CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Ed Ruth went through his pre-match routine — take a shower, apply protective gels and lotions to his skin, add a little deodorant.
“Ask anybody I wrestle, I always smell good,” Ruth told the Penn State radio network on Wednesday. “If I lose, I’m going to lose smelling great.”
Ruth set this standard for himself long ago. His last loss came long ago, as well, and on Wednesay the Penn State junior lived up to the wrestling standard he’s set for himself, winning his third consecutive Southern Scuffle championship inside McKenzie Arena on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Ruth’s 7-3 win at 184 pounds over Cornell’s Steve Bosak, a State College High graduate, contributed to Penn State’s third straight Southern Scuffle team championship. Penn State cruised through the two-day tournament to a total of 178.5 points and finished 20.5 points ahead of runner-up Oklahoma State. Individual title wins by Nico Megaludis (125) and Quentin Wright (197) in addition to runner-up finishes by James Vollrath (157) and David Taylor (165) helped pace No. 1 Penn State.
Third-place finishes by James English at 149, and Matt Brown at 174 kept the Lions rolling while Luke Frey and Jimmy Lawson finished seventh at 149 and 285 pounds respectively. Bryan Pearsall wound up eighth at 141 pounds and true freshman Jimmy Gulibon was fourth at 133, rounding out Penn State’s 11 medalists. Seventeen Nittany Lions competed.
Gulibon wrestled unattached as he is redshirting this season.
“Everything wasn’t perfect but we won the championship, so that’s a positive to take away from it,” Penn State assistant coach Casey Cunningham said. “We saw a lot of good performances, a lot of good things to build off of.”
The most anticipated bout of the finals — the 165-pound title match that pitted No. 1 Kyle Dake against No. 2 Taylor in a rematch of their NWCA All-Star Classic bout billed as ‘The Match of the Century’ — will likely be remembered for its controversial finish.
Dake took the first shot just seconds in but Taylor countered and grabbed one of Dake’s ankles to force a stalemate. A scoreless first period gave way to a rugged second in which Taylor racked up 1:35 in riding time before Dake finally escaped to take a 1-0 lead.
Taylor chose down to start the third and worked a quick reversal to take a 2-1 advantage. Dake tried to squirm out and a scramble ensued. As both wrestlers rolled off the mat, Dake was credited with a reversal to the chagrin of Penn State coaches and fans inside McKenzie Arena who booed loudly at the call.
With his riding time cut to less than a minute, Taylor needed an escape to tie the bout but Dake held on to escape with a 3-2 win.
“I just questioned the reversal,” Cunningham said. “I guess that is the official’s judgement and the other official came over and said it was a good call so we’ve just got to go with it. We’ve just got to get our point there at the end instead of waiting for the last second. We had time to get the escape and we didn’t get the escape.”
Shortly thereafter, Arizona State’s Jon Meredith looked to begin the third period against Wright with an escape of his own, but Wright had other plans.
As Meredith popped to his feet during the 197-pound championship match, Wright locked in a split-scissors, rolled Meredith to his back and secured the pin 5:34 into the bout. Wright’s win was the last title of the evening for Penn State. Wright’s victory was his second Scuffle crown.
Megaludis got the Nittany Lions started at 125 pounds with an 8-4 win over No. 3 seed Matt Snyder of Virginia. The top seed, Megaludis got the initial takedown but Snyder, who wrestled at Lewistown High School, worked for a reversal and two nearfall points to take an early lead. Megaludis notched a reversal of his own to knot the score at four apiece heading into the second period.
The rest of the bout was all Megaludis. The Penn State sophomore escaped from the bottom position to start the second then took advantage of Snyder’s choice to start neutral in the third, finishing a shot and riding out the period to secure the win.
“This year, they’re really trying to slow me down,” Megaludis said of his four wins in which he was unable to notch any bonus points in. “That’s why I kind of think I had an ugly tournament. Just, a lot of people were trying to slow me down.”
Vollrath, who is not a dual-meet starter for Penn State, was tougher for his opponents to slow. He made his way to the 157-pound championship with two major-decision wins, a decision and another in a tiebreaker in the semifinals.
Filling in as Penn State’s lone 157-pounder in the tournament after Dylan Alton was held out of competition along with his brother Andrew for breaking team rules during winter break, Vollrath fell in the finals to Virginia’s Jedd Moore 3-1 in sudden victory.
English advanced to the third-place bout at 149 — the weight class Andrew Alton was expected to contend for a title at — and beat Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt 5-2.
A scoreless first period was followed by an aggressive second from English. After Houdashelt escaped to start the second period, English circled in and finished a takedown with 11 seconds left, then added an escape to start the third. That was all English would need, but he added more, countering a Houdashelt shot with a takedown of his own to post the 5-2 win over the 20th-ranked 149-pounder in the country.
Vollrath was seeded fifth at 157 while English was the No. 10 seed at 149.
“It wasn’t a surprise for us,” Cunningham said. “Those guys are that good. We’ve seen it over and over again, so awesome job by them.”
As a whole, Penn State wrestlers finished 63-24, racked up 12 pins, four technical falls and 13 major decision wins over the two days. Penn State became the third team to win or share three Southern Scuffle titles. Minnesota and Cornell are the other two. Penn State tied Minnesota two seasons ago.