There were no sisters to kiss. There wasn't even a tie, but Penn State left McKenzie Arena and the 11th annual Southern Scuffle with mixed emotions Thursday.
The top-ranked Nittany Lions pretty much had their fourth Scuffle team title locked up before the medal rounds, but wrestling's ominous and often fickle finger of fate dealt them a serious blow and also left them with just two champions: Zain Retherford at 141 pounds and David Taylor at 165.
Cael Sanderson's group scored a near-record 189 points to outdistance second-place Oklahoma State by 24.5 points while Minnesota, the only other club within striking distance, managed 161. Corell was fourth with 114.5 and Missouri rounded out the top five with 102.5.
However, Penn State 184-pounder Ed Ruth, a two-time NCAA champion seeking his fourth Scuffle title, was upended by Cornell freshman Gabe Dean, 7-4.
Ruth, a crowd favorite, was seeking to join Cornell's Kyle Dakes (2010-13) and Minnesota's Cole Conrad (2003-06) as a four-time Scuffle champion. In his four-match run to the finals, the top-seeded Ruth posted three pins (two in the first period) and a 23-7 semifinal technical fall.
However, Dean, named the tournament's outstanding wrestler, had his number from the outset and never trailed on the way to the win. It was the second big victory of the tournament for the Cornell lad, who knocked off second-seeded Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota 3-2 in Thursday afternoon's semifinals.
Still, the two-day event belonged to Penn State, which entered the medal rounds just 1.5 points shy of its 2013 tournament-winning total of 178.5. The Lions' tournament-final 189 points was just three shy of Minnesota's tournament record of 192 scored in 2005.
Of the 17 wrestlers PSU brought, all but four were in the medals.
"I thought our guys did a really good job in the semifinals. Those were some big matchups," Sanderson said. "Our guys had been wrestling well and we wanted to finish strong. We can still take this back and make some progress. This is a big tournament so, yeah, it means something to win the championship. Coming in we knew this was going to be a tough tournament.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had one medalist in 133-pound Nick Soto, who finished fourth. The Mocs placed 16th in the team race.
The tournament continues to grow and set four straight session attendance records topped by Thursday night's 3,436.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...