OKLAHOMA CITY -- For the first time since the opening session of the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships, Penn State trails in the team race. But it is far from over, and on ESPN at 8:00 (ET), Saturday night the dust will settle.
Penn State went 6-2 during the morning's consolation round, while first-place Minnesota finished 7-2, including a head-to-head victory over Penn State at 174 pounds. As a result the Golden Gophers took a 2.5-point lead (104-101.5) over the second-place Nittany Lions heading into the tournament's final round. Third-place Oklahoma State is the only other team that can still win, as they sit with 87.5 points.
Penn State, however, was nearly eliminated from the team title race, if it weren't for two unlikely results during the placement rounds.
After falling to Edinboro's Mitchell Port in the consolation semifinal, true freshman Zain Retherford dropped to the fifth place match. His opponent, however, suffered an apparent head injury during his previous match and was surprisingly forced to injury default. As a result of the forfeit, Retherford earned fifth place and two extra bonus points for PSU.
"I was looking for bonus for the team, but at the same time I wanted to go out and do what I do best and have fun and wrestle," Retherford said. "We got the points for the team, though, and the team race is big right now so I'm glad I could do that."
Then, at 149 pounds, James English shocked a returning national champion in Kendric Maple of Oklahoma to secure seventh place. It was a fitting finish to an injury-riddled six-year career with the Nittany Lions.
"It feels great going out with a win in my last match ever," he said. "I'm just glad I could never stop fighting. After six years I was able to make it here and just go out and score some points for my team here at the end."
Nico Megaludis (125) secured third-place honors during Saturday morning's session, while Matt Brown (174) placed fifth -- despite a loss to Minnesota's Logan Storley in the consolation semifinal -- and Morgan McIntosh placed seventh.
However, mostly due to their win at 174, the Golden Gophers fared slightly better so they'll carry a lead into Saturday night's live-televised event.
In order for Penn State to regain an advantage in the team race, and win its fourth-consecutive team title, it will need victories by at least a decision from its only two finalists -- 165-pound David Taylor and 184-pound Ed Ruth. Minnesota has only two finalists as well -- 149-pound Dylan Ness and 285-pound Tony Nelson. If they both secure victories, Penn State will require bonus points from both Ruth and Taylor in order to walk away with the team trophy.
Oklahoma State is also still in the team race, as it has four finalists in action, but it will need Tyler Caldwell to upset Taylor, along with a couple other titles, to make the leap into first place.
As Caldwell said, however, he's hoping that's how the night plays out.
"That's all I've thought about," he said. "Last year, when they changed the finals format (for Taylor vs. Cornell's Kyle Dake) that was the first time I ever saw that. So all year in the back of my mind, I've been thinking that it could me and Taylor in the finals. Winner takes home the team title here in Oklahoma City. Can't ask for anything better than that."
As it was announced after Session V, Taylor vs. Caldwell will indeed be the final bout of the evening. Action will begin with the 174-pound weight class. So Caldwell and Taylor have a shot of capping the tournament with a team title, but not if Minnesota has anything to do with it.
Here's a look at tonight's individual championship matchups, in order:
174: No. 1 Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 2 Andrew Howe (Oklahoma)
184: No. 1 Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland) vs. No. 2 Ed Ruth (Penn State)
197: No. 1 Nick Heflin (Ohio State) vs. No. 2 J'Den Cox (Missouri)
285: No. 1 Tony Nelson (Minnesota) vs. No. 2 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State)
125: No. 1 Jesse Delgado (Illinois) vs. No. 2 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell)
133: No. 5 Tyler Graff (Wisconsin) vs. No. 3 Tony Ramos (Iowa)
141: No. 4 Devin Carter (VaTech) vs. No. 2 Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
149: No. 5 Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) vs. No. 11 Josh Kindig (Oklahoma State)
157: No. 9 Dylan Ness (Minnesota) vs. No. 3 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State)
165: No. 1 David Taylor (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State)
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
- 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
- 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
Session IV Team Scores
1. Minnesota - 104
1. Penn State - 101.5
3. Oklahoma State - 87.5
4. Iowa - 74.5
5. Edinboro - 62.0
6. Cornell - 53.0
7. Ohio State - 52.0
8. Virginia Tech - 49.0
9. Oklahoma - 45.0
10. Nebraska - 43.5