DES MOINES, Iowa — Ed Ruth got a lift from coach Cael Sanderson.
Quentin Wright blew kisses to the section in Wells Fargo Arena where blue-and-white-clad fans chanted “Q!”
Those were two of the enduring images Saturday night at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships as Ruth and Wright won individual national championships and helped Penn State pin down a third consecutive team title.
Ruth’s major decision at 184 pounds pushed Penn State past Oklahoma State, and Wright’s 8-6 victory finished off the Cowboys. Penn State scored 123.5 points to join Oklahoma State and Iowa as the only schools to win at least three consecutive national championships.
Not all of the Nittany Lions left the elevated mat in the center of packed and frenzied Wells Fargo Arena as triumphantly.
Nico Megaludis’ bid to win a national championship fell agonizingly short for a second consecutive year. David Taylor, meanwhile, lost a 5-4 decision to Cornell’s Kyle Dake at 165 in the final and feature match of the night, as Dake became the first wrestler to win four national titles in four weight classes.
Megaludis, a Franklin Regional graduate, dropped a 7-4 decision to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado in the 125-pound finals. Megaludis was so distraught after the loss that he stood on the second-place step of the awards stand with his head bowed as he tried to fight back tears.
“I’m going to win next year,” Megaludis said later.
Edinboro’s Mitchell Port also lost a tough bout in the 141-pound finals as Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple won, 4-3, with a riding point at the end of the match.
Taylor’s loss came after he grabbed an early 2-0 lead against Dake, who was named outstanding wrestler in 2012-13. The key sequence came late in the second period when Dake notched a takedown and didn’t let Taylor escape.
The senior also rode Taylor for much of the third period. He needed the point after Taylor tied the match with an escape and a second stall call on Dake.
“He made me the wrestler I am today,” Dake said of Taylor, his friend and former training partner. “I know he’s going to become one of the greatest wrestlers this sport has seen.”
Ruth’s 12-4 win over Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin came after Oklahoma State moved ahead by a point.
Wright, who grew up less than a half hour from State College, will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers in Penn State history. The four-time All-American seized control of a tight match against Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore with a pair of third-period takedowns.
Wright played defense the rest of the way and finished his career as a two-time national champion.
“I knew one of us had to take it upon our shoulders to win it. I thought, ‘Why not me?’ ” Wright said.
Megaludis would love to be in that position next year. He is 8-2 at NCAAs but 0-2 in the finals.
He lost to Delgado for the second time this month, also falling to the Illinois redshirt sophomore in the semifinals of the Big Ten Championships.
Megaludis was the aggressor from the outset, but the score was just 1-1 before Delgado broke open the match in the third period. He took down Megaludis and caught the sophomore in a cradle. Back points gave him a commanding 6-1 lead.
Ruth never trailed, and the junior makes wrestling look effortless. Ruth controlled Hamlin from the start and scored a late takedown to get a bonus point that would have been crucial had no other Nittany Lions wrestler won a title.
Sanderson had been yelling at Ruth to let Hamlin escape so Ruth could go for the takedown that would produce a major decision. Shortly after Ruth’s final takedown, Sanderson lifted the repeat NCAA champion over his shoulders.
“These guys have put so much time and effort into me,” Ruth said, “and they dedicate a lot of themselves. … (Sanderson is) lifting me up on his shoulders, and you just kind of feel special.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ScottBrown—Trib.
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