3-1 in the semis.
“These are the best matches I’ve wrestled in a long time,” Russell said. “I’m being more offensive, and I’m opening up a little more. It’s leading me to score more points. I am scoring more, but I’m still not giving up a lot of points.”
Russell edged Marion in overtime in a wild NCAA semifinals match last year, and also beat him 7-2 in the Big Ten finals 12 days ago.
“Russell is a scrambler – he’s talented,” Marion said. “I’ve got to go out there and put a hammer on him, protect my legs, get to my ties and get my scores.”
The fourth-seeded Rey downed No. 1 Ryan Flores of American 7-1 in the semifinals. Rey beat Flores in the 2011 NCAA finals. Flores had beaten Rey earlier this month in the EIWA finals. Rey will face Big Ten champion and No. 2 seed Tony Nelson of Minnesota in the finals.
"I didn't care for my seed," Rey said. "I wanted to wrestle Ryan in the semis. I felt confident, even with how many times we've wrestled each other and the times I've lost to him."
Top-seeded Iowa junior Matt McDonough, a 2010 champion, rolled to a 15-7 semifinal win over No. 5 Nic Bedelyon of Kent State. McDonough will meet the 10th-seeded Megaludis in the 125 finals. McDonough makes his third trip to the finals. He was second last year.
“This is my favorite time of year,” McDonough said. “Spring break, everyone goes to Cancun. I go to the NCAA tournament. I get to watch tough wrestling. Now I get to live the dream, I get to do it.”
McDonough beat Megaludis 3-1 in overtime in a dual meet earlier this season.
“I’m a huge underdog,” Megaludis said. “There are very few people that think I’m going to win.”
Matt McDonough (Iowa) vs. Nico Megaludis (Penn State)
Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) vs. Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
Kellen Russell (Michigan) vs. Montell Marion (Iowa)
Frank Molinaro (Penn State) vs. Dylan Ness (Minnesota)
Kyle Dake (Cornell) vs. Derek St. John (Iowa)
David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh)
Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford)
Steve Bosak (Cornell) vs. Quentin Wright (Penn State)
Cam Simaz (Cornell) vs. Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro)
Zach Rey (Lehigh) vs. Tony Nelson (Minnesota)