Nittany Lion Freshmen Wright and Molinaro Join Ranks of Penn State Wrestling All-Americans
March 20, 2009
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Nittany Lion head coach Troy Sunderland welcomed two freshmen All-Americans into the Penn State fold as red-shirt freshman Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.) and true freshmen Quentin Wright (Wingate, Pa.) became Penn State's 162nd and 163rd All-Americans. As the future of Penn State wrestling flexed its muscle, two Penn State veteran All-Americans had their repeat hopes dashed in differing styles.
Molinaro cinched his All-American laurels with a resounding 10-6 win over #12 Drew Lashaway of Kent State at 141. Wright followed with a hard-fought 4-3 win over Indiana's Trevor Perry at 174 to become the first Penn State true freshman All-American since 1998. Each wrestler moved on to the consolation quarterfinals where they each faced their weight's second seed. Molinaro dropped a hard fought 8-6 decision to #2 Kyle Ruschell of Wisconsin and will wrestle for seventh place tomorrow morning. Wright, however, hammered the #2 seed, Michael Cannon of American 10-6. He will face #5 Raymond Jordan of Missouri in the consolation semifinals tomorrow morning.
For senior All-American Jake Strayer, however, the end of his career was decided not by an opponent, but by an official's judgment call. Strayer was beating #8 Joe Baker of Navy and riding the Midshipmen for nearly a minute when the Navy corner asked for an illegal hold as Strayer worked from the top position. The official awarded the corner the call and then Baker's corner decided the injured wrestler could not continue. In the official's judgment, Strayer's move was intentionally dangerous and Baker was awarded the victory. The stunning decision ended Strayer's career one win shy of becoming a repeat All-American.
Junior All-American Dan Vallimont (Lake Hopatcong, N.J.) dropped a 5-2 decision to Andrew Rendos of Bucknell, finishing one win shy of repeating as an All-American. The third place finisher at 157 last year, Vallimont made the move up to 165 midway through this season but could not break through the final barrier here in St. Louis.
The tournament continues on Saturday with sessions at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday's Medal Round begins at 10:30 a.m. and will air live on ESPNU HD and ESPN 360. Tomorrow night's National Finals begin at 6:30 p.m. and will air live on ESPN HD and ESPN 360.
BOUT BY BOUT:
133: Senior All-American Jake Strayer (South Fork, Pa.), the #10 seed at 133, met #8 Joe Baker of Navy in the `round of 12', needing one win to become an All-American. Strayer and Baker battled evenly for the first minute, then Strayer gained control of Baker's leg and worked his way for a go ahead takedown at the :56 mark, pulling the Midshipmen onto the mat to finish the takedown. After Strayer rode Baker for :37 and was riding him on top with his foot pinned into his thigh, the Navy bench asked for an illegal hold and the official awarded it to Navy. With Strayer leading and in control, Baker's corner decided that he could not continue. The official then made the singular solo judgment call to award the match to Baker on an intentionally illegal hold, stunning the crowd and taking the win from Strayer, handing it to the Navy wrestler. Penn State head coach Troy Sunderland and his staff immediately made moves to protest the official's decision (doling out the most severe punishment for the situation), but the tournament's protest committee informed the Penn State mentor that he was not allowed to protest an `officials judgment call'. The stunning official's decision immediately ended Strayer's tournament, season and career. The 2007 All-American went 2-2 at the tournament and ends his senior year with an 18-10 mark. He leaves Penn State with an 82-29 record.
141: Red-shirt freshman Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.), unseeded at 141 but making a nice run in his first national tournament, met #12 Drew Lashaway of Kent State in the `round of 12', looking to become an All-American with one more win. Molinaro broke out to a quick 6-0 lead with a strong double-leg and a four point near fall (getting three back points and an extra point as Lashaway asked for injury time). Lashaway got a takedown midway through the period and cut the lead to 7-2 after a Molinaro escape. The Lion freshmen then fought off one final Lashaway effort and carried the 7-2 lead (with :49 in riding time) into the second stanza. Molinaro chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to an 8-2 lead. He then got in on a single leg and worked for another takedown, but Lashaway forced a stalemate with 1:15 left in the period. Lashaway added a takedown with :25 left to cut Molinaro's lead to 8-4 and then the Nittany Lion freshmen managed an escape with just :03 left to up his lead to 9-4. Lashaway chose down to start the final period and reversed Molinaro. He then cut the Lion loose to a 10-6 lead with 1:30 left. Molinaro continued to be the aggressor, though, shooting relentlessly and nearly notching two more takedowns with solid double legs. Lashaway was able to keep from giving up another score, but Molinaro's offensive pressure allowed the Nittany Lion to walk away with a 10-6 win and become Penn State's newest All-American. His win moves him into the consolation quarterfinals tonight, where he will meet #2 seed Zach Tanelli of Wisconsin. He also becomes the second Penn State wild card in two years to earn All-America status, following in the footsteps of Mark McKnight, who took fourth at 125 last season as a wild card.
