None of their wrestlers came into the tournament with top seeds. Yet, they may just leave with the title. Penn State under head coach and Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson is tearing up the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships early. They only sent one wrestler to the wrestlebacks and then went on a run. To wit:
The Nittany Lions weren’t perfect on Thursday … but pretty close.
After 125-pounder Brad Pataky dropped a first-round match, Penn State rattled off 15 consecutive wins. In the process Sanderson’s group pushed seven into Friday’s quarterfinals of the 81st NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
Cornell and Iowa kept five in the championship bracket with Wisconsin and Oklahoma State each pushing four.
The top 10 team scores at the end of Day 1 included: Penn State 30 ½, Cornell 29, Oklahoma State and Iowa with 25, American 23 ½, Arizona State 21, Wisconsin 20, Boise State 19 ½, Minnesota 19 and Nebraska 18 ½.
It's perfectly conceivable Penn State could send a few to the championship round and even take a few national titles, but it would be saying something about the Penn State wrestling program to take a national title. It would validate the investment in Sanderson and send a signal to the rest of the wrestling community a new powerhouse is emerging.
A little more perspective on the run the Nittany Lions are having:
Rookie Andrew Alton (30-8) followed a first-round pin with a major decision in the evening session. David Taylor, another first-year starter, moved to 36-0 with a technical fall in the second round. Ed Ruth, the third of PSU’s fantastic freshmen, improved to 34-1 with a win against Minnesota’s Scott Glasser in the second round.
"It feels like a regular tournament," Alton said. "You wrestle hard and you get your hand raised out there. I was a little bit nervous but you’re always going to have nerves. You just have to go out there and compete."
Add Andrew Long, who beat Minnesota’s David Thorn in overtime at 133; Frank Molinaro, who held off Virginia’s Derek Valenti at 149; Quentin Wright (184) and Cameron Wade (285) and PSU will take massive momentum into Day 2.
That's the team to beat, folks.