OKLAHOMA CITY - Penn State will bring seven All-Americans back to University Park, and possibly two individual champions, but whether it will bring a fourth consecutive team championship is very much in doubt.
The Nittany Lions have the slimmest of leads, .5 points, over Minnesota, 91-90.5. Oklahoma State is in third and will have something to say about the team race, too, with 87.5 points.
"We always want more points and we wanted a little more but we have to keep fighting. Everyone wants a little bit more. How we finish tomorrow is obviously very important," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said.
Penn State's Zain Retherford, left, wrestles Northern Iowa's Joey Lazor, right, in a 141-pound quarterfinals Friday in Oklahoma City. Retherford won the match.
Senior 165-pounder David Taylor and senior 184-pounder Ed Ruth will both wrestle for championships tonight after both won semifinal bouts Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"They're clutch. That's what they love to do. They want it and it's even more fun when the team race is a battle. Tomorrow will be a great opportunity for them to go out and do it again," Sanderson said.
Junior Nico Megaludis (125) and freshman Zain Retherford (141) both lost in the semifinals and face consolation semifinal matches this morning.
"Well they both gave up couple takedowns in the fist period and against tough opponents it's tough to come back," Sanderson said.
"Nico did a great job to give himself a chance to win at the end there; he just couldn't finish his shot. We need both of those guys to come back strong tomorrow because it's going to be a big part of the team race here."
Junior 174-pounder Matt Brown will also wrestle in the consolation semifinals this morning.
Sixth-year senior James English (149) and sophomore Morgan McIntosh (197) will wrestle for seventh place.
Taylor pinned Iowa State's Michael Moreno in the quarterfinals before rolling to a 13-5 major decision over North Dakota State's Steven Monk in the semifinals. He will face Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell in the finals.
Lion 184-pounder Ed Ruth slipped past Cornell's Gabe Dean in the semifinals, 5-3, to earn a finals showdown with Maryland No. 1 seed Jimmy Sheptock. Ruth majored Minnesota's Kevin Steinhaus in the quarterfinals, 10-2.
Megaludis fell to No. 2 seed Nahshon Garrett of Cornell, 6-4, the third time this season Garrett has defeated him. Just 20 seconds in Garrett shot in for a lightning quick single and crunched Megaludis in a cradle at the edge for a takedown. Megaludis escaped 22 seconds later and the first period ended 2-1.
In the second period, Garrett escaped in 20 seconds and at the end of the period scored another takedown for a 5-1 lead after two. Megaludis chose bottom to start the third and escaped in 24 seconds. He scored a takedown with 1:08 left to close the gap to 5-3. Megaludis rode him long enough to erase the riding time advantage the Big Red sophomore held and then went on the hunt.
The Nittany Lion junior got in on a single with around 20 seconds left but couldn't convert. Megaludis is a three-time All-American but for the first time in his career he won't wrestle for a championship.
Megaludis started with another dominating performance, shutting out Oklahoma No. 6 seed Jarrod Patterson, 6-0. Megaludis had takedowns in the first and third periods, escape and a point for 1:50 in riding time advantage.
At 141, Retherford met the same fate as Megaludis. Paired with two-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber, Megaludis fell by the same 7-3 score as he did in the Big Ten finals.
Retherford got to the semifinals by defeating Northern Iowa's Joey Lazor, 5-2.
Brown had to endure a quarterfinal loss to his nemesis, Iowa's Mike Evans, by a 5-4 decision in the tiebreaker period. He bounced back with a 10-6 win over Navy's Matthew Miller. And then he decisioned Cal State Bakersfield's Bryce Hammond, 9-3. He'll wrestle Minnesota's Logan Storley in the consolation semifinals.
English, in his sixth injury-riddled year, earned All-America status by reeling off three straight wins. He edged North Carolina's Christian Barber 3-1 and then nipped Rylan Lubeck of Wisconsin, 4-3. Then he found wrestling's promised land by locking up a cradle on Virginia Tech's Zach Neibert in the sudden victory period for a 6-4 win. Edinboro's David Habat then pinned him in 4:52. English will wrestle Oklahoma's Kendric Maple for seventh.
McIntosh pounded American's Daniel Mitchell, 15-7, and gutted out a win over Bloomsburg's Richard Perry, 6-4, before scoring another major, 13-4, over Binghamton's Cody Reed to earn All-America status. He dropped a 5-3 decision to Iowa State's Kyven Gadson to drop into a seventh-place bout opposite Nathan Burak of Iowa.
Junior Dylan Alton (157), freshman Jimmy Gulibon (133) and junior Jon Gingrich (285) were all eliminated in Friday's morning session.
Alton started his day with a solid 5-2 win over Duke's Immanuel Kerr-Brown. He was then eliminated, 4-2, on a controversial takedown in the sudden victory by Central Michigan's Luke Smith.
Gulibon was bounced from the tournament in the cruelest of manners. The match was tied 3-3 with Illinois' Zane Richards, but Richards had exactly 1:00 in riding time to earn the point and a 4-3 win.
Gingrich, too, was bounced in the second round of consolations. He was pinned by Oklahoma's Ross Larson in 2:03.
Lock Haven's Dan Neff saw his tournament end in the second round of consolations. He lost by major decision to Hofstra's Luke Vaith, 12-2.
Bucknell 125-pounder Paul Petrov saw his tournament come to an end in the second round of consolations. Pitt's Anthony Zanetta decisioned him, 3-1. His teammate, 285-pounder Joe Stolfi fell in the same round, falling to Rutgers' William Smith, 10-6.