DES MOINES, Iowa — Ed Ruth is used to the sound of boos. Mostly because his name, and when bellowed by thousands of fans simultaneously, it sounds like jeering.
So Ruth just smiled when asked about the legions of Iowa fans rooting for a squad that is trying to halt Penn States three-peat bid who booed him and his Nittany Lion teammates inside Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
My name sounds like a boo anyway, so I can really take it either way, Ruth said. I just think everyone in the arena loves me.
Really, the droning of RUUUUTH! is meant as exaltation. And Ruth, along with his Penn State teammates, gave Nittany Lions plenty of chances to cheer as they kept their quest for a third consecutive team title well within striking distance.
Penn State led the team standings with 32.5 points over Oklahoma States 29, while Minnesota and Iowa lurked behind with 24 and 22, respectively. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions sent all six wrestlers still alive in their respective championship brackets into quarterfinal bouts. Most of them, like Ruth, in spectacular fashion.
In all, nine of 10 Nittany Lions will wrestle in Fridays Session 3, set to begin at 11 a.m.
I think were doing well, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. Todays just kind of for show when it comes to the team points because the big points are scored (Friday).
And the Nittany Lions put on a show in Session 2 after losing four of 10 matches in Session 1.
Nico Megaludis (125), Dylan Alton (157), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) all advanced to their respective quarterfinal bouts.
Ruth, Taylor and Brown did so emphatically, earning more bonus points with pins in each of their bouts. Alton added a major decision.
I saw Taylors name up there on the (on deck) board, then I didnt see it on the board then I was like, Oh, what happened? Ruth said.
Thats because Taylor made quick work of Appalachian States Zach Strickland. The defending Hodge Trophy winner and reigning 165-pound champion attacked relentlessly, earning two takedowns and turning the second one into five nearfall points.
Finally, 2:41 into the bout, Taylor fastened a headlock and pinned Strickland for more bonus points. It was Taylors sixth pin in his last seven NCAA tournament bouts. Taylor set up a quarterfinal bout against Illinois Conrad Polz (26-6), a grappler Taylor has already beaten twice this season.
At 184 pounds, Ruth followed with his second pin of this tournament, this one coming against Arizona States Kevin Radford via Ruths go-to move the farside cradle in 3:42. Ruth will face Pittsburghs Max Thomusseit (18-4) in the quarters. In their only meeting this season, Ruth beat Thomusseit 17-3 in an early February dual meet.
It always gets tougher. That match was, definitely, Ruth said. That guy felt a lot tougher than the last guy that I wrestled. Going out there and getting the pin takes a lot out of me.
In between their bouts, Brown continued to raise eyebrows with another dominant outing. This time, the second-seeded Brown decked Pittsburghs Nick Bonaccorsi in 2:30, when he ran an underhook and drove Bonaccorsi to his back on the edge of the mat.
So far, Brown is 2-for-2 with a major decision and a pin in his NCAA tournament debut as a sophomore. His Round 1 win came against vaunted Missouri grappler Todd Porter, who had beaten 13 of the 174-pound fields qualifiers this season. Brown will face Iowa States Tanner Weatherman (22-7) next.
Matts looking really good. He had a tough first round, kids from Missouri are usually pretty tough, Sanderson said. That was a nice win for him and hes just having fun and thats the key for him.
Although he advanced into the quarterfinals at 125 for the second straight season, Megaludis, a sophomore, wasnt happy with his performance in Round 2, where he beat Central Michigans Christian Cullinan 5-2.
It didnt take long before Megaludis was in on Cullinans legs, earning the first takedown before Cullinan escaped. Cullinan chose down to start the second and escaped again to knot the score.
But Megaludis, who notched a technical fall in the first round, kept coming. He finished another shot before escaping late in the third to cap the scoring.
Afterward, Megaludis expressed dismay that he couldnt fight out from under Cullinan sooner. Hell get a chance to remedy that against Appalachian States Dominic Parisi (32-11).
Dylan Alton wasted little time getting his offense going against Riders Zac Cibula. Alton beat Cibula 5-2 in a dual meet in the regular season and widened the gap in the second round at NCAAs. Alton used four takedowns, two in the final period, to cruise into the quarters with a 13-5 major decision.
Wright kept his bid to become Penn States sixth four-time All-American with a 3-2 win over Drexels Brandon Palik. The Drexel grappler tried to keep the rangy Wright at bay by staying away from him, waiting to counter his long shots. But Wright finally landed one with a minute to go to set up a quarterfinal bout with Minnesotas Scott Schiller (27-4).
Jordan Conaway (133), Bryan Pearall (141) and Andrew Alton (149) also guaranteed themselves at least one more match after losing in the first round earlier Thursday.
None of them needed any words of encouragement, just time to collect their thoughts and refocus, Ruth said.
We had some matches we didnt expect to lose in, Ruth said. I hate seeing our guys lose. They come in the back and they just seem so torn up. I hate to see that in my teammates because I feel like were a close family.
Of the four who lost first round bouts, Conaway, Pearsall and Lawson all were making their first tournament appearances. They, along with Andrew Alton, won consolation bouts to advance to Fridays early second-round consolations.
For Conaway, he needed overtime again at 133 pounds after falling to Rutgers Vincent Dellafave in sudden victory in Round 1. This time, Conaway secured a takedown to edge Air Forces Dylan Hyder, 6-4 in the second sudden victory period. Conaway will battle Bostons Dane Harlowe next.
Alton avenged a lackluster 4-1 loss in the first round with a vengeful performance in the first round of consolations at 149 pounds. He needed just 2:05 to squeeze Armys Daniel Young in a vicious headlock for a fall. Alton will face Michigans Eric Grajales in the third session.
Pearsall added a 10-2 major over Marylands Frank Goodwin to set up a consolation bout with Harvards Steven Keith.
In the penultimate bout of the night, Penn State heavyweight Jimmy Lawsons tournament debut ended when he was turned late by Michigans Ben Apland and lost 7-4.
There are some big matches (Friday) that make the difference and weve got to be ready for those and go have some fun, Sanderson said.