OKLAHOMA CITY -- When Penn State hired Cael Sanderson in 2009, the hire sent shockwaves throughout the college wrestling world. Five years later, it has paid off in historic proportions.
Following the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships Saturday, Penn State joins elite company. It now joins Iowa and Oklahoma State as the only three programs to ever win four-straight national titles. Historic, no doubt. And that's not to mention Sanderson's two star pupils -- multiple-time national champs David Taylor and Ed Ruth, who have claimed their own right to history.
"It's satisfying," Sanderson said. "It has been a long three days, so it's going to be a lot easier to sleep tonight -- except we've got a 5 a.m. wakeup call to get to the airplane. But it was a tough tournament and it was a tough year."
Minnesota made the tournament even tougher, but the victory that much sweeter. Penn State held the lead throughout nearly the entire tournament until the Golden Gophers jumped ahead by 2.5 points before the final round. And although the Gophers and Nittany Lions both had two finalists, it appeared to be an uphill battle for Penn State in order to regain the lead.
"There were moments there where you're thinking, Wow, we might not win this," Sanderson admitted. "Then we're like, Nah. You know, you gotta think positive all the time. You have a negative thought creep in, you gotta kick it out right away."
Kick it they did, but not without a little help. After Ruth stormed to a 7-2 win over Maryland's 184-pound Jimmy Sheptock, becoming Penn State's first three-time national champ, Minnesota's Tony Nelson was upset in the final and 157-pound Dylan Ness was defeated as well.
NCAA officials organized the 165-pound bout as the final match of the evening, anticipating the team trophy would come down to the last bout. The combination of Ruth's, Ness' and Nelson's results, however, clinched the national title for PSU before Taylor ever took the mat.
"When Minnesota lost it," Taylor said, "it just came down to going out and getting my hand raised."
His win came against Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell, a 6-0 victory at 165 pounds. He and Ruth won each of their final matches in a PSU singlet, but Sanderson was especially pleased that all seven of his All-Americans -- 125-pound Nico Megaludis, 141-pound Zain Retherford, 149-pound James English, 174-poundMatt Brown and 197-pound Morgan McIntosh, in addition to Taylor and Ruth -- won their final match of the day.
"It makes it a lot easier when all of your guys win their last match," Sanderson said. "It feels good for these guys to go out with a win. We've gotta enjoy it because that doesn't happen it very happen."
But he might have been even happier to see how Ruth and Taylor capped their unprecedented PSU careers.
"You need heroes and guys like that to build the sport and they've done that," Sanderson said. "To be able to finish off the way they did is pretty amazing. We're going to miss them obviously, but I couldn't be more happy."
Taylor, now a two-time champion and a four-time finalist, echoed his coach's pleasure.
"Having that opportunity to go out there and wrestle in front of the best fans in the country and have the best coaches in my corner, right now, I'm pretty happy," he said, "and I don't think this happiness is going to go away for at least a couple days, maybe a couple weeks."
The memories, however, will last forever. And Ruth said he is honored to be a part of them.
"I love David. I mean, he's such a respected wrestler," Ruth said. "I'd like to say the same for myself. Being able to wrestle during the same time as him, it's big. It's like people who can say they can wrestle during the time of Brett Metcalf and Jordan Burroughs and I could say I wrestled in the time of David Taylor."
125: No. 3 Nico Megaludis - 3rd place - All-American
- over Darian Cruz (Lehigh), 18-3 TF
- over No. 14 Ed Klimara (Oklahoma State), 6-0
- over Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma), 6-0
- defeated by No. 2 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell), 6-4
- over No. 8 Cory Clark (Iowa), 5-2
- over No. 16 Joey Dance (VaTech), 6-1
133: Jimmy Gulibon
- defeated by No. 4 Jonathon Morrison (Oklahoma State), 4-0
- over Vincent Pizzuto (EMU), 10-2 MD
- defeated by No. 14 Zane Richards (Illinois), 4-3
141: No. 3 Zain Retherford - 5th place - All-American
- over Ugi Khishignyam (Citadel), 5-0
- over No. 14 Edgar Bright (Pitt), 3-0
- over No. 11 Joey Lazor (UNI), 5-2
- defeated by No. 2 Logan Stieber (Ohio State), 7-3
- defeated by No. 1 Mitchell Port (Edinboro), 3-1 (OT)
- over No. 11 Joey Lazor (Northern Iowa), Injury default
149: James English - 7th place - All-American
- over No. 12 Dyllan Cottrell (App State), 5-4 (OT)
- defeated by No. 5 Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern), 4-3
- over Christian Barber (UNC), 3-1
- over Rylan Nubeck, 4-3 OT
- over No. 10 Zach Neibert (Virginia Tech), 6-4 (OT)
- pinned by No. 8 David Habat (Edinboro), 4:52
- over No. 4 Kendric Maple (Oklahoma), 2-1 (OT)
157: No. 13 Dylan Alton
- over Brian Murphy (Mich), 5-1
- defeated by No. 4 Ian Miller (Kent State), 4-1
- over Immanuel Kerr-Brown (Duke), 5-2
- defeated by Luke Smith (Central Michigan), 4-2 (OT)
165: No. 1 David Taylor - 1st place - All American
- pins Joe Brewster (SDSU), 2:58
- pins No. 16 Jim Wilson (Stanford), 6:55
- pins No. 8 Michael Moreno (Iowa State), 1:19
- over No. 4 Steven Monk (NDSU), 13-5 MD
Next match: No. 2 Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State) - 1st/2nd place
174: No. 5 Matt Brown - 5th place - All American
- over Kyle Meyer (Stanford), 17-4 MD
- over No. 12 Tanner Weatherman (Iowa State), 6-1
- defeated by No. 4 Mike Evans (Iowa), 5-4 (OT)
- over No. 16 Matt Miller (Navy), 10-6
- over Bryce Hammond (Cal State-Bakersfield), 9-3
- defeated by No. 6 Logan Storley (Minnesota), 3-1 (OT)
- over No. 4 Mike Evans (Iowa), 6-3
184: No. 2 Ed Ruth - 1st place - All American
- pins Jackson Hein (Wisconsin), 1:59
- over Lazarus Reyes (Illinois), 15-0 TF
- over No. 7 Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 10-2 MD
- over No. 3 Gabe Dean (Cornell), 5-3
Next match: No. 1 Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland) - 1st/2nd place
197: No. 3 Morgan McIntosh - 7th place - All-American
- over John Bolich (Lehigh), 5-0
- defeated by No. 14 Chris Penny (Virginia Tech), 3-2
- over No. 13 Dan Mitchell (American), 15-7 MD
- over Cory Reed (Binghamton), 13-4 MD
- defeated by Kyveon Gadson (Iowa State), 5-3
- over Nate Burak (Iowa), 3-1
285: No. 14 Jon Gingrich
- over David Devine (SIUE), 12-4 MD
- over No. 3 Adam Chalfant (Indiana), 5-2
- pinned by Ross Larson (Oklahoma), 2:03
Final Team Scores
1. Penn State - 109.5
2. Minnesota - 104.0
3. Oklahoma State - 96.5
4. Iowa - 78.5
5. Edinboro - 62.0
6. Ohio State - 57.0
7. Cornell - 53.0
8. Virginia Tech - 49.0
9. Northwestern - 46
10. Oklahoma - 45