CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – After one day of competition at the 2014 Southern Scuffle, as expected, the big dogs lead the pack inside McKenzie Arena.
In search of a fourth consecutive Southern Scuffle team title, Penn State totaled 53 points. Minnesota, three-time Scuffle kings, lead their Big Ten rivals by ½ point. Oklahoma State, runner-up to the Nittany Lions at last year’s Scuffle and the NCAA Championships, finished with 50 ½ points.
Fourth place Cornell sits 10 ½ points behind the Cowboys, along with the rest of the pack who will most likely be watching a three-horse race when the quarterfinals kick off Thursday morning at 9 a.m. (EST).
With dual victories over Iowa and Ohio State without Andrew and Dylan Alton, both not in the lineup again this week, the Nittany Lions continue to impress. The usual cast of characters rolled into the quarterfinals – NCAA finalists Nico Megaludis (125), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), and Ed Ruth (184) – but so did eight others, including talented true freshman 141-pounder Zain Retherford.
Ruth, in search of a fourth Scuffle championship, improved to 116-2 for his career with a pair of easy victories. Likewise for Taylor, who picked up bonus point wins number 106 and 107 in 114 career bouts. Only Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Minnesota’s Kole Conrad have claimed four Scuffle individual titles.
Five PSU wrestlers will take perfect records into the second day of wrestling, which promises to include plenty of heavy-hitting matches.
J Robinson’s Gophers had their usual steady tournament performance, pushing nine into the quarterfinals. Two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson had three pins at heavyweight; Dylan Ness added a pair of falls at 157, while both Dardanes twins, Chris seeded first at 141 and Nick the top seed at 149, each adding at least one bonus point victory. Brett Pfarr joined teammate Kevin Steinhaus in the 184-pound final eight.
Oklahoma State, making its second appearance in the tournament’s 11th year, advanced eight into the quarters, led by 2013 NCAA champion Chris Perry at 174, who beat Minnesota’s Logan Storley in the Scuffle final last season. Perry had a pin and technical fall, leading a solid day with 157-pounder Alex Dieringer, who had a pin and two technical falls, and top-seeded 133-pounder Jon Morrison, who remained unbeaten with a pin, a major, and a decision to open defense of a title he won a year ago. Dieringer suffered one of his three career losses at this event in 2013.
Cornell pushed five into the final eight, losing All-American Mike Nevinger on Day 1 at 141 pounds.
Through the first two rounds, surprises were few and far between. The highest seed to fall was fourth-seeded John Eblen of Missouri, who dropped a 5-4 decision to Penn State’s Matt McCutcheon at 184 pounds. Another Penn State roster member, Zachary Beitz, easily dispatched Oregon State All-American Scott Sakaguchi, 10-4, in a tough 149-pound bracket. McCutcheon and Beitz each won Round of 16 bouts as well and will wrestle in the quarterfinals.
Central Michigan rookie Corey Keener, seeded fourth at 125 pounds, trailed Oklahoma State’s Tyler Dorrell, 9-6, with 25 seconds left, but rallied to win 11-9 in overtime in a second-round bout.
Teams are allowed to enter as many as five extra wrestlers in the tournament.
For the large group not including Minnesota, Penn State, and Oklahoma State, it might require all fifteen entries to keep pace on Thursday. For the three alpha dogs, the game is on in the morning.
Southern Scuffle Brackets on Track Wrestling
Southern Scuffle live webcast on Flowrestling
Southern Scuffle Top Ten Team Standings – Day One
1. Minnesota, 53.5
2. Penn State, 53.0
3. Oklahoma State, 50.5
4. Cornell, 40.0
5. Iowa State, 39.5
6. Missouri, 35.5
7. Virginia, 33.5
8. Kent State, 31.0
9. Oregon State, 28.5
10. Air Force, 28.0