The Big Ten’s top two teams squared off on Friday night when No. 2 Penn State (8-0) visited No. 3 Iowa (7-2) for a prime time dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Despite falling behind early and struggling to score bonus points all night, the Nittany Lions came away with a telling 26-11 dual win.
How It Happened
The dual began at 125 with one of night’s three matches that pitted top three wrestlers against each other with senior No. 1 Thomas Gilman (18-0) of Iowa facing freshman No. 3 Nick Suriano (11-1). After Gilman got an early takedown in the first period, Suriano responded with two escapes to even the score. Gilman though scored his own escape twelve seconds into the third period to take a 3-2 lead, which he held until the conclusion of the match, consequently handed Suriano his first collegiate loss. Almost the entire match was wrestled in the center circle and on the wrestlers’ feet, where Gilman showed his seniority, controlling Suriano’s hands and preventing him from taking any shots.
Up 3-0 after the first bout, the Hawkeyes extended their team lead to 8-0 when No. 3 Cory Clark (10-1) beat George Carpenter (1-8) with a 19-4 technical fall. In his fifth straight start in place of the injured No. 13 Jered Cortez (6-2), who is expected to miss the remainder of the season, Carpenter avoided getting pinned by Clark which would’ve yielded an additional bonus point. A critical riding time point tacked on after regulation to give Clark the techncal fall.
With Penn State in an early 8-0 hole, the only senior in Cael Sanderson’s starting lineup, No. 12 Jimmy Gulibon (8-6) stopped the bleeding at 141 lbs. by topping No. 18 Topher Carton (17-4) 8-6 in a comeback win. Down 3-0 after two, Gulibon registered four takedowns in the third period to get the Nittany Lions on the board, jumpstarting a run where they won six of the last seven matches.
In a rematch of last season’s NCAA Championships Finals bout, No. 1 Zain Retherford (13-0) outlasted No. 3 Brandon Sorensen (17-2) 9-8 after 11 minutes of wrestling. Sorensen did what no other wrestler has done this season: take down Retherford-not once, but twice.
Retherford at one point trailed 6-4 in the third period before taking down Sorensen to tie the match. After two one-minute overtimes and four thirty-second tiebreakers, Retherford finally won via an intentional release from Sorensen. Before Friday, Retherford had scored bonus points in every match this season and had beaten every opponent by either a pin or technical fall, with the exception of a 19-6 win over Nebraska’s Collin Purinton.
The 157 lbs. bout featured a matchup between the weight class’s top two ranked wrestlers and two former club teammates. No. 2 Michael Kemerer (19-1) of Iowa dropped his first decision of the season at the hands of No. 1 Jason Nolf (13-0), 9-4. After a scoreless first period, Nolf opened up to a 5-1 lead in the second period and maintained control through the third for the win to put Penn State ahead 9-8 at the break.
After the break No. 4 Vincenzo Joseph (11-1) beat Joey Gunther (13-4) 7-4 at 165 lbs. before perhaps the most critical bout of the dual. At 174 lbs. and with the Nittany Lions leading 12-8, Sanderson boldly burned true freshman Mark Hall’s (0-1) redshirt in place of No. 14 Geno Morelli to face senior No. 13 Alex Meyer (15-4). Hall, who won the Southern Scuffle earlier in the month while wrestling unattached, dropped his first dual match 7-5 after a late takedown from Meyer.
Now leading 12-11, Penn State had to turn to its other hammer, No. 2 Bo Nickal (12-0) at 182 lbs. Against No. 5 Sammy Brooks (16-2), Nickal gave the Nittany Lions their first bonus points of the night and some nice bounce-back momentum by pinning Brooks 47 seconds into the match by defending a shot and turning him onto his back with a counter cradle for his tenth pin of the season.
Like the 149 lbs. bout, the bout at 197 lbs. took eleven minutes to decide a winner on a technicality when No. 10 Matt McCutcheon (10-2) beat freshman Cash Wilcke (11-6) by criteria, 8-7. The decision locked up the dual for Penn State. McCutcheon had led 4-2 in the third period but a late takedown by Wilcke sent the match to overtime. Wilcke and McCutcheon then traded blows in the sudden victory periods and tiebreaker matches before McCutcheon escaped with the dual-clinching win.
To end the dual, No. 5 Nick Nevills beat Steven Holloway at 285 lbs. with a 21-6 technical fall off of a last-second takedown.
Wrestler Of The Dual
Jimmy Gulibon, 141 lbs., Sr.
The senior’s resilient, comeback win gave the Nittany Lions a much-needed boost after two early losses and helped power them to a huge conference dual victory.
The Nittany Lions will travel to Madison, WI to take on their fifth straight ranked opponent when they meet No. 20 Wisconsin on January 27 before returning to Rec Hall on Sunday January 29 to face Northwestern.