Penn State wrestling: The breakdown of Nittany Lions vs. Iowa

February 1, 2013 

125 POUNDS

No. 2 Nico Megaludis, So. (16-1)

vs. No. 1 Matt McDonough, Sr. (13-0)

Head-to-head: McDonough 2-0

Outlook: This — a rematch of last season’s NCAA 125-pound championship — could very well be the most anticipated bout of the dual and it will likely kick it off. Megaludis is shorter and has struggled to finish shots against the lanky McDonough in two previous bouts. Both wrestle similar styles, constantly pushing and wearing on their opponents’ heads to tire them and set up their offenses later.

Megaludis lost in sudden victory to McDonough once and then 4-1 in last year’s title bout. But the Penn State sophomore has come a long way since then. He has dominated nearly every opponent he’s faced, leads the team in takedowns and is healthy and content with his standing. McDonough has cruised to a perfect record, but as one of the bigger 125 pounders will likely be cutting weight before the bout. This match could come down to who has the deeper gas tank at the end.

Advantage: Slight lean toward McDonough.

133 POUNDS

Jordan Conaway, RS-Fr. (10-4) vs. No. 2 Tony Ramos, Jr. (16-0)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Outlook: Conaway has improved leaps and bounds this season, adding muscle to his frame while not sacrificing the quickness that made him so dangerous in high school. His biggest strengths are his wrestling IQ, level of composure usually reserved for an upper classman and his high-output motor. All three played a part in his upset of Wisconsin’s then No. 3 Tyler Graff earlier this season.

Ramos is more experienced and is a bonus point and machine for the Hawkeyes. He has shown a tendency to get rough with opponents after whistles. If Conaway can keep the match close heading into the final period, it could be a moral victory for Penn State as each team will need every bonus point it can get.

Advantage: Heavy lean toward Ramos

141 POUNDS

Bryan Pearsall, Sr. (16-6) vs. No. 8 Mark Ballweg, Sr. (15-1)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Outlook: If Pearsall looked in a mirror, he might see Ballweg staring back at him.

They don’t look alike, but they have led similar collegiate careers. Each is in his final season. Neither has ever made the NCAA tournament. For Pearsall, a win over a highly-ranked wrestler like Ballweg could go a long way in getting a bid to the Big Dance.

A noted hand-fighter, Ballweg at 5-foot-5 is considerably shorter than the reachy Pearsall. This should be a low scoring match and Pearsall’s prowess from the top position could come into play in a big way, so keep your eye on the riding time clock. A tilt here or there could be the difference.

Advantage: Slight lean toward Pearsall

149 POUNDS

No. 8 Andrew Alton, So. (17-1) vs. Michael Kelly, So. (10-6)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Cael Sanderson was quick to shoot down an inquiry if Alton was focusing on anything different after he got pinned by Nebraska’s No. 12 Jake Sueflohn last week.

“Nope,” Sanderson said.

Alton shouldn’t have trouble with Kelly who has lost four bouts in a row, three of which to ranked wrestlers. Kelly has done an admirable job not giving up bonus points and hasn’t been pinned yet this season. Alton is a pinner, however.

He leads Penn State with 10 falls and could have some extra fire in his belly after a disappointing loss last week. But Kelly’s ability to push highly-touted opponents for the entire seven minutes could spell trouble for Alton who has struggled late in bouts.

Advantage: Moderate lean toward Alton

157 POUNDS

No. 5 Dylan Alton, So. (17-2) vs. No. 1 Derek St. John, Jr. (16-0)

Head-to-head: St. John 2-0

Outlook: Alton has given St. John good bouts each of the first two times they’ve met, each one of them ending in sudden victory, 3-1 in St. John’s favor.

In those bouts, Alton’s shots were countered and St. John won on takedowns each time. Neutral starts will be the big keys here. St. John battled injuries all last season while Alton is coming off a long layoff against top-tier wrestlers. Either way, this bout is crucial for each team.

Advantage: Slight lean toward St. John.

