Fab Five Lead Lions

Penn State captures its first Big Ten Tournament title, crowning a quintet of individual champions to end Iowa's stranglehold.

In less than two seasons, Cael Sanderson has taken the Penn State wrestling program to a new level.

The Nittany Lions used an epic final session of competition -- which included a perfect 7-0 record and the crowning of five individual champions -- to capture their first Big Ten title at Northwestern Sunday.

PSU tallied 139 team points, which was just enough to edge Iowa (138), the three-time defending Big Ten and NCAA champion.

The Nittany Lions trailed the Hawkeyes heading into the final session and appeared to need a perfect performance to topple the champs. Sanderson got just that.

All five Penn State wrestlers who advanced to the finals won, some in more dramatic fashion that others.

At 133 pounds, sophomore Andrew Long overcame a slow start and used a late flurry to decision Wisconsin's Tyler Graff, 7-3.

At 149, senior Frank Molinaro dominated Michigan's Eric Grajales from whistle to whistle in winning 3-0. Molinaro did not give up a point during the tournament.

At 157, PSU super freshman David Taylor stayed unbeaten on the year. He gave up an early takedown but then controlled the match the rest of the way in winning 8-3 over Iowa's Derek St. John.

At 174, fellow freshman Ed Ruth built a big early lead and never seemed to be seriously threatened, even though Buckeye Nick Heflin registered a late takedown. Ruth won 8-5 but it wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

At 184, eighth-seeded sophomore Quentin Wright stunned second-seeded Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota, 4-3. Wright was majored 10-1 when the two met in the regular season, but at the time he was still recovering from a shoulder injury. This time around, he controlled the action when both wrestlers were on their feet and held off a late takedown attempt for the victory.

The only drawback in the championship bouts was that the Lions failed to register all-important bonus points. Luckily, in light of how tight the final score was, those came in the consolations.

In the seventh-place match at 165, PSU's James Vollrath won by fall against Michigan's Dan Yates, giving the Lions three team points.

At heavyweight, top-seeded Cameron Wade made up for an otherwise disappointing weekend by getting a 9-0 major decision over Michigan's Ben Apland. The win was good for two teams points, the second of which -- as it turned out -- provided the oh-so-slim margin of victory over Iowa.

Had Wade simply won by decision in the final weight class of the afternoon, the Nittany Lions would have had to share their first Big Ten title with Iowa.


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