A slow start from No. 2 Penn State didn’t stop the Nittany Lions (3-0) from rolling to a 30-10 dual win over in-state rival No. 9 Lehigh. Sunday’s annual Bryce Jordan Center dual meet featured 15,424 fans, the sixth largest indoor crowd in NCAA history. The dual also included six ranked-versus-ranked matchups, however Penn State managed to win quite convincingly over a fellow top-ten team. The 20-point deficit was the smallest of the season so far for the Lions.
How It Happened
The Lions jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first bout when No. 6 Nick Suriano (7-0), a true freshman, handed No. 4 Darian Cruz (6-1) his first loss of the season with a 7-0 decision in probably the most anticipated matchup of the day. After a scoreless first period, Suriano picked up an escape, a takedown, and four back points in the second period to take control of the match and go up 7-0. Had the period lasted just a few more seconds, Suriano could’ve potentially pinned Cruz.
A major from Lehigh’s No 20 Scott Parker (4-1) over No. 12 Jered Cortez (6-2) in the next bout gave the Mountain Hawks a 4-3 team lead. Cortez escaped with about ten seconds left to cut the lead to less than the eight-point difference needed for a major. Parker however picked up a crucial riding time point to give Lehigh four team points. Lehigh then extended its lead to 7-3 when No. 3 Randy Cruz (7-0) topped No. 15 Jimmy Gulibon (5-4) 2-0.
After the Mountain Hawks led 7-3 after three bouts, the Lions got to the heart of their lineup and rattled off wins in six of the last seven bouts. First at 149, No. 1 Zain Retherford (8-0) recorded his seventh fall of the season when he pinned No. 9 Laike Gardner (4-3) in the second period to put Penn State up 9-7, a lead it would hold onto for the rest of the afternoon. Retherford’s fellow top-ranked wrestler, No. 1 Jason Nolf (8-0), followed by tacking another five points on the team total by tech falling Kent Lane 25-9.
After the intermission, No. 10 Vincenzo Joseph (6-1) took a 10-5 decision over Lehigh’s Drew Longo (0-3) to extend the Penn State lead to 17-7.
No. 19 Ryan Preisch (7-0) broke the Nittany Lions’ winning streak at 174 with a closely contended and controversial 6-3 decision over No. 12 Shakur Rasheed (5-1). Earlier in the match, a takedown from Rasheed was erased after a coach’s challenge by Lehigh. In the bout’s waning seconds, Rasheed fought for a takedown but ended up being taken down himself as the clock drained.
No. 3 Bo Nickal (7-0) though responded promptly with a first period pin over Kyle Gentile (0-4) to give the Lions a commanding 23-10 lead and extend his historic start the season. All of Nickal’s matches thus far this season have been falls.
With the dual now out of reach, No. 13 Matt McCutcheon majored Ben Haas 12-2 at 197 before the dual concluded with a clash of two ranked heavyweights. Through the first two periods of the final match, No. 11 Doug Vollaro (4-1) of Lehigh and No. 7 Nick Nevills (7-0) were scoreless. In the final two minutes though, after riding Vollaro for the entirety of the second period, Nevills opened up an 8-4 lead to secure a decision that secured the 30-10 dual win for Penn State.
Wrestler of the Match
Zain Retherford, Redshirt Junior, 149
After a slow start to the dual for the Nittany Lions, Retherford came up big with a fall to give them a lead that they’d never relinquish. From there, Penn State won six of its last seven matches. That fall was his seventh of the season, a team high that he shares with Nickal.
The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall on Sunday December 11 to take on the Binghamton Bearcats for their final dual of 2016.