165 POUNDS

No. 2 David Taylor, Jr. (17-1) vs. No. 13 Nick Moore, So. (11-3)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Outlook: Taylor has shown no signs of slowing down in his quest to win a second-consecutive national title at the weight. Iowa fans will simply have to hope Moore can hold on, defend and limit Taylor’s offense.

The reigning Hodge Trophy winner is aware of this perceived strategy that could be used against him and he plans on being patient.

Said Taylor: “Sometimes I let myself think I’ve got to score 20 points in the first two minutes when in reality I have seven minutes to continue to wear on the guy and put points on the scoreboard.”

Advantage: Heavy lean toward Taylor

174 POUNDS

No. 4 Matt Brown, So. (17-2) vs. No. 6 Mike Evans, So. (11-2)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Outlook: This is the toughest bout to handicap. Brown and Evans, from Enola, Pa., have never wrestled collegiately. Both have two losses to ranked opponents — Brown lost a wild back-and-fourth match to Nebraska’s No. 4 Robert Kokesh while Evans dropped a 4-3 bout to No. 1 Chris Perry — earlier this season.

Both lost to Minnesota’s No. 2 Logan Storley. Evans dropped a 4-3 bout to the Minnesota wrestler last week while Storley pinned Brown at the Southern Scuffle.

Brown is definitely the bigger of the two 174-pounders and must feel like a wrecking ball in a tie-up. Evans is more of a slender grappler but employs a similar, powerful style.

Advantage: Push

184 POUNDS

No. 1 Ed Ruth, Jr. (19-0) vs. No. 14 Ethen Lofthouse, Jr. (12-4)

Head-to-head: Ruth 3-0

Outlook: Iowa coach Tom Brands put Lofthouse’s last match against Ruth in perspective:

“Ed Ruth threw a saddle literally on top of Ethen Lofthouse and rode him like a horse and we laid underneath him and we cannot do that,” Brands said earlier this week.

Ruth won that bout 10-1, evidence he has widened the gap over Lofthouse consistently over the course of their careers.

Ruth also owns 3-2 and 10-3 wins over Lofthouse, both coming in 2010-11.

Simply put, Lofthouse will have to catch Ruth in an unlikely bad position or hold on and not surrender bonus points. Ruth is that good.

Advantage: Heavy lean toward Ruth

197 POUNDS

No. 3 Quentin Wright, Sr. (18-0)

vs. No. 19 Nathan Burak, Fr. (12-8)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Outlook: Wright may be the most powerful, explosive he’s ever been in his career. He’s unbeaten and has throttled everyone who’s stood in his way thus far. That doesn’t bode well for Burak, a true freshman who has held his own against solid opposition, going 2-3 against ranked opponents in his last five bouts. Burak lost those three bouts by an average of two points each.

Now he’ll look to make a name for himself by upsetting Wright.

To do that, Burak will have to keep doing what he does — wrestle aggressively and set up takedowns with multiple shots early. Unfortunately for him, an aggressive style plays into Wright’s favor.

The former Bald Eagle Area star counts on opponents to slip up on an attack and uses headlocks and big throws coming off of underhooks to end bouts quickly.

Advantage: Heavy lean toward Wright

285 POUNDS

No. 17 Jon Gingrich, So. (14-5) vs. No. 6 Bobby Telford, So. (11-3)

Head-to-head: First meeting

Outlook: Telford has struggled against ranked opponents this season, going 1-3 after a runner-up finish at last year’s nationals. Perhaps a 2-1 loss to defending champion, Minnesota’s No. 2 Tony Nelson, last week shows improvement, however?

Either way, Telford and Gingrich are both of similar builds and will likely feel one another out before mounting much offense. Telford is one of the taller heavyweights and could be a challenge for Gingrich to finish shots on. Although he’s beaten two Top 10 heavyweights this season, this could be the biggest bout of Gingrich’s career as it could decide the dual if it comes down to the wire.

Advantage: Moderate lean toward Telford

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