UNIVERSITY PARK — For a man who never lost a match, Cael Sanderson is in a position to know best. Sometimes a certain complacency can arise through constant winning.
For Penn State’s Ed Ruth, he experienced the thrills of victory 84-straight times dating back to March 18, 2011. Shockingly, Ruth’s streak was snapped in the Southern Scuffle with a loss to Cornell freshman Gabe Dean at 184 pounds.
“This gives him a chance to kind of reset and start over,” Sanderson said. “He has a challenge ahead of him now and he’s got to get back to the top I think that’s good for Ed.”
“Ed lost a match. Life goes on and you learn from it and you get ready for this weekend.”
Suddenly, nothing is guaranteed. At least this is the feeling Sanderson wants Ruth and the rest of the No. 1 Penn State wrestling team to harbor. Afterall, the Nittany Lions (7-0, 1-0) have grown so used to dominating over a run that’s seen them win three Big Ten and NCAA titles and lose just three duals over the last three seasons.
With a struggling Purdue team coming into Rec Hall for a 2 p.m. dual, the Nittany Lions will face a team that will likely send underclassmen to the mat in half of the dual’s bouts.
With a long Big Ten schedule and a dual with No. 5 Oklahoma State looming before the post season, Penn State’s veterans know its not a time to overlook any opponent. David Taylor, who’s had comparable success to Ruth, isn’t about to.
“Sometimes people make it seem like it’s easy,” Taylor said. “Well, Ed’s a senior and when he goes out and wrestles (his opponent’s) only goal is to beat Ed and sometimes it just happens. ... I’ve been in Ed’s position before in my life when you go out there and you’re used to the matches going one way and sometimes they go a little bit a different way.”
Ruth, who’s usually talkative and available to reporters that cover the team, spent all of portion of the team’s Tuesday practice that was open to the media wrestling with teammates and Nittany Lion Wrestling Club members working on his freestyle game.
“He has a challenge ahead of him now and he’s got to get back to the top,” Sanderson said. “I think that’s good for Ed. Of all of our guys, people have asked about (Ed), ‘How do you motivate him after he wins?’ The last two national championships he’s won by major decisions in the finals. How many people in the history of college wrestling have won in the national championship by a major two times? I don’t think too many.”
Penn State’s lineup will have a different — but familiar — look come Sunday.
Both Andrew and Dylan Alton, twin brothers who missed the first half of the season after having summer shoulder surgeries, are expected to return to the lineup at 149 and 157 pounds, respectively.
They’ll be joined by the usual cast — Nico Megaludis (125), Zain Retherford (141), Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ruth (184), Morgan McIntosh (197) and Jimmy Lawson (285).
Purdue has only one ranked wrestler. No. 14 Braden Atwood is expected to battle McIntosh at 197 pounds. Atwood is fresh off a 5-4 win over No. 11 Nathan Burak of Iowa.
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.