No. 1 Penn State Wrestling Storms Past Illinois
In the first dual of a weekend home stand to end the regular season, No. 1 Penn State (12-0) came out with another convincing Big Ten win over No. 11 Illinois (8-3). The Nittany Lions beat the Illini 34-7 after winning eight of ten bouts.
How It Happened
In what has become a near given, No. 2 Nick Suriano (15-1) set the pace for Penn State at 125 lbs. The true freshman sensation majored Travis Piotrowski (13-11) 17-6.
At 133 lbs., George Carpenter (1-10) got the nod over Triston Law to face No. 6 Zane Richards (20-2), his fourth top-six opponent in his last six matches. Although Richards took the bout with a 19-7 major decision, Carpenter remained in the match into the last seconds, nearly taking down Richards twice but having both called off and only allowing one point in the third period after falling behind early.
With the Illini tied with the Nittany Lions 4-4, No. 11 Jimmy Gulibon (12-6) put Penn State back ahead with a 10-2 decision over Mousa Jodeh (11-14). The two were scoreless through one before Gulibon started the second period with an escape and takedown to open up a 3-0 lead. After riding Jodeh out for the remainder of the period and a dominant third period, Gulibon picked up a riding time point that gave him the major.
Penn State expanded its lead to 14-4 during the 141 lb. match when No. 1 Zain Retherford (17-0) demonstrated how much separates the top and bottom of the rankings. After controlling No. 19 Eric Barone (8-6) through the first period, Retherford promptly pinned him at the 4:09 mark.
At 157 lbs., not even a bloody nose that stopped the match at least five times could prevent No. 1 Jason Nolf (17-0), who has scored bonus points in all but one match this season, from continuing his exceptional run. With tape wrapped around his face to cover up his nose, Nolf took down No. 12 Kyle Langenderfer (20-5) 26-11 for the technical fall, which gave the Nittany Lions a 19-4 lead halfway through the dual.
The next match was the most anticipated of the dual with No. 4 Vincenzo Joseph (12-3) squaring off with the only wrestler to beat Nolf last season, No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (22-0). Martinez beat Nolf in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships Finals with two one-point decisions after Nolf had pinned him during the regular season.
In an exciting match where Joseph trailed by one point in the third period and nearly took down Martinez, the junior picked up a takedown as the clock expired to take a 5-2 major decision. Both of Joseph’s last two losses have come to a top-three opponent and gone down to the wire where an older, more experienced wrestler managed to outlast him. Heading into the Big Ten and NCAA Championships as Joseph — a redshirt freshman — continues to grow, he’ll be a wrestler to watch to avenge a couple of tough decisions.
At 174 lbs., No 7 Mark Hall (22-2) got the Nittany Lions back on track by tech falling No. 12 Zac Brunson (24-6) in his Rec Hall debut. With the heavy slate of road duals and win by forfeit in the Nittany Lions’ last home dual, the true freshman gave most fans their first in-person glimpse of the next great Penn State wrestler. The feeling was mutual between the Rec Hall crowd and Hall, who had Brunson on his back as time ran out, as a standing ovation was met with a celebratory moment of hand-waving.
The 184 lbs. match was No. 2 Bo Nickal’s (16-0) version of struggling; he had to wait until the end of the third period for an opportunity to pin him and only came away with an 18-5 major decision. Facing No. 12 Emery Parker (24-5) who did well defending Nickal’s aggressive shots in a very physical bout, Nickal, like Hall, was about to pin his opponent but couldn’t beat the clock.
Even with the dual now officially out of reach, the final two matches gave the majority of fans who stuck around two of the closest matches of the night. The 197 lbs. bout was an unexpected thriller with No. 9 Matt McCutcheon (13-3) needing a late takedown and a ride-out to pick up the win over unranked Andre Lee (9-13), who he tied 1-1 in the third period. At 285 lbs., No. 3 Nick Nevills (14-2) had a slow, scoreless start to the dual before he gained some momentum after a stall call against former Big Ten-finalist No. 15 Brooks Black (10-5) and rolled to a 5-0 decision.
Wrestler of the Dual
Jason Nolf, 157 lbs., Redshirt Sophomore
Although he was never able to gain momentum because of his recurring nose bleed, Nolf managed to post 26 points against a ranked opponent for the technical fall, solidifying his spot at the top of the 157 lb. rankings.
For their final dual of the season, the Nittany Lions will host Maryland, coached by former Penn State legend Kerry McCoy, at 2 p.m. on Sunday.