Everything went right for Penn State on Saturday night.
Ed Ruth and David Taylor, two of the school’s best all-time wrestlers, went out as individual champions, and the Nittany Lions won their fourth consecutive NCAA team title. Penn State held off Minnesota 109.5-104.
“We are grateful for the opportunity,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Our kids did a fantastic job today. We knew we had our hands full with Minnesota. They were killing it.”
Oklahoma State placed third with 96.5 points, Iowa was fourth with 78.5 and Edinboro (Pa.) fifth with 62.
Ruth won his third national title, beating No. 1 seed Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland 7-2 in the 184-pound final. Sheptock, the No. 1 seed, entered with a 32-0 record.
Taylor, a four-time finalist, closed the night by defeating Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell 6-0 in the 165 final to finish with his second national title and a 34-0 record.
“Anyone who has watched David Taylor or Ed Ruth wrestle is an instant wrestling fan,” Sanderson said. “These guys are fun to watch. Their motion is non-stop, they are fluid and they are tough and they wrestle with passion and fire. You need heroes like that to build your sport. To be able to finish off the way they did is pretty amazing.”
Minnesota entered the evening session with a 104-101.5 lead over Penn State and both schools having two finalists. Penn State’s finalists both won and Minnesota’s lost.
Ruth’s victory in the second match of the evening gave Penn State a 105.5-104 lead.
Minnesota’s Tony Nelson, the top seed at 285, faced North Carolina State’s Nick Gwiazdowski in the final, and for a while, things looked good for the Golden Gophers. Nelson had more than two minutes of riding time heading into the third period, and Gwiazdowski let Nelson up to start the final period, giving him a point for an escape.
Gwiazdowski then got a takedown for two points and got control to take Nelson’s riding time under two minutes. Nelson’s left ankle was injured in the third period, but he continued.
Gwiazdowski then got another takedown in the final minute, leaving the hopeful Minnesota fans who were wildly cheering just minutes earlier in complete silence. Nelson ended up with just one point for riding time, and Gwiazdowski won 4-2.
“We’re a basketball school,” Gwiazdowski said. “But now, we’ve got a national champ in wrestling.”
Nelson’s loss left both Penn State and Minnesota with one wrestler remaining and Penn State ahead 105.5-104. Minnesota could have put pressure on Penn State, but Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer beat Minnesota’s Dylan Ness in the 157 final, clinching the title for the Nittany Lions before Taylor’s match.
Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry opened the evening session with a 4-0 win over Oklahoma’s Andrew Howe in the 174-pound weight class to defend his title in that class.