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2012 NCAAs may be closest ever among three teams
By Mike Finn
Oklahoma State defeated Iowa on criteria, Jan. 7, making the Cowboys the top-ranked duals team in the country. But how does John Smth’s squad rank when it comes to the NCAA Championships, which will be held March 15-17, in St. Louis?
Since 1974, when Oklahoma won the national championship by just 5.5 points over Michigan and Oklahoma State (and Iowa State finished fourth just one more point behind), there have been just three nationals where three teams were separated by less than 10 points: 1978 (Iowa, 94.5, Iowa State 94 and Oklahoma State 86.25); 1988 (Arizona State 93, Iowa 85.5, Iowa State 93.75); and 2009 (Iowa 96.5, Ohio State 92 and Iowa State 84.5).
According to WIN’s most recent Tournament Power Index (TPI), Oklahoma State is actually tied with Iowa at No. 2 in potential NCAA points (83) … but just 5.5 points behind last year’s national champion Penn State.
Coach Cael Sanderson’s Lions have the most top-ranked wrestlers — according to WIN’s Jan. 9, 2012 rankings: Frank Molinaro (149), David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (174). All three earned All-American honors last March when Molinaro and Taylor finished second — Taylor competed at 157 pounds — and Ruth left Philadelphia with a third-place finish.
Molinaro, a senior from Barnegat, N.J., and a three-time All-American, is 16-0 with three pins and most recently won the Southern Scuffle. The Nittany Lion has not faced that many top-ranked wrestlers this year but did pin No. 11 Donnie Vinson (Binghamton) and twice had defeated Big Ten-foe Dylan Ness (16-10 and 9-1). Among other top-ten ranked Big Ten counterparts, Molinaro is scheduled to meet Michigan’s Eric Grajales (No. 9) Feb. 5. He will not face No. 8 Eric Terrazas (Illinois) during the regular season since the Nittany Lions and Illini do not face each other this year.
Taylor, who has lost just one match in his 1.5 years with the Nittany Lions — that coming in the NCAA finals against former Arizona State Sun Devil Bubba Jenkins — is 14-0 with 8 falls this season. The native of St. Paris, Ohio, is also coming off a Southern Scuffle championship in Chattanooga, where he pinned Minnesota’s No. 7 Cody Yohn (who also lost 16-1 to Taylor in early December). Taylor is not scheduled to face any other top-10 foes until the Big Tens.
Ruth, who’s only loss in last year’s NCAAs came against Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui (when Ruth was forced to injury default in the quarterfinals), is 16-0 with six pins this season … and the Harrisburg, Pa., native also won a Scuffle title. Ruth’s biggest regular-season match should come against Iowa’s No. 6 Ethen Lofthouse on Jan. 22.
Penn State’s fourth Scuffle champ was 184-pound Quentin Wright, who was Penn State’s only NCAA champion last year. But this season, Wright is 13-2 with six falls. His two losses came to Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus in November and against Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin — whom Wright beat in last year’s NCAA final. The Hamlin loss was in a Dec. 9 dual meet. With his 10-3 victory over Cornell’s Steve Bosak — who recently beat Hamlin — Wright trails just Wyoming’s Joe LeBlanc and Hamlin in the rankings.
Coach John Smith features the most predicted All-Americans (7) among the top three teams and that includes Chris Perry — No. 3 at 174 pounds — after dropping down from 184 pounds and beating Iowa’s Ethen Lofthouse in overtime last Saturday.
Only one of OSU’s wrestlers are ranked No. 1 and that’s Jordan Oliver (133 pounds) who also lost his first match of the season to Iowa’s Tony Ramos in overtime … after pinning all 11 of his first victims. Unless Oklahoma State meets Iowa again or Virginia Tech in the NWCA National Duals in February, the Easton, Pa., native will not face any other top-5 ranked foes this year.
OSU’s other predicted finalist is Jamal Parks, who is 16-0 this winter at 149 pounds with two pins. He won the Reno TOC where he edged Air Force’s No. 3 Cole Von Ohlen, 3-2. The native of Tulsa will not have a shot at Molinaro until the NCAAs since OSU and PSU do not face each other this year in a dual.
Meanwhile, the two hottest Cowboys may be the heaviest of Smith’s crew.
Blake Rosholt is the younger brother of two OSU All-Americans — Jake and Jared Rosholt — and is Smith’s choice ahead of George Mason transfer Cayle Byers for the 197-pound spot (who lost to Rosholt at Reno after beating him in November). But Smith said it’s not set in stone yet, and competitions yet to come will make the decision obvious which of the two they’re going to go with. Rosholt is rated No. 7. The youngest Rosholt competed at heavyweight last season.
Taking over the 285-pound weight class is Russian-native Alan Gelogaev, who rated No. 3 and is 16-1 this season (his only lost came to Oregon State’s redshirting Chad Hanke in Reno). Gelogaev, who redshirted last year after competing at 197 pounds two years ago, has pinned eight of his foes this year. He is not slated to meet either American’s No. 1 Ryan Flores or Lehigh’s No. 2 Zach Rey (last year’s NCAA champ) unless OSU meets Lehigh in the National Duals.
The Hawkeyes recently won their 22nd all-time Midlands championship, but saw only one of five finalists win championships in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 30. That and Iowa’s Jan. 7 criteria loss to Oklahoma State — before 15,400 fans in Iowa City — suggested that the Hawkeyes have a long way to go to capture the consistency that coach Tom Brands is pushing for out of his team.
The most consistent Hawkeye is 2010 NCAA champion Matt McDonough, who is rated No. 1 at 125 pounds by WIN, despite losing to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado in a December dual with the Illini. The junior from Marion, Iowa, has come back strong since that loss, especially at the Midlands where he pinned Virginia Tech’s redshirting Jarrod Garnett in the finals. (McDonough did not face Delgado in the Midlands.) McDonough’s biggest regular-season bout should come against Minnesota’s No. 2 Zach Sanders, who is 0-4 all-time vs. the Hawkeye, and will meet McDonough in a Jan. 29 dual in Iowa City.
Teammates Tony Ramos (133) and Montell Marion (141) came back to win big matches against Oklahoma State after losing in the Midlands finals. Ramos handed defending champion Jordan Oliver his first loss and Marion — a 2010 national runner-up — beat No. 7 Josh Kindig. Ramos should face another tough foe, Jan. 22, against Las Vegas champ and No. 4-rated Logan Stieber of Ohio State. Marion, who lost to Michigan’s NCAA champ Kellen Russell in last year’s national semifinal, is not scheduled to meet the Wolverine until at least the Big Tens.
One problem Brands is having is getting many of last year’s All-Americans in the line-up this season. Derek St. John, rated No. 2 nationally at 157 pounds, is 11-0 this winter but the sophomore has not faced any competition since suffering an injury against Northern Iowa’s David Bonin on Dec. 8. Meanwhile Grant Gambrall, who finished third at 184 pounds last March, suffered a concussion over the off-season and did not have any physical activity to speak of for four months. The junior from Iowa City started the season at 184 pounds but has since switched to 197 pounds and is 6-3 after losing to Oklahoma State’s Blake Rosholt.
In closing, it should be noted that Penn State will not compete in this year’s NWCA National Duals, where Minnesota and Cornell — rated No. 4 and 5 in WIN’s TPI — could also flex their muscles against Oklahoma State and Iowa.