Penn State Has a long rich history of producing some of the nations best wrestlers. Ranking these elite athletics, was no easy task. This is just for fun and to give us all something to talk about during the off season, so try not to take it to seriously.
10 Sanshiro Abe
Sanshiro was a 4x all-american, and 1x NCAA champion. Placing 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st, in consecutive years. In 1996 he competed in the Summer Olympics in Atlanta Georgia. Sanshiro has quality wins over 2x NCAA Champion Jeff McGinness, 3x NCAA champion Eric Guerrero and 4x all-american Dwight Hinson. After his college career, he competed in the 97, and 98 world championships in freestyle.
9 Ken Chertow
Ken has found success at all levels of competition, both as a competitor and a coach. After winning 2 State Championships and Outstanding Wrestler Awards, Ken culminated his prep career by winning Junior Nationals in both freestyle and Greco and the Junior World Championship. While studying and training at PENN STATE, Ken was a 3x NCAA All-American, 2x Junior World Champion, Pan American Champion, and U.S. Olympian. Ken also excelled in the classroom as he became a 3X Academic All-American, graduating from Penn State with a 3.6 GPA. Ken had a college record of 96-8.
8 Jeff Prescott
During his high school years, Jeff was a 3x state champion,and a 1987 Junior National Champion, a USA High School All-American and named the Most Outstanding Wrestler for the 1986 NYSPHSAA Tournament. In college, The Nittany Lion was a 2x NCAA champion at 118 pounds (1990 & 1991), becoming only the second Penn State grappler to achieve that recognition. His 51 dual meet wins rank 17th in school history and he shares the single season school record for dual wins at 22. In addition to his NCAA titles, Jeff was the University Freestyle champion at 125.5 in 1990 and a member of the 2002 Pan-Am team, where he collected a silver medal. Jeff was the first Penn State wrestler to win the outstanding wrestler award at the NCAA Tournament and had a career record of 88-15.
7 Phil Davis
Phil is a rare 4x all-american, finishing 7th, 2nd, and 5th, before finally winning the National Title in 2008. He finished his college wrestling career with an overall record of 116–20. Phil has quality wins over Ryan Bader, and 3x NCAA Champion Jake Rosholt. After graduating from Penn State, Phil pursued a career in MMA where he found immediate success. Eventually he won the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Championship. Phil is still active today and has a MMA record of 24-6.
6 Kerry McCoy
Kerry was a 3x all-american with a 150-18 record! He won the NCAA title 2x, in 1994 and 1997. He ended his college career on an impressive 88 match winning streak! In 1997 Kerry was the Hodge Trophy Winner, an award given to the best college wrestler in the country regardless of weight class. A 2x Olympian McCoy took fifth place at the 2000 Olympic Games and seventh at the 2004 Games. He has quality wins over, 1999 World Champion Stephen Neal, 2x NCAA Champion Steve Mocco, and NCAA Champion Tolly Thompson.
5 Jason Nolf
Jason Nolf was a rare 4x NCAA finalist, and 3x NCAA Champion. While racking up a 117-3 record, he also became Penn State’s 10th 4x all-american. Nolf grabbed the attention of the wrestling world during his freshman year, when he pinned the defending NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez, handing the University Of Illinois wrestler his first collegiate loss. After graduating from Penn State, Jason won the Pan American Championships, winning 2 matches be technical fall, and the third match by pinfall. Nolf has quality wins over NCAA Champions, Vincenzo Joseph, Jordan Oliver, David Carr, Bubba Jenkins, and Isaiah Martinez. Jason was twice in the running for the prestigious Hodge Trophy, losing out to his teammates, Zain and Bo.
4 Ed Ruth
Ed Ruth was one of the most dominant wrestlers in NCAA history, he had a way of making matches look so easy. Ed was so far ahead of the competition, he often looked bored during his match. Over 4 years he racked up a 136-3 record, and was a 4x all-american. Had it not been due to a freak injury his freshman year, Ruth would of likely been Penn State’s first 4x NCAA Chmapion. As it is, he went on to become a 3x National Champion. During Ed’s college career he dominated like very few have before or after. Ruth also represented the United States at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships and the 2015 Wrestling World Cup. In May of 2015 Ruth signed on to compete for Bellator MMA, and has since enjoyed a successful MMA career.
3 Bo Nickal
Bo dominated like very few have before him. His cradles came from every angle, and the best college wrestlers in the country where helpless trying to defend them. Bo was a 4x all-american and 3x NCAA Champion. My favorite Nickal match came in his sophomore year, as he moved up in weight to challenge the defending 2x NCAA champion Gabe Dean. Dean was a front runner at the time for the Hodge Trophy and looked almost invincible in his quest for a 3rd straight national title. Well Bo wanted to see if the Cornell wrestler was as good as advertised, so he bumped up in weight and defeated Dean and claimed his first NCAA title. He finished his college career with an impressive 120-3 record. If that wasn’t enough he also claimed the 2019 Hodge Trophy.
2 Zain Retherford
As a true freshman, Zain’s potential was already on full display, as he tore through the competition going 27-0 during the regular season. Although he ended up finishing 5th at the NCAA tournament that year, Penn State fans knew he was something special. Zain went on to become a 4x all-american, and 3x NCAA champion, racking up an impressive 128-3 record. Going undefeated his final 3 seasons. He was named NCAA most dominant wrestler 3x, Big 10 wrestler of the year 2x and he won the prestigious Hodge trophy 2x. One of his most impressive wins came during his freshman campaign when he defeated 4x NCAA champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State. Zain showed a level of dominance rarely seen in college wrestling.
1 David Taylor
As hard as it was doing these rankings, it was surprisingly easy choosing number 1. On a list of the all time greats, David Taylor still stands out above the rest. He is that good! David was a 4x Ohio state champion, and graduated with an impressive 180-2 record, and was a Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner. Upon arriving in Happy Valley, his winning ways continued. He stormed thru the competition all the way to the NCAA finals with a perfect record, and was pinned by his former teammate. His sophomore year was more of the same as he again demolished every challenge in his way. He won the NCAA championship and was named the Dan Hodge Trophy winner, improving his college record to 70-1. As a junior Taylor ran into 4x NCAA Champion, and future World Champion Kyle Dake. After a back and forth battle Taylor was defeated 5-4. His senior year he was back for vengeance, and ran away with his second NCAA title. In becoming a 4x finalist, Taylor also earned his second Hodge Trophy. As impressive as all this is, his bonus percentage was just as ridiculous. in 4 years, David had 50 pins, 42 tech falls, and 29 majors. On the international scene, he has won gold at 3 Pan American Championships, the 2018 World Cup, the 2018 World Championships, and the 2020 Olympic’s! With a career like this, he will likely stay atop of these lists for many years to come.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Brooks, Carter Starocci, Roman Bravo-Young, Mark Hall.
Compare this team with the Top 10 from Iowa and Oklahoma State.