UNIVERSITY PARK — Each season, bragging rights are on the line for which Penn State wrestler finishes with the most pins.
It is a list each Nittany Lion regularly keeps up with and hopes to ascend.
Last season, David Taylor finished with the most — 15.
Nico Megaludis, while he won his first collegiate match by fall over Bloomsburg’s Sean Boylan, was nowhere near the top of that list.
Instead, Megaludis found other avenues of success on the mat.
He was precise with his shots. He was crafty as he juggled his offense. He was quick on his feet. All-in-all, Megaludis was the perfect man for the job as Penn State’s 125-pound starter, often beginning most duals for Penn State. He finished second on the team to Taylor with 57 dual-meet takedowns, averaging over four takedowns per dual, plenty to get his teammates fired up for the remainder of each meet.This season, Megaludis wants to add another dimension, one with which he hopes will have him higher up that list of pinners by season’s end.
“I kind of want to get a lot more pins this year, mix it up,” Megaludis said. “I’ve never really been a pinner, but I think I can start. Hopefully. And I think I’ve been getting better on top pinning some people.”
The sophomore from Murrysville already has one pin on his 2012 resume. Megaludis, who led West Virginia’s Gage Swartz 18-4 after two periods on Nov. 18, chose top to begin the third period and quickly worked Swartz over onto his back to secure the fall 5:53 into the bout.
Just like last season, it was the first pin of the season for any Penn State wrestler.
Plan on Megaludis choosing to start from the top position more than usual this season. Working for long rides and tilting opponents from the top — both specialties of Megaludis’ mentor Frank Molinaro — are his two main focuses at this point of his career.
“It’s mainly on top, getting those bar arms in and I think when I really want to ride and turn people, I think it’s attitude,” Megaludis said.
Megaludis got to learn much about that aspect of the sport as the season wore on last winter.
After going 21-5 in the regular season, Megaludis went 2-2 in the Big Ten tournament. He was bounced when Northwestern’s Levi Mele pinned him in sudden victory.
“You see the way he competes? That’s the way he lives his life,” Sanderson said. “When you work hard and are as driven as he is you’re going to make progress.”
One of the team’s high-energy guys — Sanderson often said last season he and his assistants would have to step in and get Megaludis to tone down some of his workouts for fear he’d work himself to exhaustion — Megaludis came back like a man on fire for the national tournament.
First he hammered Wyoming’s Michael Martinez 13-5. Then Megaludis beat three highly-ranked wrestlers to advance to the 125-pound finals where he lost to Top-seeded Matt McDonough of Iowa, 4-1.
Megaludis is ranked No. 2 behind McDonough this season.
So far he’s beaten No. 3 Jesse Delgado of Illinois and secured a technical fall against Lehigh junior Alex Abreu. As he put it before Penn State’s intrasquad dual, anything less than a deep run in the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment for the highly-competitive Megaludis.
“Nico’s doing great,” Sanderson said. “You want to see improvement and he made it to the national finals last year pretty much on heart and fight and hustle, not to say he’s not talented, obviously he has talent, but now he’s continuing to improve.”
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @traviswjohnson_.