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A Letter From Casey Cunningham - March 25, 2011

Penn State Wrestling Fans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
It has been over a month since my last update and a lot has transpired since then.  I am sorry up front if this update goes all over the place because I have a lot on my mind but I will try to keep it in order as much as possible. It has been a pretty crazy month to say the least.  It got really busy around here as crunch time came so I did not get to give my thoughts from our last dual and the Big Ten Championships, which I am sure everybody is just dying to hear (jk), so I will briefly touch on those first before I talk about the NCAA Championship. 

Our last home match of the season against Wisconsin was probably our best overall dual meet team performance of the year.  We once again had a sold out crowd and our wrestlers really showed that they were making progress and were getting ready to perform at the Big Ten and National Tournaments.  The guys wrestled hard, even the two that lost, and were wrestling to score points for seven minutes.  Brad Pataky finished his Penn State career with a victory and Andrew Long had his biggest win of the year up to that point with a dominating performance.  Up and down the line up gave us a glimpse of what we were capable of at the Big Ten tournament.  I have to take a minute to briefly talk about Brad.  Brad is a great kid with a lot of heart which he poured into this program for six years.  He was badly injured before the season even started but he came through big when we needed his points.  Without Brad's points at the Big Ten Tournament we would not have won.  I am not sure how much I am allowed to comment on his injury but it was serious enough that most people would have had surgery and been done for the year, which he did this morning at 7:30am.  That is not Brad though he was not going to finish his senior year sitting on the side watching so we are very proud of him.

Heading into the Big Ten tournament we were confident if our guys wrestled to their ability and wanted it, as Coach Cael preaches, then we would win.  It took every single guy to make it happen.  It took James Vollrath's ten period overtime victory to get him into the top eight, where he got a fall for seventh place, Andrew Alton's battle through the toughest weight in the tournament to finish fifth,  to Cameron Wade's major decision in the fifth place match.  Along with these three we had five champions which was a school first and qualified eight to the NCAA tournament.  Our team won their first Big Ten Title in school history for wrestling.  There were many what if's on that weekend but they went our way this time.  Depending on the year the Big Ten tournament in a sense is a tougher tournament to win then the National Championship because of the limited number of teams. If you have guys who are not scoring points in the Big Ten Tourney then you will have a tough time winning because of the parity of the conference.  At the NCAA tournament if you have five or six guys scoring big points then you have a chance to win because there are so many teams with the points spread out.  Our guys did just that at the NCAA tournament by scoring big points.  To think that we had two freshman, two sophomores, and a junior in the top three of the NCAA tournament is great. We also had a true freshman in Andrew Alton and a junior in Cameron Wade in the round of 12. Andrew Long and Ed Ruth battled back from losses to score bonus points with pins and then take third to clinch the title.  What they did says a lot about the type of competitors they are.  Ed had been battling with a knee injury for the second half of the year and we ran out of injury time before the trainer could get his knee unlocked in his quarterfinal match.  Once they had it unlocked they taped it in place and really after testing it for one match that evening he wrestled three of his best matches of the season when it counted.  Mr. Consistent Frank Molinaro did what he has done all year and had a great tournament to finish second. He is now a three time All-American with an 8th, 5th, and 2nd place finish.  David Taylor another freshman along with Ed Ruth had an incredible season.  He had 34 bonus point victories and a 2nd place finish in the NCAA championship. He was Big Ten Freshman of the year and was named Big Ten Wrestler of the year.   He is going to be a fun one to watch in years to come because he is going to keep getting better.  He is a very driven young man.  Quentin Wright did what we all believed he could do and dominated his way through the NCAA tournament.  Quentin was 12-6 heading into the Big Ten tournament but finished with a 21-6 record and beat every guy that beat him during the year.  I think he got taken down one time in the Big Ten tournament and did not get taken down in the NCAA tournament.  It may have been a surprise to some what he did but Quentin made a choice to go take what he wanted and he got it.  The good news is all these guys are coming back!

We as a staff are excited that we got our first NCAA title and are going to enjoy it but like Coach Cael has stated we are not satisfied.  We are going to keep trying to push forward and accomplishing more.  Cael did something as a wrestler nobody else has done and so it makes sense that he believed this team could win a National Title this year when at the beginning of the year nobody believed Penn State would win.  I think our pre-season ranking was in the range of six to eight depending on the ranking.  I have heard several times that Cael finally got a team title but he has only been a head coach for five years and it is pretty remarkable what he has accomplished in that time.  His teams have finished 2nd, 5th, 3rd, 9th, and 1st   in the Nation.  He has won his respective conference four of the five years he has coached with last year being the exception.  His ISU teams won three Big Twelve titles which were all a first in school history since joining the conference.  This year's Penn State team won the Big Ten Title for the first time in school history.  In five years he has had 44 of a possible 50 NCAA qualifiers.  Cael has coached 3 National Champions, 9 NCAA finalists, and 23 All-Americans in five years.  He has been named National Coach of the year, Big Twelve coach of the year, and Big Ten coach of the year in his short career.  It is amazing what he has accomplished in a short time.  I would be remiss to mention that Cody Sanderson has been beside Cael from the time he started coaching and has had a huge impact to say the least.  Cody's influence is seen throughout the program.

Lastly I have to say the support we have received from our administration, our fans, and our financial supporters' has been incredible.  There is nowhere in the country like this place and we are fortunate to be a part of it.  Without the help of these people we would not be here today as the 2011 National Champions! 

We now move forward with getting ready for some freestyle tournaments, recruiting, and getting ready for next year.  It has been a fun year and we look forward to many more to come.  Thanks for the continued support.
 
GO LIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
2011 BIG TEN CHAMPIONS
 
2011 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
http://www.pennstatewrestlingclub.org/
http://www.pswrestlingcamps.com/




Tags: Andrew Alton, Brad Pataky, Cameron Wade, Cody Sanderson, David Taylor, Ed Ruth, Frank Molinaro, James Vollrath, Quentin Wright


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