Others will need Ruthian effort to unseat Penn State’s two-time defending champ
No disrespect to Penn State’s David Taylor — the 2012 national champion, Hodge Trophy winner and three-time NCAA finalist — but Ed Ruth gives Taylor a run for his money as the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the talented Nittany Lion wrestling room. Over the past three years, the former Blair Academy star has lost just twice, including once in the 2011 NCAAs and has dominated his championship foes the past two years.
The more logical question is who will also reach the 184-pounds finals in Oklahoma City in March, considering Ruth’s 2013 finals victim, Robert Hamlin of Lehigh, has graduated … as have the No. 3- and 4th-place finishers — Steve Bosak of Cornell and Ben Bennett of Central Michigan — have graduated. There are three returning AAs — Ethen Lofthouse of Iowa, Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland and Ryan Loder of Northern Iowa — from last season’s Nationals.
But don’t forget Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus, who has a pair of AA honors on his resume, but failed to place in last year’s NCAAs, despite entering the tournament with a No. 5 seed.
Welcome to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood
Among the newcomers at this weight class will be Oklahoma State’s redshirt freshman Jordan Rogers, the 2012 Junior Hodge Trophy winner from Mead High School in Spokane, Wash., where he compiled a 144-8 career record and won three state championships. Last year, the then true-freshman compiled a 10-4 record with eight falls in open tournaments.
Breaking down the 184-pound weight class
Rk. Name School Year ’13 record ’13 ncaa
1. Ed Ruth Penn State Senior 33-0 Champion
The native of Harrisburg, Pa., enters his final year with the Nittany Lions with a 69-match winning streak, which includes NCAA championships the past two years — at 174 pounds in 2012 and 184 last March in Des Moines — in addition to a third-place finish at 174 in 2011. In compiling a career mark of 102-2 — his last loss was in the 2011 quarterfinals against Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui — Ruth has also compiled 35 pins (many with his strong cradle) and 16 technical falls. In his three NCAAs, Ruth is 16-1 with six pins. In his two championships matches, Ruth avenged his only NCAA loss with a 13-2 major decision against Amuchastegui in 2012 and 12-4 over Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin last March.
2. Ethen Lofthouse Iowa Senior 23-9 5th
The native of Avon, Utah, has earned two All-American honors for the Hawkeyes, but it also has been a bumpy road, including last season when Lofthouse appeared to lose his spot in the line-up to another former AA in Grant Gambrall. But Lofthouse (70-28 in his career) turned things around in the post-season when — seeded No. 12 — he won his first two NCAA matches (including a 3-2 win over No. 5 Kevin Steinhaus) and eventually finished fifth. After losing to 2012 NCAA champion Steve Bosak of Cornell in the quarterfinals, Lofthouse came back to win three of four wrestlebacks, including a 6-2 win over Maryland’s Jimmy Sheptock. One year earlier, Lofthouse also reached the quarters at 174 pounds and eventually claimed seventh place with a 3-1 win over Ryan DesRoches of Cal Poly.
3. Jimmy Sheptock Maryland Senior 40-6 6th
The Terp’s second shot at the NCAAs paid off for the native of Northampton, Pa., last March when he earned his first All-American honor in Des Moines as the No. 7 seed. Sheptock also reached the quarterfinals after beating Wyoming’s Shane Woods and Boise State’s Jacob Swartz, before losing 1-0 to Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett. Once in the wrestlebacks, the Terp upset Minnesota’s two-time All-American Kevin Steinhaus, 6-4 in overtime, in the Round of 12 to clinch his AA medal and then finished in the top six with a 3-2 tiebreaker win over Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder. One year earlier, Sheptock won the first of two ACC championships to qualify for the NCAAs in St. Louis, where he also wrestled at 174 pounds, when he lost in the second round to Iowa’s Lofthouse and was eventually eliminated in the Round of 12 by Cal Poly’s Ryan DesRoches.
4. Ryan Loder Northern Iowa Senior 34-6 7th
The third trip to the NCAAs was the ticket for this native of Granite City, Calif., after the Panther, seeded 6th, reached the quarterfinals before losing 2-1 to Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin and eventually beat Nebraska’s Josh Ihnen, 5-2, in the Round of 12, then added an 8-0 victory over Missouri’s Mike Larson in the seventh-place match. In his two previous trips to the NCAAs, Loder lost in the Round of 12 each tournament: first to Travis Rutt (then of Wisconsin) in 2011 and to Nebraska’s Ihnen in 2012.
5. Kevin Steinhaus Minnesota Senior 29-4 NQ
The two-time All-American from Pennock, Minn., actually took Penn State’s Ed Ruth into overtime before losing the 2013 Big Ten final. That effort also earned Steinhaus a No. 5 seed in Des Moines, where he was upset in the second round by Iowa’s Ethen Lofthouse. Once in the wrestlebacks, the Gopher won his first two matches, but was eliminated in the Round of 12 by Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder. Competing as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Steinhaus upset Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry in the Round of 12 and eventually finished seventh. One year earlier as the No. 5 seed, the Gopher reached the quarterfinals where he was upset by eventual champ Steve Bosak of Cornell, but came back to finish fifth with a 3-1 win over Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett.
OTHER TOP-20 WRESTLERS
6. Max Thomusseit Pittsburgh Junior 17-6 NQ/Round of 12
7. Jake Swartz Boise State Senior 33-5 NQ/Round of 12
8. Boaz Beard Iowa State Senior 17-10 NQ/Round of 24
9. John Rizqallah Michigan State Junior 23-12 NQ/Round of 32
10. Kevin Radford Arizona State Junior 22-15 NQ/Round of 24
11. Kenny Courts Ohio State Sophomore Reserve
12. Fred Garcia Lock Haven Senior 28-12 NQ/Round of 16
13. Alex Utley North Carolina Junior 27-15 NQ/Round of 24
14. Stephen Doty Virginia Senior 19-12 NQ/Round of 24
15. Canaan Bethea Penn Senior 25-13 NQ/Round of 32
16. Ophir Bernstein Brown Junior 25-11 NQ/Round of 24
17. Luke Sheridan Indiana Junior 22-16 NQ/Round of 32
18. Duke Pickett Cornell Sophomore 18-15
19. Patrick Kissell Purdue Junior 21-9
20. Bryce Hammond CSU Bakersfield Sophomore 34-10 NQ