Posting 16 pins through the quarterfinals was enough to give Penn State the lead after the first day of the Southern Scuffle wrestling tournament.
The Nittany Lions, co-defending tournament champions with Cornell and defending national champions, had 188 points to 110.5 for Minnesota and 81 for third-place Missouri, which was two points ahead of Cornell. Oregon State rounded out the top five with 62.5 points.
The host University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs were in ninth place with 45 points, four less that fellow Southern Conference member Appalachian State.
Minnesota had 12 pins, a difference of eight team points, and the Golden Gophers -- ranked No. 3 and two notches ahead of Penn State in the latest NWCA poll -- let at least one opportunity slip through their fingers. Second-seeded Kevin Steinhaus was upset at 184 pounds by Navy's Luke Rebertus.
There were three major bracket-busters -- Nick Arujau, Nick Soto of UTC, and Minnesota's Chris Dardanes -- all in the 133-pound weight class.
Arujau is wrestling unattached but he is should bolster Cornell's team strength once the school begins its next semester. The former two-time state champ from New York got a bye and a forfeit to the round of 16 and then knocked off third-seed Garrett Drucker of Oregon State before earning a 3-0 decision over Campbell's Tanner Biedenspach. He will face Dardanes in the semis. Dardanes bested No. 2 seed Aaron Kali of Navy 5-3 in the quarters.
Soto (12-5) reached the semifinals with an 8-5 victory over Hofstra's Jamie Franco, the No. 4 seed in the 133-pound weight class.
"I got myself together before the match and went out there with the idea of hitting what [moves] I could hit," the true freshman said. "I always want to be on the attack."
He wasn't getting carried away, though, with his first-day showing.
"Everybody is hyping the tournament, and it is a tough, tough tournament, but it isn't like I've had to wrestle [Cornell 157-pounder] Kyle Dake," Soto said.
He got a takedown for the early lead and a takedown late, coupled with a riding time point, for the victory. His opponent this morning will be Minnesota's top-seeded David Thorn, who won by technical fall (3:20) over Virginia's Joe Martinez. A sophomore, Thorn is currently ranked No. 5 nationally.
"The reality is that although he is a freshman, Nick is one of the pillars of our program," Mocs assistant Rocco Mansueto said. "His training mirrors the way he competes and he always has a plan."
Soto was the only Moc to reach this morning's semifinals, which begin at 11. There is a consolation round that starts at 9. Gates open at 8 a.m. The Mocs will have four wrestlers going there -- Dean Pavlou (149), Dan Waddell (157), Brandon Wright (165) and Niko Brown (197) -- after each lost his quarterfinal match.
"I thought we had a good day," Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said. "We had some missed opportunities, and you can't miss those in a tournament like this. I think we have some guys with regrets, but we need to get five [medalists]. We need to eat, sleep and breathe opportunity."
Official attendance was listed at 2,210.
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 ...