This past Saturday marked Penn State sixth national championship over the past seven years for the wrestling team, and its second-consecutive title in as many years. After coming off a second place finish in the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions squared up and dominated the competition at the NCAAs in St. Louis, securing the team national title before the final round even began.
What should have PSU wrestling fans even more excited is that for just the fourth time ever a team had five individual national champions. These Nittany Lions were Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (184) - all of whom are underclassmen.
With this, the future looks bright for Cael Sanderson's program with a stable of highly-ranked prospects joining the sqaud in the future. While the Lions have been a perennial dominant force in the Big Ten play, winning five of the last seven Big Ten Tournaments, the Lions placed second in the 2017 conference tournament to Ohio State. However, PSU won this year's regular season Big Ten dual championship title going undefeated once again.
Despite falling short in the conference tournament, winning the NCAA team title further extended an incredible dynasty for the Nittany Lions and further illustrates not only the impressive program Coach Sanderson has built in Happy Valley, but also the impressive athletic program that calls Happy Valley home.
This national title is also the most recent in a long continuous line of success Penn State has had across its athletic program. In fact, Penn State has won at least one national title every year since 2007 across women's and men's volleyball, wrestling, men's gymnastics, men's and women's fencing, and women's soccer.
Since 2007 Penn State actually has the most NCAA national championships in the nation, tied with Southern California and Oregon, each with 19. Stanford and Texas, often considered among the nation's premier athletic programs, have 17 and five national titles, respectively, over this same timeframe.
Only four athletic programs have more all-time total NCAA team championships than Penn State - UCLA, Stanford, USC and Oklahoma State.
Carrying the Conference Torch
Not surprisingly, Penn State is the dominant force in the Big Ten when it comes to national championships. Penn State's 18 since 2007 is at least double the total won by any other conference program over the past ten years.
Since the Nittany Lions joined Big Ten play in 1992-1993, PSU has 30 total NCAA championships, which is also more than double any other school that was also in the Big Ten during that entire span of time. When including teams that recently joined the conference Maryland has the second most NCAA titles since 1992-1993 with 21, while Nebraska and Ohio State are tied for third with 13 titles each and Minnesota is fourth with 12 NCAA championships in that span.
In fact, Penn State has more total national titles since joining the Big Ten than Ohio State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern and Rutgers all have across their entire school histories.
The Nittany Lions also lead all Big Ten programs for most all-time NCAA championships historically with 49, 13 more than second rated Michigan which has 36 total. Compared to Penn State's 30 NCAA titles during it's Big Ten era since 1992-1993, Michigan has 11 national championships in that span.
A Series of Success
Here's a review of Penn State's National Titles since 2007:
2007 - men's gymnastics, women's volleyball, men's/women's fencing
2008 - men's volleyball, women's volleyball
2009 - men's/women's fencing, women's volleyball
2010 - men's/women's fencing, women's volleyball
2011 - wrestling
2012 - wrestling
2013 - women's volleyball, wrestling
2014 - men's/women's fencing, women's volleyball, wrestling
2015 - women's soccer
2016 - wrestling
2017 - wrestling
While the college athletics world is often focused in its view of sports through the lens of football and basketball, the widespread and perpetual success of Penn State athletics is impressive. It's no small feat to have a single sport have some semblance of continued success in today's athletics environment, but to do so across an array of sports is particularly rare and should not be underappreciated by fans across Nittany Nation.