No. 2 Penn State Comes All The Way Back, Edges No. 1 Ohio State 19-18
No. 2 Penn State trailed No. 1 Ohio State for seven bouts but managed to emerge with a dramatic, comeback 19-18 win thanks to a big late push Saturday night. Both teams won five bouts, but the Nittany Lions’ three bonus point wins carried them all the way back from an early 10-0 deficit in front of the largest Rec Hall crowd of the season.
In addition to solidifying the Nittany Lions’ imminent No.1 ranking, the win also secured the Big Ten Dual Meet Championship.
How It Happened
Cael Sanderson waited until the last possible moment to run his wrestler onto the mat for the 125 lb. pound bout against No. 4 Nathan Tomasello. Transfer Carson Kuhn got the start and wrestled in his first bout in two years, after transferring from Boise State last month. He attacked Tomasello with aggressive shots and took an 8-7 lead after a first period that saw him score three takedowns. Tomasello however wore down Kuhn and retook control with a 7-0 shutout in the second period.
He held onto the big lead through the third period, rolling to a 21-12 major, but a late escape and near-reversal in the final seconds kept the Rec Hall crowd on its feet. Even in the loss, Kuhn executed his objective of damage control, only allowing four team points.
At 133 lbs., Corey Keener dropped a narrow 5-4 decision to No. 2 Luke Pletcher in another strong effort of damage control. After Pletcher wrestled gingerly throughout the third period, Keener earned a stall point with a second to go, but it was too late for him to make a full-fledged comeback.
In the first ranked vs. ranked matchup of the dual, No. 4 Nick Lee fell to No. 11 Joey McKenna 7-6. With the score tied 4-4 in the third period, McKenna scored two escapes to tied Lee 6-6. A riding point from being on top for 2:22 handed McKenna a 7-6 decision that dug the Nittany Lions into a 10-0 hole.
No. 1 Zain Retherford put Penn State on the board with a 19-4 technical fall over No. 14 Te-Shawn Campbell. Campbell extended his bout for as long as he could before falling to Retherford, who registered only one takedown in the bout. Retherford was looking for a fall for the entire bout but never found it, scoring 10 near fall points in the effort.
No. 5 Micah Jordan negated Retherford’s five points with a technical fall of his own, a 24-9 win over Bo Pipher, wrestling in place of Jason Nolf, that ran the Buckeyes’ lead up to 15-5 at halftime.
Like Campbell, No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes drew out his bout with No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph for the full seven minutes and wrestled passively to prevent Joseph from fully taking control on the mat. Joseph used a big third period with a pair of takedowns to win a 12-3 major decision and cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 15-9.
No. 2 Mark Hall trimmed the deficit to 15-12 with a 6-4 win over No. 3 Bo Jordan in a rematch of last season’s Big Ten and NCAA Finals. Hall trailed Jordan 4-2 after the second period before scoring four unanswered points in the third period en route to the win.
No. 1 Bo Nickal overpowered No. 2 Myles Martin in the 184 lb. bout, another Big Ten and NCAA Final rematch, with a 10-2 major decision. Nickal made a statement majoring the second-ranked Martin and taking him down three different times. Nickal’s win gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the day, 16-15.
Anthony Cassar got the start at 197 lbs. against No. 1 Kollin Moore and sent Rec Hall into pandemonium with a 6-3 upset. The score was tied 2-2 heading into the third period, when Cassar escaped and took down Moore. A riding time point put the bout away, as Penn State went up 19-15.
Ohio State entered the 285 lb. bout needing a major decision to win the dual on criteria. No. 6 Nick Nevills kept up with Olympic and World champion No. 1 Kyle Snyder in a 15-10 slugfest. Snyder took down Nevills six times, but Nevills landed two takedowns of his own, in addition to escaping six times to prevent the major.
Wrestler of the Dual
Anthony Cassar, Redshirt Junior, 197 lbs.
Cassar’s win over the No. 1 197-pounder in the country keyed the Nittany Lions’ comeback. What made it all the more exhilarating and surprising was how in control he seemed and that he did so while in the middle of a battle for the starting job. Few things could make stronger cases for the job than what Cassar did Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions host another ranked conference opponent next weekend when they face No. 4 Iowa in the Bryce Jordan Center.
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Both players will be suspended until August 1, but it’s currently unclear whether or not their suspensions will impact their game availability.
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