DES MOINES, Iowa - His face marked with cuts and his psyche bruised, Nico Megaludis predicted that Penn State will retain its spot atop college wrestling next season.
The Franklin Regional graduate also vowed he won't stay down after losing for a second consecutive year in the NCAA Division I wrestling championship finals at 125 pounds.
"We're going to win it next year," Megaludis said late Saturday night after Penn State had captured a third consecutive national title, "and I'm going to win."
It would probably qualify as foolish to doubt either claim.
Megaludis, who lost, 7-4, to Illinois' Jesse Delgado on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena, is bound to break through at the NCAA Tournament given the sophomore's pedigree and burning desire to win. Penn State, meanwhile, should be loaded next season despite the loss of two-time national champion Quentin Wright.
Ed Ruth, David Taylor and Megaludis will lead a Nittany Lions team that will again be the team to beat in the NCAA Tournament. And complacency shouldn't be an issue considering Penn State coach Cael Sanderson never seemed to let up during a legendary wrestling career in which he went 184-0 at Iowa State.
"We've got a lot of great kids, a lot of great history and support, so we need to do a good job," Sanderson said. "We need to get better every year."
There isn't any reason to think Penn State won't be better next season.
Jimmy Gulibon, a four-time state champion at Derry and one of the nation's top recruits in 2012, should bolster Penn State's lower weights after redshirting this season. Matt Brown, meanwhile, blossomed in March, going 8-1 at 174 pounds in the Big Ten and NCAA meets while winning a conference title and coming up two points short of winning a national title.
Ruth and Taylor again will anchor the back end of Penn State's lineup.
Ruth has done a pretty credible Sanderson imitation on the mat; the redshirt junior has won 68 consecutive matches and two national titles during that span. And Penn State would not have edged Oklahoma State, 123.5-119.5, for the national championship if not for Taylor's dominance last week at 165 pounds.
The redshirt junior recorded four pins, providing valuable bonus points, before losing, 5-4, to Cornell's Kyle Dakes in the much-anticipated final match of the NCAA Tournament. Dakes overcame an early 2-0 deficit to win an unprecedented fourth national title at a fourth different weight class.
That Taylor came up just short in defending his national title at 165 - he lost after struggling from the bottom position and losing by a riding point - tempered Sanderson's happiness about what Penn State accomplished in Des Moines.
"He's led his team to three out of three national championships, and that's amazing," Sanderson said.