Ed Ruth has been one of the nation’s most dominant stars this season, posting seven pins and averaging 13 points in his 12 bouts that didn’t end with an opponent on his back.
And the nation’s top-ranked 184-pounder isn’t even the highest-scoring wrestler on his team.
David Taylor has scored bonus points in all of his matches except a 3-2 loss to three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake of Cornell. The 2012 Hodge Trophy winner has eight pins, and he scored 180 points in his other 10 bouts.
Quentin Wright is tied for second in Penn State history with 34 career falls, and yet he’s not even the leader in pins this season for the Nittany Lions. That distinction belongs to sophomore Andrew Alton, who returned Sunday from a one-month suspension after pinning 10 of his first 17 opponents.
This isn’t a Penn State squad that scores one takedown and goes into a shell to protect a lead.
Cael Sanderson and the top-ranked Nittany Lions come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena Friday with a high-scoring crew that has earned Iowa’s respect.
“People like seeing exciting wrestling, and they have a lot of exciting wrestlers,” said 133-pounder Tony Ramos, one of Iowa’s highest-scoring stars. “They’re not hurting the sport at all. They don’t have boring matches, they don’t have one-point matches, so as a fan, for growth of the sport, they’re going to help …
“We respect them for that, but this is one of those things where we want to take everything from them. You want to go in there and do the best you can and beat them up as much as you can.”
The third-ranked Hawkeyes (15-1, 5-0 Big Ten) are trying to take the Big Ten dual crown from the Nittany Lions (8-0, 5-0). A win tonight would give Iowa sole possession of the league lead.
“It’s not something we’re really thinking about, but it’s a title, it’s a trophy and something that’s along the way in the process and you want to win everything, so it is a big deal,” Ramos said. “You don’t want to see anyone else getting the hardware.”
The Hawkeyes have seen enough of Penn State wrestlers and coaches wrapping their hands around title trophies in recent years. The Nittany Lions nipped Iowa by one point for the Big Ten title in 2011 in the closest team finish in meet history and haven’t lost a postseason tournament since.
Taylor and Ruth capped undefeated seasons with NCAA titles last year. Wright, a 2011 NCAA champ, and Nico Megaludis lost in the national finals last year.
Iowa’s Matt McDonough topped Megaludis 4-1 for the 125-pound title. McDonough is one of five Hawkeyes who are favored on paper. A sixth, No. 6 Mike Evans, is slated to take on No. 4 Matt Brown at 174.
“We have some good guys and I’ll speak for them: I think they’re up for it,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “But talking about it and doing it are two different things.”
Iowa announced Thursday that fewer than 1,000 tickets were available for the dual.
“Is that an advantage?” Brands said when asked about the home crowd. “If you make it an advantage and you wrestle hard and you bring the fight and you anchor things that need to be anchored when you’re on the fence there and make them go your way, then of course it favors you. But more than anything, let’s give our fans a reason to get excited. … Let’s give them some top-dollar entertainment.”