Lions win 4th straight title

OKLAHOMA CITY – The weight of Penn State’s fourth consecutive national title rested on the shoulders of two of the most decorated wrestlers in Nittany Lions history Saturday night.

One last time both David Taylor and Ed Ruth came through for their team. Ruth became the first three-time NCAA champion in school history, and Taylor won his second national title as the Nittany Lions won the team title for the fifth time in school history, 109.5-104, over Minnesota.

“To win four national championships, that’s pretty special,” 165-pound champion David Taylor said.

Penn State trailed Minnesota, 104-101.5, heading into the finals and knew a certain series of events had to happen. The simplest version involved Ruth and Taylor winning and one Minnesota finalist losing. Most figured that would involve Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer beating Minnesota’s Dylan Ness at 157. Dieringer did earlier in the season.

Nobody would have predicted that North Carolina State sophomore Nick Gwiazdowski would upset two-time defending champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota. But the Wolfpack heavyweight did, 4-2. With Ruth winning in the second match of the night, Penn State maintained its 105.5-104 lead.

Then, when Dieringer rolled Ness, 13-4, in the final, a fourth consecutive title was Penn State’s.

Ruth got out fast with a lightning-quick single to score a takedown just 17 seconds into the 184-pound final. Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland escaped three seconds later, but a little more than a minute later, Ruth struck again and rode Sheptock the rest of the period. He led 4-1 after one period and had 1:30 in riding time.

“Going out there I never really have a game plan. As soon as I step on the line and other guy steps on the line I’m thinking about just taking 10 or 20 shots and getting to his legs,” Ruth said. “In my head I don’t like to believe that people can fend me off. If I’m taking shots I like to believe I can always get to the leg. That just keeps me pushing for the next shot and the next shot after that.”

Sheptock chose bottom and Ruth kept him there the entire second period. Ruth started down in the third and it took him just 17 seconds to score a reversal. He added a point for 3:26 in riding time for the 7-2 win.

Ruth became Penn State’s first three-time champion. Only an injury default in the quarterfinals during the 2011 tournament prevented him from possibly joining the pantheon of four-time champions.

He ended his season with a 34-1 record and his career 136-3. He scored bonus points in 105 of 139 career matches.

Taylor got off to a quick start like Ruth. He scored a takedown in 53 seconds and rode Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell for the rest of the period. In the second, the Nittany Lion escaped in 17 seconds and got another takedown with just under a minute to go. Caldwell chose neutral to start the third and neither wrestler scored, but Taylor got a point for riding time for a 6-0 win.

“There’s a lot of emotion going on right now,” Taylor said.

Taylor owned two previous wins over Caldwell this season. He majored him, 9-1, in the Southern Scuffle final and edged him, 5-2, in the dual meet at Rec Hall.

Taylor is Penn State’s first four-time finalist and only the 15th in NCAA history since freshmen became eligible to compete in 1970. He is tied with Josh Moore atop the all-time program pins list with 53. He ended this season 34-0 and his career 134-3.

He scored bonus-point wins in 125 of his 137 career wins, an amazing 91 percent.

Taylor and Ruth finished their careers with a combined 270-6 record, including 99 pins and 229 bonus-point wins. They became just the seventh and eighth four-time All-Americans in school history joining: Greg Elinsky, Jim Martin, Sanshiro Abe, Phil Davis, Frank Molinaro and Quentin Wright.

Now those two will ride off into the sunset, two of the best to ever put on a blue and white Penn State singlet.

“We knew this day would come,” Sanderson said. “It’s definitely something to celebrate.”