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March 15, 2012

Defending champion Penn State has lead after Day 1

ST. LOUIS — Defending champion Penn State got two pins each from top seeds David Taylor and Ed Ruth and had the lead over Minnesota after the first two rounds of the NCAA wrestling tournament on Thursday night.

Penn State advanced seven of its nine entrants to the quarterfinals of the championship bracket, including a trio of unbeaten No. 1 seeds. Combined, the 157-pound Taylor, 174-pound Ruth and 149-pound Frank Molinaro, who survived a 6-5 squeaker over Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State, are 90-0.

Penn State had 38 1/2 points, followed by Minnesota with 33, Oklahoma State with 28 1/2, Cornell with 27 1/2 and Iowa, in fifth with 26 points, has championship bracket qualifiers.

Molinaro and Taylor were national runner-ups last year, Taylor at 157 pounds, and Ruth was third.

“It was a good day,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “You always want more, but the guys wrestled well. Tomorrow’s when you start scoring points, so we need to be ready and just have some fun tomorrow and get after it.”

Minnesota qualified eight for the quarterfinals, led by a pair of No. 2 seeds in Zachary Sanders at 125 and Anthony Nelson at 285. Kevin Steinhaus has a 21-match win streak at 184. Penn State and Minnesota finished 1-2 at the Big Ten meet on March 4.

“Great job, great day,” coach J Robinson said. “The guys are wrestling with a lot of intensity, and the best part is they’re feeding off one another.”

Cornell has a pair of top seeds remaining, Kyle Dake at 157 and Cam Simaz at 197. Dake, a junior seeking his third title in three weight classes, had a pair of pins in just 2:43.

Top-seeded heavyweight Ryan Flores of American had three pins on the first day in a combined 12:20.

Dake’s combined time was fastest among six wrestlers with two pins, including three at 133 pounds — Bernard Futreel of Illinois, Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State and Logan Steiber of Ohio State.

Penn State’s Ruth sported a novel look with half his hair dyed green and the other half black. The look has morphed over about a month beginning at teal, with colors bleeding into his helmet.

“When you come to a tournament like this, the main thing coach says is to go out and have fun. Not worry about stuff,” Ruth said. “Some of our guys have had tough matches, but they’re still pulling off the wins.”

Missouri 184-pounder Mike Larson has a Mohawk, and coach Brian Smith promised after the Tigers won the Big 12 that Larson can give him a Mohawk, too.

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