CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The top-ranked Penn State wrestling team is on target to win its third consecutive Southern Scuffle crown.
Seventeen Nittany Lions combined to go 41-13 during opening rounds on Tuesday and No. 1 Penn State leads the tournament with 102 team points after one day. Minnesota is second with 94 while Oklahoma State is within striking distance with 89.5.
Six Penn State wrestlers will try to earn individual championships in the final rounds Wednesday. Nico Megaludis (125), James Vollrath (157), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) all advanced in their respective brackets.
Some did so easier than others.
Ruth, who won last seasons 174-pound Scuffle title, dominated all comers Tuesday. Ruth, who hasnt lost a match since March 2011, pinned his first three opponents on Tuesday before majoring Virginias Stephen Doty 13-4 in the quarterfinals. Ruths win set up a semifinal bout with Missouris Mike Larson. His 17 team points most of them coming from three pins that took a combined 9:23 of bout time led Penn State after one day.
Brown and Taylor, who are also undefeated this season, combined to score 30.5 team points for the Nittany Lions. Taylor beat Air Forces Jesse Stafford by technical fall 22-7 in his opening bout then pinned Arizona States Parker Madle and Armys Paul Hancock in 1:31 and 4:38 to advance to the 165-pound semis.
Taylor will face Oklahoma States Tyler Caldwell in a matchup of the second-ranked and third-ranked 165-pounders.
After pinning his way into the quarters with falls against Dukes Trey Adamson and Americans Keithen Cast, Brown handled Ohios Cody Walters 16-8 to advance to the semifinals. Brown, the No. 3 seed, will face Minnesotas Logan Storley, the No. 2 seed in the 174-pound semis. Brown lost to Ruth in the finals at 174 last season.
Megaludis earned 10 team points for Penn State with back-to-back decisions over Oklahoma States Eddie Klimara and Americans David Terao to set up a semifinal matchup with Cornells Nahshon Garrett at 125. Meanwhile, Wright pinned Americans Devon Bradley to get his day started before winning decisions over Navys Peter Nuntley and Dukes Conner Hartmann. Wright will meet Minnesotas Scott Schiller in the semifinals at 197.
Vollrath excelled in place of Dylan Alton at 157 pounds. Alton is suspended for the Southern Scuffle along with his brother Andrew for a violation of team rules in December. Despite not being a dual-meet starter for Penn State, Vollrath is an experienced tournament wrestler and his savvy for navigating large brackets showed Tuesday.
Vollrath turned in major decision against Dukes Andrew DeHart and The Citadels Matthew Frisch and a decision over North Carolinas Ryan Harrington. Those wins earned Penn State 12 team points and Vollrath a shot at top-seeded Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State in the semifinals.
State College High graduate Steve Bosak, who is a senior at Cornell, advanced easily to the 184-pound semis where he will face Minnesotas Kevin Steinhaus.
Jordan Conaway (133), James English (149), Luke Frey (149), Jimmy Lawson (285) and Jon Gingrich (285) advanced to the quarterfinals in their weight classes but lost and dropped into consolation bouts that will continue Wednesday. All of them can continue scoring for Penn State
Gingrich and Lawson, who are locked in a position battle for the Nittany Lions starting heavyweight spot, will meet head-to-head if they both win their first consolation bouts. Lawson faces Navys Daniel Miller while Gingrich will lock up with Ohios Jeremy Johnson.
Bryan Pearsall (141) and Nick Fischer (165) are also still vying to place in their weight classes after early opening round losses dropped them into consolation brackets. James Frascella and Nick Ruggear were eliminated after Frascella went 1-2 at 174 pounds and Ruggear went 2-2 at 285.
Jimmy Gulibon and Zack Beitz are competing unnatached, meaning they cannot score team points for Penn State, but are still competing in their respective consolation brackets. Gulibon, a true freshman taking a redshirt year for Penn State, turned in two technical falls before being ousted from the 133-pound quarters by Oklahoma States Jon Morrison. Beitz won a 10-5 decision over Americans John Boyle before falling to No. 2 seed Undrakhb Khishignyam of The Citadel, 2-1.