Penn State wrestling seeks ‘three-peat’
STATE COLLEGE – Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson doesn’t like the word “dynasty,” even if the Nittany Lions are going for a third straight national championship.
The fourth-year coach isn’t much for looking back.
“We’ll take it one year at a time. We’re very blessed with the team that we have this year, and we just want to get the most of this team and these guys, help them get the most out of their careers,” he said.
Penn State opens the season Friday when Lehigh visits Rec Hall.
“There’s a lot of competition. I think it’s probably more competitive this year than it was last year,” said Sanderson, who signed a five-year extension in the offseason.
This year’s team includes five returning All-Americans – two defending champions, two NCAA runners-up from a year ago and a third-place finisher at the NCAA tournament last March.
“We have a strong team, obviously, but there are a lot of programs that have strong teams. A lot of things happen in the offseason and every team is a little bit different. We’ll see where we are,” Sanderson said.
The headliner of a talented group is 165-pounder David Taylor. The junior won an NCAA title last season, a year after losing in the NCAA finals as a freshman. He won the Hodge Trophy for 2011-12, emblematic of college wrestling’s most outstanding wrestler.
Fellow defending champion Ed Ruth might be every bit as talented, if not more, than Taylor. Ruth moved up to 184 pounds this season after winning at 174 last year.
Ruth was more willing than his coach to entertain the notion of a Happy Valley dynasty.
“A dynasty? Man, that’s a powerful word. A dynasty? Eh, I kind of feel like we’re really building something. We’re still at the foundation of it,” he said.
“I don’t want to say that this dynasty ends with just the guys who are here right now. I feel like even the guys we have still coming in, I feel like it’s just going to continue on with these guys. For as long as we can, I just want to keep it.”
With each of the talented core group of five wrestlers ranked either first or second at his weight, and the team ranked first in at least one poll, there’s a good chance of keeping hold of the championship trophy.
Senior 197-pounder Quentin Wright is a three-time All-American. He was runner-up at 184 pounds a year ago and won the title the year before.
Sophomore 125-pounder Nico Megaludis made a storybook run to the NCAA finals as a freshman before losing a tight 4-1 decision.
And sophomore 157-pounder Dylan Alton placed a strong third last year.