Defending NCAA team champs Penn State claimed their fourth straight crown at the 2014 Southern Scuffle at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Thursday night, but not without Nittany Lion mat star Ed Ruth upset by Cornell University freshman Gabe Dean in the 184-pound finals.
Penn State left the two-day tournament with 189 team points, topping second-place Oklahoma State with 164.5 points. Close behind in third place with 161.5 points was University of Minnesota. Rounding out the top five teams: Cornell with 114.5 points, and University of Missouri, 102.5.
The Nitany Lions put six wrestlers in the finals. Two came out as Scuffle champs: Zain Retherford at 141 pounds, and David Taylor at 165. By contrast, Oklahoma State had four finalists; three – Jon Morrison at 133, Alex Dieringer at 157, and, at 174, Chris Perry -- won individual titles.
Minnesota made its mark in the two biggest weight classes. The Gophers had three in the finals, with Scott Schiller and Tony Nelson crowned champs at 197 and heavyweight, respectively.
Two Cornell wrestlers competed in the finals; both left the mat with titles. In addition to Dean at 184, Nahshon Garrett was the 125-pound champ for the Big Red.
Fifth-place Missouri’s one finalist, Drake Houdashelt, won the 149 title by pinning his Minnesota opponent in the finals.
Two defending champs – Oklahoma State’s Morrison and Perry – held onto their Southern Scuffle crowns… while two other 2013 titlewinners – Penn State’s Ruth, and teammate Nico Megaludis – lost in the finals.
Dean stuns Ruth
Arguably the biggest bout in the two-day Southern Scuffle was the 184-pound finals, featuring two-time NCAA champ Ed Ruth, seeking to become a four-time Scuffle champ. However, Cornell freshman Gabe Dean had other plans.
Dean, who had been pinned by Ruth in the finals at the Binghamton Tournament in New York in November, avenged that loss with a 7-4 win, snapping the Penn State senior’s 84-match win streak that went all the way back to his freshman year. It was only the third collegiate loss for Ruth.
Here's how the official Cornell wrestling website described the Dean-Ruth finals:
"Dean went right after Ruth from the opening whistle. Had a near takedown on a deep shot, followed up by another deep single that he was able to finish for a 2-0 lead. Ruth got a takedown but Gabe escaped. Ruth ended up with a ride time advantage before Dean could escape in the second, but Dean rode strong to start the third and got Ruth's ride time under a minute. The Nittany Lion was able to escape to get within one and with everyone in the building expecting a Ruth takedown to get the lead, Dean remained the aggressor and took down Ruth for a 7-4 lead that ended up being the final."
For his success at the Scuffle, Dean was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.
“How fun is this? It doesn’t get any better than having this opportunity presenting itself,” Dean said. “I just wanted to go after him for seven minutes. If he pinned me, he pinned me. If he technical falled me, he falled me, if he beat me, he beat me. But I was going to go after him for seven minutes.”
“What you try to do is to go into every match against every opponent and make sure that that opponent remembers how hard you went after him,” Dean said. “That’s what I did yesterday.”
“I have to give credit to Ed Ruth, what a great opponent he is, and the Penn State fans … they make this event really fun,” continued Dean, a native of Lowell, Mich. “All you can do is wrestle for seven minutes. If you do that winning and losing will take care of itself.”
Continued growth for Scuffle
The 2014 Southern Scuffle smashed previous attendance records, with 6,330 fans attending the two-day event (nearly 1,000 more than the 2013 edition), and a new single-day attendance record of 3,436 for Day 2.
“I think things are bigger and better,” said UTC head coach – and event host -- Heath Eslinger.
However, some think the event may have to go to a three-day format… or limit the number of participants.
“This (tournament) continues to grow,” said Eslinger. “What we don’t want is to have guys taking medical forfeits in medal matches, that is not what the fans want to see. But it is understandable after a guy wrestles six, seven, eight matches over two days. (Thursday) is longer than any NCAA Tournament day, so it is one of the things we have to look at. This thing is about the student-athletes and the fans, not about the coaches, so we have to do what is best for them. What we don’t want to do is wrestle late into the night. We learn new things every year and will try to make sure it continues to improve.”
- 125: Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) dec. Nico Megaludis (Penn State), 6-4
- 133: Jon Morrison (Oklahoma State) dec. James Gulibon (Penn State), 4-0
- 141: Zain Retherford (Penn State) dec. Joseph Spisak (Virginia), 6-4 SV-1
- 149: Drake Houdashelt (Missouri) pinned Nick Dardanes (Minnesota), 2:53
- 157: Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) dec. Ian Miller (Kent State), 2-1 TB-1
- 165: David Taylor (Penn State) maj. dec. Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State), 9-1
- 174: Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) dec. Matt Brown (Penn State), 4-0
- 184: Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. Ed Ruth (Penn State), 7-4
- 197: Scott Schiller (Minnesota) dec. Kyven Gadson (Iowa State), 6-3
- Hwt: Tony Nelson (Minnesota) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State), 1-0
Final Team Standings (Top Ten)
- Penn State, 189 team points
- Oklahoma State, 164.5
- Minnesota, 161
- Cornell, 114.5
- Missouri, 102.5
- Virginia, 89
- Kent State, 73.5
- Iowa State, 71.5
- Oregon State, 60
- Old Dominion, 58.5
Want to know more? For complete final brackets and team standings, click here. To get individual team perspectives, read the recaps from the Penn State wrestling website… Oklahoma State… Minnesota… Cornell… and host school UTC. For a big-picture perspective, check out Roger Moore’s recap for TheMat.com.
Want to see more? Check out Flowrestling.org's video of the Gabe Dean-Ed Ruth match... and Robert Findley's photos of the 2014 Southern Scuffle on Facebook.
Ring out the old year... Check out College Wrestling Examiner's list Top Ten Stories of 2013.
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