Wrestling heads to Big Ten Championships seeking second straight title

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team will head to West Lafayette, Ind., on March 3-4 to defend its conference crown at the 2012 Big Ten Wrestling Championships. The two-day event is hosted by Purdue University and begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 3. The Nittany Lions head into the post-season as the top ranked team in the nation in Intermat’s Tournament Power Index.

The event, taking place in Mackey Arena, will serve as the national qualifier for the conference as all 12 conference teams look to qualify their wrestlers for the 2012 NCAA Championships in St. Louis on March 15-17. Nine of Penn State’s 10 entrants in the championships are ranked in the last RPI with eight grapplers ranked in the final coaches poll.

Sophomore All-American David Taylor (St. Paris, Ohio) is ranked No. 1 in both RPI and coaches poll at 165. Taylor heads to Big Ten’s as the defending conference champion and with a perfect 23-0 record. Three-time All-American Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.) is ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in RPI at 149. Molinaro is also the defending conference champion and is undefeated with a perfect 25-0 mark.

All-American Ed Ruth (Harrisburg, Pa.) is ranked No. 1 in RPI and No. 2 in the coaches poll at 174. Ruth is also the defending Big Ten champion and is, likewise, perfect on the year at 23-0. Two-time All-American Quentin Wright (Wingate, Pa.) is ranked No. 2 by the coaches and has a No. 4 RPI at 184. Wright, defending Big Ten and NCAA champion, heads to West Lafayette with a 22-2 mark. Senior heavyweight Cameron Wade (Twinsburg, Ohio) is has a No. 3 RPI and a No. 5 ranking in the coaches poll. Wade carries a 22-3 mark into Big Tens.

Red-shirt freshman Dylan Alton (Mill Hall, Pa.) is ranked No. 5 in the final coaches poll and is at No. 12 on the RPI list at 157. Alton is 20-4 heading to the conference championship. True freshman Nico Megaludis (Murrysville, Pa.) is ranked No. 7 in the coaches poll at 125 and has a No. 12 RPI as well. Megaludis heads to his first Big Ten tournament with a 21-5 mark. Fellow red-shirt freshman Morgan McIntosh (Santa Ana, Calif.) is ranked No. 12 in the coaches poll rankings at 197 and No. 13 in RPI. McIntosh heads to Purdue with a 15-6 mark.

Junior Bryan Pearsall (Lititz, Pa.) has a No. 32 RPI at 141 and is unranked in the coaches poll. He carries a 12-10 record to his second conference tournament. Sophomore Frank Martellotti (Pittsburgh, Pa.) is unranked in both polls and heads to his first Big Ten tourney with a 6-7 mark.

All 10 Lions received pre-seads on Monday. Molinaro was No. 1 at 149, Taylor No. 1 at 165, Ruth No. 1 at 174, Alton No. 2 at 157, Wright No. 2 at 184, Wade No. 2 at 285, Megaludis No. 3 at 125, McIntosh No. 3 at 197, Martellotti No. 8 at 133 and Pearsall No. 8 at 141.

Fully half of Penn State’s line-up is listed in the top four of their respective RPIs and six are in the top five of the coaches poll. In all, nine Nittany Lions are ranked on at least one list with eight in the top 12 of the coaches poll and seven in the top 13 of the RPI. A weight-by-weight breakdown of the Big Tens qualifiers show the conference getting six automatic bids at 125, seven at 133, five at 141, nine at 149, six at 157, eight at 165, nine at 174, seven at 184, seven at 197 and ten at 285.

Penn State will next trek to St. Louis to defend its national championship at the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The three-day event takes place on March 15-17 at the Scottrade Center. Action begins on Thursday, March 15, at 11 a.m. (Eastern)/10 a.m. (Central) and the entire event will be aired live by the ESPN family of networks.

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