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Penn State wrestlers win 2011 Big Ten Championship

Submitted by on March 7, 20113 Comments
Photo Credit: Tony Mancuso

Congratulations are in order to Cael Sanderson and the #4 Nittany Lions for winning the first team Big Ten title in school history. For a program that won the first national championship awarded to a team outside of the Midwest, this marks another important milestone for the wrestling program, one that fans have been eagerly awaiting since joining the conference just over 2 decades ago. And to think, all it took was 2 seasons for Cael Sanderson to achieve what John Fritz and Troy Sunderland could not.

When Cael Sanderson was first introduced as the next head coach for the wrestling program 2 years ago, he made a statement most people would usually just consider empty rhetoric. He wanted to turn Penn State into a wrestling powerhouse. And considering Penn State’s inability to even capture the Big Ten title since joining the conference, most fans could have easily dismissed such a bold statement as pandering. But this wasn’t just anyone chosen to run the program. Cael Sanderson wanted to turn Penn State into a wrestling powerhouse and the fans ate it up. But who could blame them, virtually anyone who follows college wrestling is aware of his accolades. As an athlete Sanderson was sensational; an undefeated 159-0 collegiate record at Iowa State and an Olympic gold medal, but he was even better as a coach. At Iowa State, Sanderson never had a wrestler not qualify for nationals, sending 30 of 30 grapplers through to the championship tournament and his teams never finished lower than 5th at the NCAA Championships. For Penn State fans, the question was not whether he could replicate that success at Penn State, but how long it would take?

Photo Credit: Tony Mancuso
Just 1 season later, Cael Sanderson has his squad ranked #4 in the nation, compiled a near-perfect 17-1-1 regular season record, and has them cruising into the NCAA Tournament riding a wave of momentum following the program’s first ever Big Ten Championship. But more importantly, left in the wake of this program defining win, was Iowa, the 3-time defending national champions and only squad to hand Penn State a loss during the regular season. To avenge that loss feels great, to do it at the conference Championships only makes it better.

Penn State was nearly perfect on the final day of the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships, going 5-0 in title matches. Andrew Long (133), Frank Molinaro (149), David Taylor (157), Ed Ruth (174), and Quentin Wright (184) were all crowned Big Ten Champions, while Cameron Wade (285) rebounded from his semifinal loss to Eric Bugenhagen (WIS) to earn a 9-0 major decision in the fifth place match to give the Lions their title-clinching bonus point over defending national champion Iowa, 139-138. Without Wade’s bonus points, Penn State would have ended up tied with the Hawkeyes for a share of the Big Ten championship. Both Brad Pataky (125) and James Vollrath (165) also added key wins and bonus points to help Penn State claim the conference crown outright.

Wrestled above seed:

165: 11-seed James Vollrath (finished 7th)
184: 8-seed Quentin Wright (B1G Champion)

Wrestled to seed:

133: 1-seed Andrew Long (B1G Champion)
141: 5-seed Andrew Alton (finished 5th)
149: 1-seed Frank Molinaro (B1G Champion)
157: 1-seed David Taylor (B1G Champion)
174: 1-seed Ed Ruth (B1G Champion)
197: 9-seed Nick Ruggear (finished 0-2)

Wrestled below seed:

125: 4-seed Brad Pataky (finished 7th)
285: 1-seed Cameron Wade (finished 5th)

Penn State’s performance at the Big Ten Championships earned them 7 automatic spots in the NCAA Championships next weekend in Philadelphia with the chance for more when an additional 49 at-large berths are announced on Wednesday.

Although his ultimate goal is still incomplete, Cael Sanderson clearly has the Nittany Lions headed in the right direction and exorcised the Big Ten title curse in the process. Now he has the perfect opportunity to capture Penn State’s 2nd national title next weekend at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center just a few hours away from Happy Valley.

In the meantime, enjoy the Big Ten Championship!

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