In the match with Tanelli, Molinaro notched an early takedown and put together a strong ride, keeping Ruschell down for :47 before the Badger escaped to a 2-1 deficit. Molinaro and Ruschell then battled evenly for the rest of the period and the new Nittany Lion All-American led 2-1 after a hard-fought first period. Tanelli chose down to start the second period but could note escape to a 2-2 tie until Molinaro had worked up a 1:17 riding time edge. With 1:20 left, Tanelli escaped and action returned to the center circle. Molinaro was the aggressor in the second period, but Tanelli used a quick low double to take a 4-2 lead with a takedown at the :42 mark. The second seeded Badger then rode Molinaro out to lead 4-2 heading into the final period. Molinaro chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 4-3 deficit. Needing another takedown, Molinaro got in deep on a high single and tried to grab Tanelli's other foot. But the Badger was able to roll Molinaro out of bounds and force a reset. He then added another takedown to up his lead to 6-3 midway through the third period. Molinaro escaped to a 6-4 deficit with :20 left and frantically tired to complete a throw. But his arms slipped through Tanelli and he fell, allowing Tanelli to get a late takedown. Ruschell gave up a penalty point for scraping Molinaro's face and an escape, but the 8-6 loss sends Molinaro to the seventh place bout tomorrow morning. Molinaro will take on #1 Kellen Russell of Michigan.
165: Junior Dan Vallimont (Lake Hopatcong, N.J.), unseeded at 165, took on Bucknell's Andrew Rendos in his `round of 12' match-up, needing one more win to become a two-time All-American. The duo battled evenly for two minutes and then Vallimont gained control of Rendos' left ankle and worked furiously to pull the fleeing Bison into the circle and get a takedown. But Rendos was able to keep his body out of bounds and the first period ended scoreless. Rendos chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead. He then looked to use a single leg to get the bout's first takedown, but Vallimont countered and grabbed the Bison's left ankle again. But once again, Rendos was able to crawl off the mat and force a reset with 1:06 left in the period. After a reset, Vallimont got in on a high single and worked for a takedown. As the period ended, Rendos worked his way out of Vallimont's grasp and moved behind the Nittany Lion for a takedown as the period ended. Trailing 3-0, Vallimont chose down to begin the final period. But the Lion could never break free of a strong Rendos ride until just :13 remained in the match. Rendos gave up one takedown but Vallimont had no more time and dropped a 5-2 decision, ending his tournament and season in the `round of 12'.
174: True freshman Quentin Wright (Wingate, Pa.), the #11 seed at 174, took to the mat in the `round of 12' to take on Indiana's Trevor Perry, looking to become an All-American as a true freshman. Wright wasted no time in using a quick double leg to take Perry down and lead 2-0 at the 2:35 mark. Perry escaped to cut the lead to 2-1 and action resumed in the center circle. Neither wrestler managed another scoring chance over the next two-plus minutes. Wright led 2-1 after one period. The Nittany Lion freshmen chose down to start the second stanza and quickly escaped to a 3-1 lead. He continued to pressure Perry for the second period and held that 3-1 lead after 5:00 of wrestling. Perry chose down to star the third period, but Wright was able to maintain a solid ride, building up a 1:12 riding time edge before Perry escaped to a 3-2 deficit at the 1:12 mark. Wright tried a couple high throws but Perry blocked them off. But by remaining the aggressor, Wright was able to work the clock down to below :30 before he began to play defense. Wright gave up one stall point to briefly tie the score at 3-3 with :03 left. But the riding time point allowed Wright to claim a hard-fought 4-3 win and become a true freshman All-American. Wright moved on to the consolation quarterfinals where he was to meet #2 Michael Cannon of American.
Against Cannon, Wright bolted out of the gates, catching Cannon by the shoulders and tossing him to the mat and nearly pinning him right out of the gates. But the second-seeded American grappler fought off the pin but Wright still led 4-0 (getting two near fall points). Cannon escaped quickly after the flurry finished and Wright led 4-1. Wright kept the pressure in Cannon's face and used a fast power double to get a second takedown and move out to a 6-1 lead with :25 left in the opening period. Cannon escaped and the Lion rookie then fought off a late Cannon shot and led 6-2 after one period. Wright chose down to start the second stanza and quickly escaped to a 7-2 lead. With :40 left, Wright exploded through Cannon's legs with another power double and moved out to a 9-2 lead. Cannon escaped at the :31 mark to cut the lead to 9-3, but Wright continued his offensive pressure, not allowing the Eagles to threaten him for the rest of the period. Trailing 9-3, Cannon chose down to start the final period and quickly escaped to a 9-4 deficit. Cannon finally gained control of Wright's leg and pulled the Lion in for a takedown with :45 left, cutting Wright's lead to 9-7 after cutting him loose. But Wright was relentless, continuing to shoot and counter. Wright's solid wrestling led the Nittany Lion to a 10-6 win and sends him into tomorrow morning's consolation semifinals against #5 Raymond Jordan of Missouri.
2009 NCAA Wrestling Championships