A stirring run at the NCAA wrestling championships last March earned Nico Megaludis a second-place finish at 125 pounds, and he became Penn State’s first true freshman to collect All-American honors since Quentin Wright in 2009.
But when the Franklin Regional graduate reflects on his first NCAA Tournament, he doesn’t focus on what he accomplished in St. Louis.
“It makes me realize that I don’t want to stand on that second-place podium,” Megaludis said. “I know when I go out on my ‘A’ game, I can beat anyone, and I just have to do it for five matches.”
Megaludis will try to cap his sophomore season with the five wins that would place him alongside teammates David Taylor (2012), Ed Ruth (’12) and Wright (’11) as an individual national champion. The Murrysville resident is also one of 10 Nittany Lions wrestlers who will try to help Penn State win a third consecutive team championship. The tournament starts Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, and runs through Saturday.
Megaludis (24-3) is the No. 4 seed at 125 pounds after finishing third at the Big Ten championship.
Big Ten champ Jesse Delgado of Illinois and Matt McDonough of Iowa, a two-time national champion, are seeded second and third, respectively. Missouri’s undefeated Alan Waters is the top seed.
None of that mattered to Megaludis when he scanned the bracket after it was released.
“He believes in himself as much as anyone I’ve ever coached, and that’s probably the most important thing,” said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, a four-time national champion at Iowa State. “You can kind of just feel his energy, and this is what he loves to do. He’s always been a guy who’s at his best at the big moments.”
Megaludis proved as much while winning three state championships at Franklin Regional and then again with his performance as a freshman last season.
He finished fifth at the Big Ten championships, then won four matches at the NCAA Tournament before falling to McDonough, 4-1, in the title bout.
Megaludis is relentless on the mat and will need to be at his best, considering the strength of the 125-pound class and that he is 0-3 in his career against McDonough.
McDonough was so distraught about losing to Delgado at the Big Ten championships that his second-place medal ended up in the trash at Illinois’ Assembly Hall. Sanderson said the keys for Megaludis are finishing his shots and sticking to his game plan. Megaludis sounds confident that he is ready to win a national title.
“I know for a fact that I’m better than last year, and I just feel stronger, more mature,” he said. “I’m going to wrestle better than I did (at the Big Ten tournament). Just feel ready.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.