PHILADELPHIA - After one long day of wrestling, there is a team on a mission and you can find them wearing blue and white singlets.
Going into the tournament, Penn State was one of the favorites to battle for the team title and a national championship and the Lions didn't disappoint at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.
In the first day of competition, the Lions combined for an outstanding effort that saw them win 15 of 16 bouts to take the lead in the race for the team title.
The Lions took their only hit of the day at 125 when Brad Pataky fell 13-7 to Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech, but that is when the Lions roared back to put together a string of 15 straight wins.
Andrew Long started the streak for the Lions with a solid 8-1 win over Casey Cruz of Northern Colorado and Andrew Alton followed with one of his specialties, a fall in 2:20 over Anwar Goeres of Binghamton.
Alton and Goeres were locked up in a close bout when the former Central Mountain standout powered Goeres to his back to pick up the fall.
Two-time All-American Frank Molinaro made it three wins in a row for the Lions as he dominated Zac Cibula of Rider for a 9-0 major decision at 149, setting the stage for unbeaten David Taylor. Hooked up with the Big 12 champion Robert Erisman of Oklahoma State, Taylor broke open a close 4-2 bout by scoring the final nine points of the match en route to a dominating 13-2 major decision.
Ed Ruth made it five wins in a row for the Nits and he didn't waste any time getting it done. Ruth worked a go-behind and slipped it into a cradle for a fall in just 24 seconds over Royal Brettrager of Liberty.
Quentin Wright kept the Nittany Lion caravan rolling along at 184 as he proved to be too much for Jon Fausey in neutral position. Wright used three takedowns, an escape and time point for an 8-4 decision over Fausey before Cameron Wade completed the PSU sweep with a solid 9-2 win over Ricardo Alcala of Indiana. After going 7-for-8 in the opening round, the Lions came back with a perfect 7-for-7 effort in the Round of 16.
Picking up wins in the championship Round of 16 again were Long, Alton, Molinaro, Taylor, Ruth, Wright and Wade.
Long gutted it out to come out on top of Minnesota's David Thorn 7-5 in sudden victory, while Alton followed with a solid 13-4 major decision over Matt Moracher of American University. Molinaro followed Alton's win by doubling up on Derek Valenti of Virginia for a 6-3 win before Taylor mauled David Bonin of Northern Iowa by a score of 21-3 in 5:49.
Ruth was a pair better than Scott Glasser of Minnesota for a 5-3 win, Wright reversed a lopsided loss in the dual meet when he manhandled Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota for an 8-4 win and Wade completed the second session perfecto for the Lions with a 4-1 win over Anthony Nelson of Minnesota.
"I dreamed about it, but at the time, I didn't think it was going to happen," Wright said. "I just kept dreaming, being positive about everything and I never gave up hope."
After suffering an opening round loss, Pataky bounced back to stay alive in the consolation bracket with a 6-1 win over Jason Lara of Oregon State.
Three Mifflin County natives competed in the field as well: Matt Snyder (Virginia), Nik Bedelyon (Kent State) and Matt Bonson (Lock Haven).
Bedelyon started his tournament strong as he was all over Garrett Frey of Princeton for a 16-5 major decision in the championship Round of 32. The Indian Valley product put forth an even stronger effort in his second outing as he slicked Frank Perrelli of Cornell for a takedown and in one motion, cradled Perrelli for the quick in 2:30 of their bout.
In the quarterfinals, Bedelyon will meet third-seeded Brandon Percin of Northwestern.
Bonson was Lock Haven's lone representative in the tournament and he had a good opening round. Bonson had to wait a little longer than usual to take to the mat when his opponent was the survivor of a pigtail bout, but the wait was well worth the extra time as Bonson was hooked up in a wild-and-wooly bout with Boise State's Levi Jones.
With Jones in control, Bonson attempted to sit and turn, and when he did, he caught Jones on his back, with Jones in control, and was awarded the fall at the 3:31 mark of their bout.
In the Round of 16, Bonson was paired with Borislav Novachov of Cal Poly and fell back into the consolation bracket with a 4-2 loss.
"A lot of the time, that is the way Matt wrestles," Lock Haven coach Robbie Waller said. "At times he is so unpredictable and it played into his favor. In his match against Novachov who is a returning All-American, he just didn't create the offense. He didn't wrestle his match and he has to get back to doing that tomorrow because it is kind of a do-or-die situation. If he wants to get on the podium Saturday, he is going to have to get through the blood rounds tomorrow."
Snyder had the misfortune of starting his tournament by facing top-seeded Anthony Robles of Arizona State, where he dropped a 16-1 technical fall in 4:41. In his first action in the consolations, Snyder was a 5-4 winner over Shane Young of West Virginia to stay alive for a possible medal.