NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Wrestling: Ranking the Top-8 Nittany Lions of the Early 2000s

Even before Cael Sanderson turned Penn State Wrestling into the dominant force that it is today, the Nittany Lions were a force to deal with on the mat. And in this final installment, we are looking at the top Penn State Wrestlers of the early 2000’s. Looking back at our series highlighting the past decades of Penn State Wrestling, here are the previous three installments: Top 5 Nittany Lions of the 1950sTop 10 Nittany Lions of the 1960sTop 5 Nittany Lions of the 1970sTop 10 Nittany Lions of the 1980sTop 12 Nittany Lions of the 1990s During the early 2000s, Penn State Wrestling hit a bit of an up-and-down stretch in the program. The Nittany Lions never really contended for any Big Ten team title and the high water mark in the NCAA Championships was third place finish in 2008. But, this doesn’t mean there weren’t any talented grapplers to come through Rec Hall. Not at all. So with that, let’s get to the list!

Penn State Wrestling: Top-8 Grapplers of the early 2000’s

No. 8: Mark Becks

Years: 2000-2003

Record: 107-42Conference titles: 0 (best finish 2nd 2003)NCAA finish: 7th (2003) Penn State Accolades29th in all-time wins (107)4th in single season wins (43)

No. 7: Eric Bradley

Years: 2004-2006Record: 76-15Conference titles: 2 (2004 & 2005)NCAA finish: 4th (2005) & 8th (2006) Penn State Accolades58th in all-time wins (76)21st in single season wins (36) Both Mark Becks and Eric Bradley were feared on the mat during their time in Happy Valley. But, their careers ended up being vastly different. While Becks was never able to secure a Big Ten title, Bradley took home back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005. Bradley was able to eclipse the 21 win mark twice in his three year wrestling career, however Becks did it all four years. Which certainly explains the huge gap in total wins between the two grapplers. Both guys had All-American finishes with Mark finishing seventh in 2003 and Eric snagging two in a row in 2005 and 2006. They were knocking on the door to cracking the top six, but the next handful of grapplers were just that much better.


No. 6: Pat Cummins

Years: 2001-2004Record: 108-37Conference titles: 0 (best finish 2nd 2004)NCAA finish: 4th (2003) & 2nd (2004) Penn State Accolades27th in all-time wins (108)14th in all-time falls (31)12th in single season wins (38) Cummins’ final two years on the mat for Penn State were simply incredible. The standout wrestler posted a record of 38-9 his junior campaign and then capped it off with a remarkable record of 38-5 his senior year. And out of his 76 wins in these two seasons, Pat pinned his opponent a staggering 20 times. It’s no wonder Cummins currently sits at No. 14 in all-time falls. Pat made it about as close as you could possibly come to climbing the highest peaks in collegiate wrestling. In his senior year he made to both the finals of the Big Ten Championships and the finals of the NCAA Championships. Unfortunately, Ohio State’s Tommy Rowlands stood in his way. And on both occasions, it was Cummins who finished runner-up.

No. 5: Scott Moore

Years: 2000-2003Record: 112-29Conference titles: 1 (2003)NCAA finish: 4th (2003) Penn State Accolades25th in all-time wins (112)9th in all-time falls (35)1st in single season wins (54)9th in single season bonus wins (28) The early 2000’s for Penn State Wrestling could easily be summed up as “The Time of the Moore Brothers”. Because both of the talented lightweights were electric and ,boy, were they dominant on the mat. Scott’s senior campaign was one for the ages as he set the mark for the most wins in a single season for Penn State Wrestling. With the way college wrestling appears to be headed (less than 35 matches per season), it could be a record which will hold up for a really long time if not forever. Moore took home his first Big Ten title his final year. And alongside his 54 wins and an unbelievable 22 pins, Scott also had a strong showing in the 2003 NCAA Championships. His 6-2 record propelled him to a fourth place finish and his first All-American finish.

No. 4: Dan Vallimont

Years: 2007-2010Record: 108-35Conference titles: 0 (best finish 2nd 2008)NCAA finish: 3rd (2008) & 2nd (2010) Penn State Accolades27th in all-time wins (108)14th in all-time major decisions (25) Vallimont surpassed the 30 win total two times during his career as a Nittany Lion. And not surprisingly, both seasons ended with him standing on the podium at the NCAA’s. Dan only lost three total matches his sophomore year (32-3). And as luck would have it, all three were at the hands of Illinois’ Mike Poeta. One of them was in the finals of the 2008 Big Tens and two of them were at the 2008 NCAA Championships. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with finishing runner-up in the conference tournament and third in the NCAA Championships. Most collegiate wrestlers would give their left arm for that. Vallimont then put on one final charge his senior season. He finished third in the 2010 Big Ten’s and then charged his way through the field in that year’s NCAA by making it to the finals in the 165 pound bracket … were Wisconsin’s Andrew Howe met him. It’s a story I feel like I’ve told a thousand times during this journey through Penn State Wrestling history. A hard nosed and gritty Nittany Lion battles his way to the finals in an NCAA Championship. And he has to face an absolute buzz saw of a wrestler. Maybe that’s how the rest of the field feels about the current Penn State dynasty? Anyway, you know how this one ends. And that’s with Dan Vallimont finishing second and with him taking home his second All-American finish.

