The two-time defending champ Nittany Lions were a perfect five for five in the semifinal round of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, sending a tournament high five wrestlers to Saturday night's finals.
Nico Megaludis (125 pounds), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) were all victorious for head coach Cael Sanderson's club, as the Lions continued to cling tightly to the team points lead.
It's great man. I love it, Ruth told ESPN. Not only are you winning by yourself, you're winning as a team, and a win for team; that does a lot for me. It makes me so happy. When I go out there, I can expect to see someone else there with me in the winner's circle.
Both Megaludis and Wright survived grueling bouts that went the distance -- to a fourth and final tiebreaker -- before winning on the strength of riding time. Taylor was again victorious by fall, while Ruth and Brown each picked up decisions.
The 125-pounder opened Session IV for the Lions, toppling No. 1 seed Alan Waters of Missouri 3-2 thanks to 18 seconds of riding time after the bout ended deadlocked at two after nine minutes of wrestling and two sets of tiebreaker periods. But seeding upset aside, Megaludis was not thrilled with his performance.
He slowed me down, and I can't let that happen, Megaludis told ESPN. I have to fix that. I have to make him tired. This can't be my match tomorrow. I have to change it up.
Taylor was the next Lion to take the mat, and the redshirt junior pinned his way to the finals for the second year in a row with a thrilling nearside cradle to deck Virginia Tech's Peter Yates at the 3:24 mark of the second period.
The fall came after Taylor had already built an 8-1 lead, scoring seven of those points in a first period that saw the defending champion take injury time for an upper body issue that he wouldn't shed light on afterward.
Oh, it was nothing. I just had to catch my thoughts real quick. It was some weird stuff, Taylor told ESPN.
With the win, he moves on to face Cornell's Kyle Dake in the tournament's marquee, and final, bout. And that was something Taylor did shed some light on.
I have to go score points, Taylor told ESPN. He wants a 3-2 match, but it won't be a 3-2 match, I'll make sure of that one. Points are going to be scored, and at the end of day, someone is going to raise their hand.
Brown earned his finals spot by beating Minnesota's Logan Storley, gaining valuable team points with a 3-2 decision. That included a takedown in the first 10 seconds of the match that proved to be the difference.
Making things even more interesting was the fact that the arena lights went dim in the middle of the match. But that did not seem to impact either wrestler, as they kept right on grappling. Officials never stopped the action.
As the lights were coming back up, Ruth stopped State College High alum and Cornell 184-pounder Steve Bosak by decision, 4-1.
It's big, man. I just moved up a weight class and those guys hit harder, Ruth told ESPN when asked about bumping up from 174-pounds to 184-pounds this season. But I'm still able to do what I was able to do last year, and it's big.
Wright closed out semifinal action with a grueling bout of his own, also going the distance to beat Pittsburgh's Matt Wilps for the second time this season with a mere three seconds in riding time to earn a 4-3 victory.
Two wrestlers took part in consolation round action, and both were eliminated before reaching All-American status. Jordan Conaway's season came to a close with a 13-4 loss to Oklahoma's Cody Brewer, while 157-pounder Dylan Alton was eliminated by Nebraska's James Green, losing to the Husker 14-4.
At the end of Friday night, the Lions led the team race with 114.5 points, while Oklahoma State sat in second place with 94 points. Minnesota rounded out the top three with 86 points. The rest of the field has been mathematically eliminated from winning the title.
Medal round bouts will be held Saturday morning, but no Nittany Lions will be involved. Their action resumes at with the finals 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.
125 pounds: No.4 Nico Megaludis vs. No. 2 Jesse Delgado
165 pounds: No. 2 David Taylor vs. No. 1 Kyle Dake, Cornell
174 pounds: No. 2 Matt Brown vs. No. 1 Chris Perry, Oklahoma State
184 pounds: No.1 Ed Ruth vs. No. 3 Robert Hamlin, Lehigh
197 pounds: No. 2 Quentin Wright vs. No. 1 Dustin Kilgore, Kent State
149 pounds: No. 1 Jordan Oliver vs. No. 2 Jason Chamberlain, Boise State
174 pounds: No. 1 Chris Perry vs. No. 2 Matt Brown
285 pounds: No. 2 Tony Nelson vs. No. 5 Michael McMullan