UNIVERSITY PARK — Two of wrestling’s biggest superstars are 20 days into their final collegiate seasons. For Penn State’s standout duo of David Taylor and Ed Ruth, the fact that this is their final go-around hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I can’t believe I’ve been here for five years,” Taylor said at his team’s media day on Tuesday. “It goes by really fast and I hadn’t really necessarily understood how fast it went until now. But really all I can really look forward to is I have a little over 30 matches this year, go out and do what I’ve been doing for the last three years of my career and end on a great note.”
So far, Taylor and Ruth have been the biggest catalysts for Penn State’s success over the last three seasons. They’ve combined for three national titles, a 202-5 overall record and neither has ever lost a match in the Big Ten Tournament. Taylor is a Hodge Trophy — the Heisman of college wrestling — winner. Ruth is a two-time Hodge Trophy runner-up.
Most importantly to them and their teammates, Taylor and Ruth are a combined 29-3 in the NCAA Tournament and have sparked three-straight NCAA tournament team wins.
The duo, along with the rest of the Nittany Lions, open their season Nov. 16 at Rider.
This year, both men have their eyes set on individual titles but the team title also will be their focus.
“At Penn State, we’ve done something really special the last three years,” Taylor said. “I don’t think many people understand how difficult it is to win a team championship. So many things have to go really perfectly. A couple of things can go wrong here and there and I think it’s hard to win every single time.”
But Taylor and Ruth have made it look easy.
Take Ruth for example. He hasn’t lost since 2011 and posted a major decision to win the 184-pound championship last season and a major to win the 174-pound title in 2012.
“You can’t really get better than that,” junior 125-pounder Nico Megaludis said. “He’s dominated every single one and that’s what I try and strive for that. He’s been doing it. He hasn’t had a close match and it’s been pretty remarkable.”
Ruth was asked if he gets bored since he hasn’t been steadily challenged over the last two seasons.
He flashed a big smile and shook his head no.
“The sky’s the limit,” Ruth said. “I hate to put a cap on it. I hate to say I can get just a little bit better. I want to be able to say that I can become great. I don’t want to just settle.”
For now, Ruth will deal with the fact that he won’t wrestle as was planned in the NWCA All-Star Classic on Nov. 2. Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said it was a “coaches’ decision” to hold Ruth out. Ruth said he’s fine with that and will be ready when the regular season begins.
Penn State fans will be ready to watch two of the sport’s greats. Sanderson hinted that a big reason the team decided to hold a dual at Bryce Jordan Center, which it will do when Pittsburgh steps on the mat at the BJC on Dec. 8, will be to provide another showcase event for fans to watch Taylor and Ruth.
Chances to watch them inside Rec Hall during their senior seasons are growing slimmer by the day. Tickets for the dual against Oklahoma State sold out in mere minutes on Tuesday and other single-dual tickets are going fast.
“It’s not an easy thing to do right now getting tickets to Rec Hall, to get a chance to see David Taylor and Ed Ruth. Two greats, not just Penn State greats but college wrestling greats,” Sanderson said. “Anybody has a chance to get in there and see those guys at the BJC dual and I believe people will take advantage of it. I think we can sell it out.”
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.