Unbeaten Nittany Lions Host No. 8 Hawkeyes
No. 1 Lions set to meet Iowa at 2 p.m. Sunday
Jan. 28, 2011
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State wrestling team tops the charts as the No. 1 collegiate team in the nation. With a 13-0 record this season, the Nittany Lions are off to the best start in the program's history of more than 100 years.
Penn State took the top spot over now No. 2 Cornell in the most recent USA Today/NWCA Coaches dual meet poll with 275 points. The Big Red follows close behind with 263 points of its own.
This Sunday, the top-ranked Nittany Lions head into one of the most anticipated duals of the season against No. 8 Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 9-0-1 overall this season and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
The three-time defending national champion Hawkeyes have a lot going for them more than halfway through the season. With last week's 33-3 win over Ohio State, Iowa holds a dual streak of 71 consecutive matches without a loss. The Hawkeyes took nine of their ten bouts against the Buckeyes and recorded three majors and a fall.
Both teams boast a relatively young roster, each complete with eight individually ranked wrestlers. For Iowa, defending national champion and sophomore Matt McDonough starts things off ranked No. 2 at 125.
At 133, redshirt freshman Hawkeye Tony Ramos comes in at No. 10 with a record of 12-3 overall and a 6-0 dual record. Sophomore Mark Ballweg is No. 15 at 141, leading the team with 48 dual meet points scored.
Redshirt freshman Derek St. John holds the No. 14 spot in the nation at 157 and ties with McDonough and Ballweg for a team best ten dual wins. Veteran grappler and 165-pound senior Aaron Janssen is also ranked No. 14, boasting an 18-5 record overall this season.
At 174, Iowa red-shirt freshman Ethen Lofthouse has the No. 13 ranking and is 12-4 overall. Sophomore Grant Gambrall leads the Hawkeyes with six major decisions this season and is ranked No. 16 at 184.
Rounding out the squad of ranked wrestlers is senior Luke Lofthouse, who ranks No. 14 nationally at 197. Lofthouse is 12-4 overall this season and has notched a team-high 41 career dual starts for the Hawkeyes.
In head coach Cael Sanderson's first season with the Nittany Lions, Penn State fell to the then No. 1 Iowa wrestling team with a dual score of 29-6. This year, Sanderson and his group of young and talented wrestlers are looking for a different outcome. The Nittany Lions are coming off of a winning weekend, topping then No. 22 Pitt and No. 20 Indiana. In its most recent match against the Hoosiers, Penn State won eight out of ten bouts to finish off the day with a dominating score of 36-8. In all, eight of these winning match-ups, none of the Nittany Lions allowed a single takedown. Needless to say, the team is wrestling with a purpose.
Veteran and solo senior Brad Pataky is ranked No. 11 at 125 and is 7-2 overall this season, looking for his second Big Ten victory this year. At 133, No. 5 sophomore Andrew Long is getting along just fine in his first few weeks as a Nittany Lion and has built a solid 6-0 mark.
True freshman Andrew Alton holds the No. 5 spot at 141 and boasts an impressive 24-2 overall record, and an undefeated 2-0 mark in Big Ten duals this season. Alton currently leads the Nittany Lions with 16 falls for the 2010-2011 season.
At 149, junior Frank Molinaro sits at No. 5 with a 19-2 record overall and a notable 9-0 dual record this year. The two-time All-American is also 2-0 in Big Ten match-ups this season.
Freshmen David Taylor and Ed Ruth hold the top national rankings for Penn State more than halfway into the season. Taylor holds a team best record of 25-0 at 157 and is ranked No. 3 at his respected weight. The undefeated Nittany Lion also holds a team-high of ten technical falls and eight majors.
With the highest national nod in the group, No. 2 Ruth is 23-1 overall at 184 and unbeaten in Big Ten duals this season. Quick-footed Ruth boasts a squad best 64 dual points and eight dual reversals.
Redshirt sophomore Quentin Wright is making a nice return from an early season shoulder injury as he maintains the No. 6 spot at 184 and holds a 10-2 record overall. Redshirt junior Cameron Wade is ranked No. 5 at heavyweight and is off to his best career start with 21 wins and just three losses. The 285-pound wrestler is also undefeated in Big Ten match-ups.
Of the 10 Nittany Lions that will be starting on Sunday, only three wrestled against the Hawkeyes last season. Not one of the three wrestlers that did compete earned a victory over Iowa.
In front of a sold out crowd, Penn State plans to go hard for seven minutes and work towards another Big Ten victory.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said that Sunday's success will be determined not by the numbers or final outcome, but by the looks on his Nittany Lions' faces.
"You've got to be ready to go any time and we're ready," said Sanderson. "We're not looking at the wins and losses we're looking at the way we're competing and the attitude and the facial expressions and the hustle, that's what's important to us."
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