DES MOINES, Iowa -- The first session of the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships is in the books, and six of Penn State's 10 qualify starters advance to the second round of the tournament (7:30 p.m. - Thursday), while the Nittany Lions find themselves in first place ahead of Oklahoma State by 1.5 points.
Inside a buzzing Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, Penn State opened with bonus-point victories from 157-pound sophomore Dylan Alton (pigtails) and 125-pound sophomore Nico Megaludis, but the team couldn't maintain the momentum. 133-pound redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway, 141-pound senior Bryan Pearsall and 149-pound sophomore Andrew Alton each were defeated during their first-round bout. The arena, which is dominated by Iowa and Iowa State fans, roared as Penn State lost three straight.
"You never like to see guys lose, but that's part of wrestling," said senior Quentin Wright, who is wrestling his final NCAA tournament of his five-year career. "You get winner and guys that lose, but it's a team effort. So they just gotta come back, and we gotta keep winning the way that we win."
Conaway, Pearsall, Alton and 285-pound sophomore Jimmy Lawson, who fell in the first round, 4-3, to Ohio's Jeremy Johnson, dropped to the wrestlebacks in the double-elimination tournament. Third place is the highest they could finish.
Six PSU wrestlers, however, are still alive for the national title, including Megaludis, Alton, 165-pound junior David Taylor, 174-pound sophomore Matt Brown, 184-pound junior Ed Ruth and Wright.
Megaludis, Taylor, Ruth, and Brown each earned bonus points with their first-round wins, including a blink-of-an-eye 23-second pin by Ruth over Lock Haven's Fred Garcia. Taylor also added a pin in 2:51 over North Carolina's John Staudenmayer.
"David Taylor, Ed Ruth those guys are doing really well, keeping that spark going," Wright added. "They're going out and crushing those guys. Really, we just need to go out there and be a little more fearless. The [lightweight] guys, we have to have them wrestle at their best and come out with a 'W'. Sometimes you have to win ugly."
Dylan Alton, who was the only Nittany Lion wrestling in the pigtail round, also earned bonus points with a 10-2 major decision over Columbia's Jake O'Hara, before topping Pitt's Donnie Tasser, 8-4, to advance to the round of 16.
Wright found himself in a dogfight against Rider's Donal McNeil. After a scoreless first period, Wright began with an escape and a takedown in the second period. Though he went on to score a 7-3 decision over McNeil, the senior from Wingate, Pa., said he wasn't totally satisfied with his opening performance.
"Dang it," he said in the hallway of the arena after his win. "Sometimes that happens, though. Maybe I was thinking about too much. I need to settle down, my mind, focus, needs to be more on the match that I'm in rather than the surroundings."
A two-time finalist and an NCAA champ two seasons ago, Wright said he caught himself thinking about this being his final tournament, rather than going out and wrestling his match. "With this being my senior year," he said, "maybe I just need to shoot a little more."
However Wright feels about his performance, in the end he came away victorious and will face Drexel's Brandon Palik in the second championship round this evening.
125 - No. 4 Nico Megaludis
1st Rd: vs. Kevon Powell, Ohio - W, 17-2 TF (6:25)
2nd Rd: vs. Christian Cullinan, Central Michigan - Tonight
133 - No. 12 Jordan Conaway
1st Rd: vs. Vincent Dellafave, Rutgers - L, 1-3 (SV)
Cn 1: vs. Dylan Hyder, Air Force - Tonight
141 - Bryan Pearsall
1st Rd: vs. Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa - L, 4-12 maj. dec.
Cn 1: vs. Frank Goodwin, Maryland - Tonight
149 - No. 11 Andrew Alton
1st Rd: vs. Drake Houdashelt, Missouri - L, 1-4
Cn 1: Daniel Young, Army - Tonight
157 - No. 8 Dylan Alton
Pigtail: vs. Jake O'Hara, Columbia - W, 10-2 maj. dec.
1st Rd: vs. Donnie Tasser, Pittsburgh - W, 8-4 dec.
2nd Rd: vs. Zac Cibula, Rider - Tonight
165 - No. 2 David Taylor
1st Rd: vs. John Staudenmayer, North Carolina - WBF (2:51)
2nd Rd: vs. Zach Strickland, Appalachian State - Tonight
174 - No. 2 Matt Brown
1st Rd: vs. Todd Porter, Missouri - W, 10-1 maj. dec.
2nd Rd: vs. Nick Bonaccorsi, Pittsburgh - Tonight
184 - No. 1 Ed Ruth
1st Rd: vs. Fred Garcia, Lock Haven - WBF (0:28)
2nd Rd: vs. Kevin Radford, Arizona State - Tonight
197 - No. 2 Quentin Wright
1st Rd: vs. Donald McNeil, Rider - W, 7-3 dec.
2nd Rd: vs. Branden Palik, Drexel - Tonight
285 - Jimmy Lawson
1st Rd: vs. Jeremy Johnson, Ohio - L, 3-4 dec.
Cn. 1: vs. Ben Apland, Michigan - Tonight
1. Penn State - 14.5
2. Oklahoma State - 13
3. Minnesota - 11
4. Iowa - 10
5. Iowa State - 9