Penn State wrestling: Nittany Lions ready to open season on road

Nico Megaludis, David Taylor and Ed Ruth spent plenty of time on planes this summer.

Megaludis and Taylor, minus Ruth — who is suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, will begin the Penn State wrestling season with their teammates with road trips to Rider and Lehigh this weekend. The trio is well versed in the art of travel.

The Penn State threesome participated in the XXVII Summer Universiade, or the World University Games in Kazan, Russia this summer. Taylor won a bronze medal a 74 kilograms with a 10-3 win over Mongolia’s Gombodorj Dorjvaanchig. Megaludis went 1-1 at 55 kilograms while Ruth wen 0-1 at 84 kilograms.

Taylor and Ruth have both won NCAA titles. Megaludis has been in the NCAA finals at 125 pounds in his first two seasons, finishing as the runner-up each time. All three of them have goals of competing on the world circuit with an Olympic medal and freestyle glory in mind once their college careers are over.

“It’s very important for a couple of reasons,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said of his wrestlers’ experiences. “One, it’s a different style. It’s a different feel. The Russians wrestle differently than the Americans and the Iranians wrestle differently than the Russians. So you need to kind of get a sense of what you’re preparing for. And then it’s stiffer competition.”

For Megaludis and Ruth, the trip was eye-opening as it was their first time traveling to Russia.

Up first was a stop in North Ossetia where teams held training camps in Vladikavkaz, a capital city of just over 310,000 people.

“When I first went over there for the first practice I didn’t know what to expect,” Megaludis said. “I was a little bit on the nervous side because you never wrestled those guys before. That training camp really helped once the worlds came around.”

From there the trio made the flight to Kazan. They stayed in dorm rooms in the Universiade Village where the more than 10,000 athletes competing lived within the confines of Kazan Federal University.

The competition was housed at the Ak Bars Wrestling Palace. While Ruth only wrestled one bout due to the tournament’s format, he said he came away with an inflated perspective on his own goals.

“It kind of excites me,” Ruth said. “Now I have a chance to step back and look at wrestling all over again and kind of start figuring out the steps on how to get better again. A lot of guys look at that and don’t want to do that. That’s the fun part for me, just being able to develop myself once more and being able to see what kind of level I can take it to.”

He’ll have to wait until his indefinite suspension is lifted, however, to rejoin Penn State. Meanwhile, Megaludis and Taylor will look to lead the three-time defending Big Ten and NCAA champions in their quest for fourth titles. First up is Rider (3-0), a team that will likely send just two ranked wrestlers to the mat inside Alumni Gymnasium.

Saturday’s 4 p.m. dual will be televised by Comcast Sportsnet.

No. 1 Penn State will then travel an hour and a half across the New Jersey, Pennsylvania border for a 3 p.m. Sunday dual against No. 25 Lehigh (0-1).

The Mountainhawks are led by No. 6-ranked 133 pounder Mason Beckman who will draw either Jordan Conaway or Jimmy Gulibon. Sanderson said he would likely split the two matches between his wrestlers.

James Frascella is expected to fill in for Ed Ruth at 184 pounds.