No. 3: Josh Moore

Years: 2001-2004Record: 146-38Conference titles: 0 (best finish 3rd 2003)NCAA finish: 3rd (2003) & 2nd (2004) Penn State Accolades3rd in all-time wins (146)3rd in all-time falls (53)3rd in single season wins (44)2nd in single season bonus wins (32) If you thought Scott Moore was a dominant wrestler, then his brother Josh should be classified as damn near lethal. Josh eclipsed the 30 win mark in each of his four seasons at Penn State, he topped 40 wins two times, he racked up 53 pins, he’s currently third in all-time wins, and his senior year was absolutely absurd. Moore slapped together a record of 44-8 which included six major decisions, two technical falls, and a mind-blowing 24 falls. Josh pinned a total of 40 foes in his last two years alone. It’s also safe to say that Josh seemed to use the Big Ten Championships as more or less of a build up to the NCAA Championships. Because in his junior and senior seasons, he finished either the same (third in both the 2003 Big Ten’s and NCAA’s) or higher (fourth in the Big Ten’s and second in the NCAA’s) in the NCAA Championships. And had things broken slightly different in each of these season ending championships, it’s possible Josh Moore could have finished as a back-to-back NCAA Champion.

No. 2: Jeremy Hunter

Years: 1997-2000Record: 123-17Conference titles: 1 (1999)NCAA finish: 5th (1998), 2nd (1999), 1st (2000) Penn State Accolades9th in all-time wins (123)18th in all-time falls (29)14th in all-time technical falls (12) Of all of the guys in the early 2000’s, only two Nittany Lion grapplers ended the season as the best wrestler in the nation at their respective weight class. And here we have our first NCAA Champion with Jeremy Hunter. Hunter was the epitome of consistency on the mat every single season he laced up his shoes. And nothing is more evident of this than his back-to-back 33-1 seasons he had in both his junior and senior campaigns. After snagging his first Big Ten title in 1999, Jeremy bulldozed his way through the NCAA field to set up a finals match against Fresno State’s Stephen Abas. Hunter and Abas had previously butted heads in the 1998 NCAA’s where Jeremy fell 3-1 in a very tight contest. And as the story seems to always go, Abas got the best of Hunter in the 1999 finals giving Jeremy a runner-up finish and his second All-American honor. But Hunter rebounded his senior year and held a perfect record going into the 2000 Big Ten Championships. And there he got tripped up by Iowa’s Jody Strittmatter in the finals to finish in second place. Jeremy then picked himself by his bootstraps and he proceeded to obliterate the field at the 2000 NCAA Championships to win the title. It would be eight more years until another Nittany Lion would reach these heights.

No. 1: Phil Davis

Years: 2005-2008Record: 116-20Conference titles: 2 (2006 & 2008)NCAA finish: 7th (2005), 2nd (2006), 5th (2007), 1st (2008) Penn State Accolades18th in all-time wins (116)21st in all-time falls (27)18th in all-time major decisions (24)18th in single season wins (37) Phil Davis is the only Penn State wrestler in the 2000’s to be crowned an All-American all four years he took to the mat. Davis burst onto the scenes his freshman year when he went 37-10 with 16 bonus wins and a seventh place finish in the 2005 NCAA Championships. He then built on that success his sophomore season when he compiled a 25-4 record, battled his way to his first Big Ten title, and finished runner-up in the 2006 NCAA’s. By Phil Davis’ standard you could say his junior year wasn’t quite as good as others, but I’m not going to tell him that. The last thing I need is for my right leg wrapped around my left arm like some crazy human pretzel. Davis still finished with a 28-5 record and his third All-American finish by taking fifth in the 2007 NCAA’s. Phil’s final year on the mat was simply amazing. He crushed his way through the 2007-2008 regular season and only dropped one match en-route to his second Big Ten title. The only blemish was a regular season loss to Northwestern’s Mike Tamillow. And that’s exactly who Davis bested in the Big Ten finals to get his sweet, sweet revenge. Phil then set his sights on the field at the 2008 NCAA Championships. And if you were in Davis’ way, then all I can say was God help you. Phil Davis pinned his first foe and then breezed his way through the next four matches for combined match total of 29-7. And with his win, Davis became the second Nittany Lion grappler to win an NCAA title. And based on his overall resume, this is why I give him the slight edge over Jeremy Hunter as the best Penn State grappler of the early 2000’s.  A note to our readers; If you make a purchase through one of our affiliate links, we may receive a commission

Chris Snyder
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