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Ruth was 38-2 as a freshman and earned third place at the NCAA Championships. As a sophomore and junior, he went undefeated while claiming two national titles. Not only was he undefeated over those two years, he was hardly tested.
As the Penn State Nittany Lion entered his final year of college, it looked as though he may have one of the most dominant seasons that we have seen in some time.
Nobody would be able to stop this guy.
Never mind that Ruth pinned Cornell freshman Gabe Dean in the first period at an early season tournament that year.
Never mind that Ed Ruth was riding an 84 match winning streak that dated back to his freshman year.
And never mind that Gabe Dean went into the Southern Scuffle finals against Ruth not necessarily confident that he could win. But he did believe he could compete with Ed Ruth and that he belonged on the same mat.
And he had something to prove.
Dean earned a lot of confidence with Scuffle quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Minnesota Golden Gophers Brett Pfarr and two-time All-American Kevin Steinhaus.
As members of the media and avid wrestling fans, the FloWrestling crew was doing what most wrestling fans were doing during the break before the championship finals. We were discussing the matches and making picks amongst ourselves.
Some matches we disagreed on. But none of us, and likely no one in the arena was going to pick Gabe Dean to beat Ed Ruth. It just wasn’t in the cards. It wasn’t a smart pick.
So we thought.
The question was by how much would Ruth win? How many bonus points was he going to earn?
After beating Pfarr and Steinhaus, Gabe remembers going back to the hotel room and thinking to himself, “Well, I’m wrestling Ruth again. He pinned me in a minute and a half the first time. But I’m going to do my best to give him a fight.”
“All I wanted from that match - whether he pins, techs, majors or beats me - I wanted to walk off the mat and Ed Ruth to think, ‘Gabe Dean likes to throw down. He’s not scared. He doesn’t respect the accolades I have.’”
During the break before the finals Gabe went back to the hotel and Cornell assistant coach Damion Hahn ordered food.
What would you expect him to eat? Maybe some pasta, a chicken breast or something like that?
Damion ordered Gabe a club sandwich with mozzarella cheese sticks and french fries. That alone is not overly shocking, but when Gabe was ready to leave his coach told him to finish his french fries. Now that is pretty surprising.
But that was Damion’s way of telling Gabe just to relax a little bit and not make a big deal out of what was about to happen.
And it worked.
Gabe Dean went out and did the unthinkable. He beat Ed Ruth 7-4 and snapped the unbeaten streak.
Now Gabe Dean is the one on top of the weight class. Just like Ed Ruth, Dean was third at the NCAA Championships as a freshman and an NCAA Champion last year as a sophomore. And Gabe is now in a position to potentially be in the same group with guys like Ed Ruth and David Taylor.
Will Gabe Dean win two more NCAA titles and round out his career as a three-time NCAA Champion? Only time will tell. But right now he is the man and until someone beats him he will be the favorite to win two more titles.
Gabe Dean had on a pair of JB Elites in his historic win at the Scuffle. Coincidence? I think not!— Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) January 4, 2014
The Southern Scuffle is the toughest regular season college wrestling tournament of the year. Once again we will get to see a loaded field ring in the new year on January 1st.
Gabe Dean and the #5 ranked Cornell wrestling team will be there. Also attending is #15 Lehigh and that sets up a potential rematch of last year's NCAA finals between Dean and Lehigh's Nate Brown. Gabe won that match 6-2 .
By the end of the Southern Scuffle we will have a clear number one ranked team as Oklahoma State and Penn State, currently one and two, respectively, will both be participating. These two teams have not seen each other in competition yet this season and it will be exciting to see how it all plays out.
Other ranked teams we will see include #11 Michigan, #14 Minnesota, #17 North Carolina and #20 Stanford.
Ring in your new year right and wake up to watch the best college wrestling around on January 1st. All mats will be streaming live on FloWrestling starting at 9:00am EST.
WATCH: The 2016 Southern Scuffle here
Learn more about who Gabe Dean is and where he came from in FloFilms documentary: Being a Giant Killer Wasn't Enough