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‘We’re Grateful For Them’: Fans Boost Penn State Wrestling In Home Opener

For the first time in nearly two years, Penn State wrestling was back in a sold-out Rec Hall on Thursday.

In front of more than 6,500 fans, the Nittany Lions defeated Army 32-7 to improve to 3-0 on the season. Penn State rode three tech falls to a resounding win that got Rec Hall’s 56th straight sellout crowd on its feet.

“It was awesome. I live for this,” said 149-pound Beau Bartlett, who used a late takedown in extra time to win a 3-1 bout. “This is really a great time. This is probably the highlight of the last few months. This is awesome.”

The spectacle of a true in-person dual wasn’t lost on Bartlett, who experienced it for the first time as a sophomore one year after wrestling in empty arenas. He got merely a taste of it when Penn State opened its season with road duals against Oregon State and Sacred Heart in Manheim, Pa., last weekend.

Thursday night’s dual was special, though. In fact, it was Bartlett’s first time truly competing in front of the Penn State faithful.

“The crowd, even if it’s an opposing crowd, wrestling in front of people is awesome,” Bartlett said.

197-pound star Max Dean made his Rec Hall debut on Thursday night. The former two-time All-American at Cornell committed to Penn State over the summer and was similarly surprised by the impact a sold-out Penn State crowd could have on a dual.

“It’s a lot of fun. We wrestle because it’s fun, so I’m out there to have a good time. We all love it, and having the fans and the energy just adds to that,” said Dean, who posted an impressive 17-1 tech fall Thursday night.

Transferring into a program as esteemed as Penn State’s is no easy task. However, Dean says Penn State’s fans have made the adjustments especially easy.

“Penn State’s been super welcoming to me. Not just the guys in the program, but everybody around town,” Dean said. “They really love wrestling here. Everyone you meet’s like, ‘Oh, I go to every dual.’ I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a lot of people at the duals,’ and they weren’t kidding.”

Nobody knows Penn State fans — or wrestling — quite like head coach Cael Sanderson. Although he cracked a few jokes and said Nittany Lions fans could’ve been a little louder, he knew just how impactful it was when fans returned to Rec Hall’s historic bleachers.

“It’s great to be back here. It is kind of crazy when you think it has been a while,” Sanderson said Thursday night. “We’re glad to be back here. If you’re going to wrestle, it’s great to wrestle in front of a crowd, and we have some loyal, hardcore, great fans. We’re grateful for them.”

Penn State will have plenty more chances to impress its fans as the team’s season continues. The Nittany Lions will get some time to rest up over fall break before returning to action with a road trip to Penn on Friday, December 3.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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