VIDEO: Cael Sanderson National Championship Press Conference | Photo Gallery
VIDEO: Ed Ruth Press Conference | VIDEO: David Taylor Press Conference
OKLAHOMA CITY - Penn State's reign over the college wrestling world continued on Saturday night when the Nittany Lions captured their unprecedented fourth-straight NCAA team title.
Fueled by NCAA individual crowns from seniors Ed Ruth at 184 pounds and David Taylor at 165 pounds, the Lions celebrated on the sport's grandest stage inside Chesapeake Energy Arena as the 2014 national champions.
"Our kids really did a fantastic job today," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We had our hands full. Minnesota was really killing it, so we needed a (strong finish). All of our All-Americans won their last match. That's a big deal."
By no means was the fourth title an easy one for the Nittany Lions, who edged Minnesota by 5.5 points in the final team standings. Following a victory from Ruth at 184 pounds, the Lions pulled ahead of the Gophers by 1.5 points after two championship bouts.
Minnesota suffered setbacks in its two national title bouts, with the second coming in the ninth match of the evening. As the 157-pound bout ticked to zero on the clock, the white-clad Penn State fans rose to their feet to celebrate the program's fifth national championship.
"It is satisfying now," Sanderson said. "It was a long three days. We are going to sleep well tonight...This was a tough tournament. And this was a tough year."
But the work was not quite done for the Nittany Lions, as Taylor was on deck in the final championship match of night.
You could not have scripted a better way for Taylor's career to end in a Penn State singlet than the way it did on Saturday night. The epitome of a team player, Taylor's imprint on the program goes far beyond his stellar accolades. He didn't miss a match at the national tournament because he wanted to support his fellow teammates. On Saturday morning, he did not need to be at the arena, but he was the first to greet fellow James English as he came off the mat after his win in the seventh-place match at 149 pounds.
Thanks to another dominant performance, Taylor finished off his collegiate career with a victory in the final match of the national tournament, an individual national title and a team title. He couldn't wipe the smile off of his face.
"That's just stuff I dreamt about when I was a kid. And kind of sums it up tonight," said Taylor. "Just having that opportunity to go out there and wrestle and wrestle for the best fans in the country and have the best coaches in my corner. It's just - I don't know, it's hard to say."
Watching Taylor and Ruth have their arm raised one final time for Penn State is something special for not just Nittany Lion fans, but the sport of wrestling. The duo combined for five individual national titles, eight individual Big Ten titles, four team national titles, four Big Ten team titles and a cumulative record of 270-6.
"Anyone who has watched David Taylor or Ed Ruth becomes and instant wrestling fan," Sanderson said. "Those guys are fun to watch. They are in constant motion. They are fluid. They are tough. They wrestle with passion. And they wrestle with fire. You need heroes and guys like that to build the sport."
Taylor and Ruth certainly played a paramount role in Penn State's fourth-straight title, but the Nittany Lions remain atop the NCAA wrestling mountain because of a hard-fought team effort in Oklahoma City.
Final Team Standings - (Champions/All-Americans)
1. Penn State - 109.5 (2 Champions / 7 All-Americans)
2. Minnesota - 104.0 (0 Champions / 7 All-Americans)
3. Oklahoma State - 96.5 (2 Champions / 5 All-Americans)
4. Iowa - 78.5 (1 Champion / 6 All-Americans)
5. Edinboro - 62.0 (0 Champions / 3 All-Americans)
National Championship Matches
184: #2 Ed Ruth (34-1) - 5-0 - NCAA Champion - All-American
In typical Ed Ruth fashion, the Nittany Lion senior wasted no time going to work against top-seeded Jimmy Sheptock from Maryland in the national title bout. Ruth scored two quick takedowns to take a 4-1 lead into the second period. In the top position during the second period, Ruth was dominant. He rode out Sheptock for 3:30 of riding time after two frames. He notched a reversal in the third and added the riding time point for a 7-2 victory.
"As soon as the guy steps on the line, I step on the line," Ruth said. "The first thing I'm thinking about is just taking 10, 20 shots. So I get to his legs, because in my head I don't like to believe that people can send me off. I'm taking shots, I like to believe I can always get to the leg, and that just keeps me pushing for the next shot, the next shot after that, and eventually hopefully I'll get him."
Ruth's long list of accomplishments includes four Big Ten titles, 136 career victories, four All-American honors and three NCAA titles. Ruth finished third in his first trip to the national tournament. Since the 2011 NCAA Championships, Ruth accumulated a 98-1 record in a Penn State singlet. He will go down as one of the best in program history.
"It's big, because there's a lot of respective wrestlers that came through Penn State," Ruth said. "I see them every time they come in. I go like, Wow. Just makes me proud to be one of those guys."
165: #1 David Taylor (34-0) - 5-0 - NCAA Champion -
Senior David Taylor's final bout in a Penn State singlet was on the stage that featured the highest of highs in his Nittany Lion career, and it was only fitting that he got to be the final wrestler with his hand raised in front of a capacity crowd on Saturday night. Taylor notched a takedown and built more than two minutes of riding time in the first period. He opened the second with an escape and a second takedown en route to a 5-0 lead after two. From there, the Nittany Lion was not going to be denied in a dominant 6-0 performance to cap off an undefeated season.
"I was up there four times. I lost twice. And it's hard. Winning the national championship, you gotta be ready to really wrestle, and I think I just developed some skills over the last four years," Taylor said. "You know, keep working. Had some experiences wrestling freestyle and getting some more patience with my offense and guys slowing me down. And tonight was a big night where I had to really focus on riding Caldwell and getting weight forward because he was really intent to try and get up to his feet an getting escapes. So there were some things that I had to do a little different tonight than I have in the past. So I just think I just matured a lot as a wrestler, as a person, and I just think a lot was just looking up to my coaches every day and having a guy like, obviously, Cael, who did what no one else could do."
Like Ruth, Taylor's list of accomplishments in Blue and White is far too long to do justice. Head coach Cael Sanderson said it best after the national title when he remarked that when picking a team of the college wrestling's all-time greats, he would not leave David Taylor off of his squad. Taylor is a rare talent in the sport. That coupled with his undying team-first attitude makes the Ohio native a once in a generation student-athlete for the Penn State program. He will finish as a two-time national champ, four-time Big Ten champ and a winner of 134 matches in his time at Penn State. The results are nothing short of remarkable.
"I'm not a historian or anything like that, but I wouldn't take anybody else on my team in the history of college wrestling over David Taylor," Sanderson said. "It's just the passion and the love and obviously the skill and everything that comes with him."
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