The Nittany Lions finished their regular season with a dominating 43-3 victory over Clarion on Senior Day, getting four consecutive pins and nine victories total to down the visitors.
Men of the Match: It's hard to measure in full what David Taylor and Ed Ruth have provided to the Penn State wrestling program over their five years in blue and white. Time and time again, they've found a bonus point (or three) and answered whatever call was needed on the road to three national titles.
Eight seniors were honored before the match, but the loudest ovations clearly came for the 165-pound Taylor and 184-pound Ruth. They returned when the duo hit the mat, and spent limited time there, as Taylor dropped Clarion's Michael Pavasko in 11 seconds and Ruth locked up and decked Dustin Conti in 1:04. A Matt Brown pin was sandwiched in between at 174 pounds (his fall came in 2:50) as Ruth and Taylor were named co-Ridge Riley Award winners.
"It's hard to explain all the emotion," Taylor said afterward. "There are so many different emotions. The biggest thing I want to do is thank every person that supported me over the last five years. I'm just thankful.
"I haven't been that excited to wrestle in a long time. You don't always get super excited, but I just had so many emotions. Before I knew it, the match was over."
Ruth expressed similar feelings following the dual. He was leading 2-0 before taking Conti to his back.
"I can't really explain it better than [Taylor] just did," Ruth said. "My brother has not been to one of my home matches, so [him making it] really made me happy.
"I couldn't have asked for this day to go any other way. A lot of guys went out there and dominated, and it just made me happy. It's a good feeling to just have everyone on the same page."
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson also reflected on what the pair has meant to the program, citing the crowd's ovation as something that meant a lot to him.
The duo was joined by James English, James Vollrath, Seth Beitz, Cameron Kelly, Kyle Moran and Nate Morgan as seniors who were honored.
"It's kind of crazy. Time flies, but we still got the big stuff left," Sanderson said. "Nationals and Big Ten's are coming up, and we're going to keep focusing on that.
"I just enjoy watching [Taylor and Ruth] wrestle. They've been very consistent. I just appreciate the way they compete and they've been consistent in using every second of the match to score points, and that's what makes them so great."
Falling to Victory: Penn State racked up four falls to run away from Clarion, and they all came after intermission.
The spree started at 165 pounds with Taylor's lightening quick fall, and continued at 174, 184, and finally 197 pounds where Morgan McIntosh pinned Daniel Sutherland at 3:10.
Sanderson said afterward the importance of the result was not just for today's dual, but also an indicator of what will be needed if Penn State hopes to repeat as Big Ten and NCAA champions.
"Bonus points are big, and bonus points happen in the first period," Sanderson said. "You have to set the pace. We want to go to the national tournament wrestling like we have 12 guys in the lineup because of the bonus points."
Cloudy Vision: Sanderson didn't expect to have lineup questions still lingering in February. But with 149 pounds and heavyweight still up in the air, he does.
English won a wrestle-off earlier this week between him, Andrew Alton and Zack Beitz to earn the right to wrestle Sunday. He was a 7-2 winner over Justin Arthur, while Jimmy Lawson, who had been nursing a knee injury and still wore a heavy brace on his left knee, wrestled instead of Jon Gingrich but lost 7-6 to Evan Daley.
"I don't know what he was doing," Sanderson said, referring to Lawson. "He didn't need to wrestle like that. You could see he was bothered by something, but at the end when he wanted to score points, he got a nice double.
"He has to decide what he wants. Does he want to be hurt or want to go win? We have to decide if he ready for the conference [tourney] or not, and I don't think that was a real good showing."
English, who has battled injuries throughout his career, put on a better performance in Sanderson's mind. Yet, who will represent the Lions in the postseason is not decided at 149 pounds, either.
"James getting that match was great," Sanderson said. "It's very unusual [to have lineup questions this late]. It's definitely tricky, and we want to do right by everybody."
• The final meet of the season drew 6,843 to Rec Hall.
• Penn State started the dual with back-to-back technical falls, as Nico Megaludis won 21-5 at 125 pounds and Jimmy Gulibon 17-0 at 133.
• The Lions won't wrestle again until the Big Ten Championships, which will be held March 8-9 at Wisconsin.