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PHILADELPHIA -- Ed Ruth's hand was raised after defeating Mack Lewnes of Cornell for third place at 174 pounds, and Penn State coach Cael Sanderson let out a beaming smile as the Nittany Lions clinched the team championship.
|Cael Sanderson earned his first national championship as a head coach.|
With the completion of the medal round Saturday morning at the Wells Fargo Center, Penn State was ahead of second-place Cornell 103.5-89.5. And with only one finalist in Saturday night's championship round, it is mathematically impossible for the Big Red to overtake the Nittany Lions.
Three-time defending champion Iowa was still in a position to sneak up and contend for the title, but the Hawkeyes were penalized two team points when No. 5 Montell Marion threw his headgear in a loss for third place at 141 pounds. Coach Tom Brands earned the other point for failure to control himself on the mat for the third time.
Cornell could not recover after a rough semifinal round Friday, fading in the medal round with Lewnes losing and No. 3 Steve Bosak falling in his third-place match at 184 pounds.
The focus now turns to individual championships, as 20 wrestlers look to add their names to the NCAA record book in Saturday night's championship matches.
Penn State leads the way with a tournament-best three finalists in No. 2 Frank Molinaro (149 pounds), No. 3 David Taylor (157 pounds) and No. 9 Quentin Wright (197 pounds).
Molinaro will take on Cornell's Kyle Dake. Dake was an national champion as a freshman last season and has not been scored on yet in this tournament.
The stakes will be raised for Taylor, who is looking to become the first freshman to go undefeated in the modern era since Sanderson did it for Iowa State in 1999. He will wrestle former Penn State standout Bubba Jenkins, who was a national runner-up in 2008 before transferring to Arizona State.
Wright has taken the tournament by storm. The lowest seeded wrestler competing in the finals will face Lehigh's second-seeded Robert Hamlin.
At 125 pounds, defending champion Matt McDonough of Iowa will tangle with Arizona State's top-seeded Anthony Robles. Robles was born without one of his legs, but the senior is one of the most skilled wrestlers in the country.
Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver looks to polish off an unbeaten season when he takes on No. 2 Andrew Hochstrasser of Boise State at 133 pounds. Oliver has defeated Hochstrasser twice this season.
Another undefeated grappler will try to punch his ticket to the top spot on the podium at 141 pounds. Michigan's Kellen Russell has had many close matches, but is yet to drop one this season. He will get a test from No. 3 Boris Novachkov of Cal Poly.
Nebraska could witness history when top-seeded and undefeated Jordan Burroughs looks for his second national championship. The senior has dominated throughout the tournament and will look to become the Cornhuskers' first two-time NCAA champion in wrestling. Burroughs takes on No. 3 Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma.
A year ago Iowa State's Jon Reader saw his season come to a disappointing end with an early exit and no spot on the podium. This season, the now three-time All-American is undefeated and into his first final against Stanford's red-hot Nick Amuchastegui.
The final wrestler looking to notch an undefeated season is Oklahoma State's Clayton Foster. The Cowboy will face No. 4 Dustin Kilgore of Kent State at 197 pounds.
Rounding out the final title of the night will be the heavyweight battle between No. 1 Zach Rey of Lehigh and No. 3 Ryan Flores of American. Rey is 2-1 against the American big man, with his lone loss of the season coming to Flores in their last meeting.
Championship coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
Jason McDonnell is covering the NCAA wrestling championships for ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile. Follow along on your mobile device here.