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By Mike Finn
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Penn State’s Quentin Wright defeated Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin, 5-2, at 184 pounds to complete his postseason unbeaten and give his Nittany Lions an individual championship Saturday night to go along with the school’s NCAA team championship earned earlier in the day in the Wells Fargo Center.
Wright, who also won a Big Ten championship two weeks earlier after struggling through the regular season, said he did not feel any pressure after seeing two other Penn State finalists — Frank Molinaro at 149 pounds and 157-pound David Taylor — lose their championship bouts before Wright faced Hamlin.
“When they came in and they were really upset, I knew that it didn’t go good for them,” Wright said. “So coach (Cael Sanderson) just took me out of the room and said, ‘Hey, you’re on your own, this is your match. Don’t feed off of what happened there. Just go out there and do what you can do.’ ”
Sanderson meanwhile joined the likes of Dan Gable, John Smith and Tom Brands as former NCAA and Olympic champions to also win NCAA gold as a coach.
“Every coach has the same goals, be the best you can be,” said Sanderson, who is in his second year at Penn State, which had not won an NCAA title since 1953. “And winning a National championship doesn’t mean that I’m the best coach, it means that we had a great staff and just a phenomenal team effort and that these guys, I mean, they made it happen.
“You’ve got 19‑ to 22‑year‑old kids, and this is something that they’re going to remember forever. It’s pretty special.”
In the final standings, Penn State wound up with 107.5 points to out-distance Cornell (93.5), which saw its 149-pound Kyle Dake win a second championship in his career, and three-time defending national champion Iowa (86.5). Oklahoma State, which had a champion in Easton, Pa. native Jordan Oliver at 133, claimed fourth place with 70.5 points.
This marked the first time since 1967 that neither a school from the state of Iowa or Oklahoma finished among the top two teams in the final standings.
The only thing tough for Penn State Saturday night was seeing a former Nittany Lion Bubba Jenkins, now with Arizona State, score a fall against current PSU freshman sensation David Taylor in the 157-pound championship.
“Man, he put me in that position and that pinning combination so many times,” said Jenkins, who finished second in the 2008 NCAAs as Penn State sophomore at 149 pounds before leaving the Lion program last year for Arizona State. “I’ve seen it before and actually I learned that at Penn State. I was just going back to how we used to wrestle in the mat room and try anything.”
Jenkins was the second of two champs for ASU, the most by any school in this year’s nationals, as Anthony Robles also ended his Sun Devil career with a 7-1 victory over defending national champion Matt McDonough of Iowa.
“I was scared out there, but as soon as I hit that first takedown I sort of relaxed,” said Robles, who wrestles without a right leg. “I said, okay, back to business. Same drill as usual like every other match.
“My coaches prepared me well. We’ve been working all year, past few years, quick draws, quick stick, couldn’t have done it without him. Felt super confident out there and it was a team effort. And I want to thank my training partners and my family for supporting me and it wasn’t just me out there. I was doing it for all them, too.”
Among the other championships: Michigan’s Kellen Russell (141) and Iowa State’s John Reader (174) captured their first NCAA titles; Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore (197) earned his school’s first national title; Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs became the first time national champion from Nebraska with a win at 165 pounds; and heavyweight Zach Rey garnered Lehigh’s first NCAA championship since Troy Letters in 2004.
125 pounds — #1 Anthony Robles (Arizona State) dec. #2 Matt McDonough (Iowa), 7-1
The Sun Devil scored his only takedown with 2:17 left in the first period and used his popular “ball and chain” tilt move to twice put the defending national champion on his back in the first period to lead 7-0. After a scoreless second period, McDonough finally got on the board when Robles was penalized for stalling with 20 seconds left in the match.
133 pounds — #1 Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) dec. #2 Andrew Hochstrasser (Boise State), 8-4
Oliver, the native son of nearby Easton, Pa., scored two first period takedowns, the first on an inside single and the second on a back trip with 25 seconds left that also put the Bronco on his back for a two-point nearfall to lead 6-1 after the first frame. The Cowboy sophomore than added a double leg with 1:40 left in the second period before Hochstrasser added two escapes.
141 pounds — #1 Kellen Russell (Michigan) dec. #3 Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly), 3-2
The Wolverine junior hit the match’s only takedown on a backtrip with 38 seconds left to capture his first championship. This came after Russell injured his right knee after a scramble with Novachkov midway through the second period.
149 pounds — #4 Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. #2 Frank Molinaro (Penn State), 8-1
The Big Red sophomore, who won the 141-pound title in 2010, captured his second NCAA championship by scoring his only takedown with 2:33 left and rode the Nittany Lion junior the rest of the first and entire second periods. During the second frame, Dake’s strong ride also snapped Molinaro to his back for a two-point nearfall. In the third period, Dake reversed his foe in eight seconds and eventually ended with a 6:17 riding time advantage. Molinaro’s only point came on an illegal move by Dake in the first period.
157 pounds — #4 Bubba Jenkins (Arizona State) pinned #3 David Taylor (Penn State), 4:14
Trailing 1-0 in the second period, the former Nittany Lion scored a single leg against the current Penn State freshman with 58 seconds and turned it into a near-side suicide cradle and ended with a fall 12 seconds later to also hand Taylor his first loss of the season.
165 pounds — #1 Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska) major dec. #3 Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma), 11-3
The Husker senior ended his career by scoring three double leg takedowns and two singles to dominate his Big 12 rival that Burroughs had only managed a 1-0 decision in the conference final. Burroughs turned his final bout in to a major when he added a 3:51 riding time advantage.
174 pounds — #1 Jon Reader (Iowa State) dec. #7 Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford), 10-3
The Cyclone senior scored is first takedown on a low single with 2:06 left in the first period and 20 seconds later caught the Cardinal in a granby roll for the first of two two-point nearfalls moves to lead 6-0 after the first frame. Reader’s final points came on a takedown with 54 seconds left when he countered a Amuchastegui shot then left the mat with 1:34 of riding time.
184 pounds — #9 Quentin Wright (Penn State) dec. #2 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), 5-2
After a scoreless first period, the Nittany Lion exploded for a pair of double leg takedowns, the second with 11 second left, in the second period to take a 5-1 lead. Hamlin’s only points came on escapes.
197 pounds — #4 Dustin Kilgore (Kent State) pinned #2 Clayton Foster (Oklahoma State), 4:56
Trailing 5-1 after the Cowboy scored two takedown in the first period and opened the second with an escape, Kilgore found himself pulled back into a Foster ride but hip-heisted out and threw in a reverse half with about 10 seconds left and earned the fall six seconds later for Kent State’s first NCAA championship.
Heavyweight — Zach Rey (Lehigh) dec. Ryan Flores (American U.), 2-1
A 1:33 riding time margin gave the Lehigh junior his first national championship — and his school’s first since xxxx — as the MountainHawk, leading 1-0 after two periods, rode out Flores for all but the final 16 seconds to avenge an EIWA championship loss.