OKLAHOMA CITY -- As head coach Cael Sanderson said after Penn State's last match Thursday, Friday should be the most important day for his team's race to the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championship.
As a benefit to the Nittany Lions, all 10 qualifiers are still alive in the brackets -- with five in the winners' bracket and five in the consolations. And they sit in first place with a five-point lead over second-place Oklahoma State and Minnesota. However, they only have eight and nine wrestlers still wrestling, respectively. Fourth-place Iowa still has 10 wrestlers in the tournament.
133-pound redshirt freshman Jimmy Gulibon was the only Nittany Lion in danger of exiting the double-elimination tournament. After a Thursday morning loss, Gulibon rebounded strong. Although he surrendered the opening takedown to, he came back to hammer Eastern Michigan's Vincent Pizzuto, 10-2.
"He kept his composure and got the major," Sanderson said of Gulibon. "Now tomorrow is a big day -- always is."
After storming out of the gates during Thursday morning's first session, winning 9 of its 10 possible bouts, Penn State wasn't as successful during the evening rounds. In all, Penn State lost four of its nine Round-of-16 matches, qualifying only five wrestlers into Friday's quarterfinals.
The most significant upset that went against PSU came at 197 pounds. Redshirt sophomore Morgan McIntosh fell behind early to Virginia Tech's Chris Penny and never recovered. He fell 3-2.
"McIntosh needs to come back strong. Obviously that's not a match that he needed to lose," Sanderson said. "He's all right. Kids lose matches sometimes and they don't go as planned. So that's where we'll see tomorrow (how he responds)."
In addition to McIntosh's loss, 149-pound James English dropped down to the wrestlebacks after a loss to Northwestern's Jason Tsirtsis. English jumped out to a 3-1 advantage, but he surrendered the lead in the third period to fall 4-3. Dylan Alton suffered defeat, too, his against Kent State's Ian Miller at 157. 285-pound Jon Gingrich was also beaten. He fell to Indiana's Adam Chalfant, 5-2.
Meanwhile, Penn State's big guns -- 165-pound David Taylor and 184-pound Ed Ruth -- continue to rack up bonus points.
"I'm a fan just like everybody else," Sanderson said of the seniors. "They're fun to watch when they're just scoring points and they're doing some great things. I think they both have a big challenge ahead of them. This is a tough tournament."
Taylor qualified for the quarterfinals with a dramatic fall over Stanford's Jim Wilson. Taylor jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the first period and continued adding to it. He had built a 16-2 advantage before he planted Wilson's shoulders to the mat with only five seconds remaining in the match to earn crucial bonus points for his Nittany Lions.
"I feel pretty good," Taylor said afterward. "Obviously whenever you can pick up those extra points, it's important. Each one of these matches are equally important and the more points you pick up in the (winner's) bracket is more points for the team."
Two weight classes later -- following a 6-1 decision from PSU's Matt Brown at 174 -- Ruth followed them up with a dominating 15-0 technical fall shutout over Lazarus Reyes of Illinois.
Session III, which includes the quarterfinals and two rounds of wrestle-backs, begins Friday morning at 11:00 (ET). And as Sanderson said, it could be the most pivotal day of the tournament.
"We need everybody's best effort at this point," Sanderson added. "We need big points here. We gotta go a long way. It takes a lot of heart to come back (from a loss). We need these guys coming back and to place and we need bonus points -- just like day one."
125: No. 3 Nico Megaludis
- over Darian Cruz (Lehigh), 18-3 TF
- over No. 14 Ed Klimara (Oklahoma State), 6-0
Next match: Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma)
133: Jimmy Gulibon
- defeated by No. 4 Jonathon Morrison (Oklahoma State), 4-0
- over Vincent Pizzuto (EMU), 10-2 MD
Next match: No. 14 Zane Richards (Illinois)
141: No. 3 Zain Retherford
- over Ugi Khishignyam (Citadel), 5-0
- No. 14 Edgar Bright (Pitt), 3-0
Next match: No. 11 Joey Lazor (UNI)
149: James English
- over No. 12 Dyllan Cottrell (App State), 5-4 (OT)
- defeated by No. 5 Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern), 4-3
Next match: Christian Barber (UNC)
157: No. 13 Dylan Alton
- over Brian Murphy (Mich), 5-1
- defeated by No. 4 Ian Miller (Kent State), 4-1
Next match: Immanuel Kerr-Brown (Duke)
165: No. 1 David Taylor
- pins Joe Brewster (SDSU), 2:58
- pins No. 16 Jim Wilson (Stanford), 6:55
Next match: No. 8 Michael Moreno (Iowa State)
174: No. 5 Matt Brown
- over Kyle Meyer (Stanford), 17-4 MD
- over No. 12 Tanner Weatherman (Iowa State), 6-1
Next match: No. 4 Mike Evans (Iowa)
184: No. 2 Ed Ruth
- pins Jackson Hein (Wisconsin), 1:59
- over Lazarus Reyes (Illinois), 15-0 TF
Next match: No. 7 Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota)
197: No. 3 Morgan McIntosh
- over John Bolich (Lehigh), 5-0
- defeated by No. 14 Chris Penny (Virginia Tech), 3-2
Next match: No. 13 Dan Mitchell (American)
285: No. 14 Jon Gingrich
- over David Devine (SIUE), 12-4 MD
- defeated by No. 3 Adam Chalfant (Indiana), 5-2
Next match: Ross Larson (Oklahoma)
Session I Team Scores
1. Penn State - 26.5
T-2. Oklahoma State - 21.5/Minnesota - 21.5
T- 4. Iowa - 20.5/Oklahoma - 20.5
6. Edinboro - 18.0
7. Ohio State - 17.0
8. Wisconsin - 15.5
9. Iowa State - 14.5
10. Cornell - 14.0