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Lions Trek to 2013 Big Ten Championships

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions have been waiting for it all year long, battling for more than four months with some of the best teams and most talented individuals in Division I wrestling.

Now, it's time for the postseason.

This Saturday, at 11 a.m. Penn State and the 11 other teams in its conference begin the 2013 Big Ten Championships.

8597969.jpegIt will be arguably the toughest tournament that the Nittany Lions wrestle this season as the Big Ten is one of, if not, the best conferences in the sport. But if you ask head coach Cael Sanderson, his team's week leading up to the event is business as usual.

It's just like any other week and that's the way we want it to be," said Sanderson. "We want to just focus on doing our best and having a good time and naturally competitors will rise to the occasion as long as we stay out of their way."

The Lions return to the tournament looking to make it three consecutive conference crowns as the team won the competition in both 2011 and 2012. But instead of feeling the pressure that comes with a huge target on their backs as reigning champions, Sanderson said that his team's recent success is more of a motivator.

"The last two years are something that we're very proud of," said Sanderson. "Any time that you can win a Big Ten championship, especially in wrestling where the conference is very tough, it's something to celebrate. We have that opportunity ahead of us again and if anything I think it makes you a little more hungry."

Finishing the regular season 13-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten, Penn State enters the conference tournament ranked No. 1 nationally by Intermat and has notched three individual top seeds for the weekend. David Taylor holds the top spot at 165, Ed Ruth at 184 and Quentin Wright at 197.

Ruth has won the conference tournament both times that he's competed in it, and is looking to continue that trend with a third championship win. But the 184 pounder echoed his head coach's sentiment, and said that at the end of the day he and his teammates aren't preparing much differently then they would for any other match.

"Every time we go out on the mat it's still the same thing - it's wrestling," said Ruth. "It hasn't changed since we hopped on the flight from Pa. and then got off in Illinois. It's still going to be the same wrestling just a different mat, different crowd."

Competing as one of the most talented and balanced line-ups in the country, all 10 starters from the 2013 dual season will be featured in Champaign, Ill. this weekend. And while most of the Lions, like Ruth, have a history of a strong showing at the tournament, this will be the first Big Ten Championship for three individuals on the Penn State roster.

Jordan Conaway is one of those athletes, competing at 133 as the fourth-seeded wrestler for the first time. Conaway travelled with the team last year and generally knows what to expect, but said that no one in the Big Ten can be taken for granted in a must-win situation.

"You have to be focused for every match and it's just a little bit more intense," said Conaway. "We want to win as a team and do the best we can and place the best we can - it's the same as last year. We want to do as good or better."

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