PSU Wrestling wins Big 10 championship


For The Express

UNIVERSITY PARK — Prior to Cael Sanderson’s arrival in Happy Valley, anytime Iowa showed up on Penn State’s wrestling schedule, fans would wonder if the Nittany Lions could compete.

Now, in the ninth season of the Sanderson regime, Nittany Lion fans wonder how bad Penn State can beat Iowa when the Hawkeyes pop up on the schedule.

That was true Saturday night in the Bryce Jordan Center as the Nittany Lions (13-0, 9-0 Big Ten) clinched the Big Ten dual meet championship with a 28-13 win over the No. 7 Hawkeyes (11-3, 6-3), PSU’s 44th victory in a row. Penn State won seven of 10 bouts and the takedown battle, 17-10.

An NCAA indoor wrestling record crowd of 15,998, the most to ever witness an indoor Penn State sporting event, was treated to a rarity. It was only the second time the Nittany Lions had vanquished the Hawkeyes in back-to-back seasons.

“We started out a little slow, but the guys kind of rallied and ended up wrestling really well at the end,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Iowa’s a tough team. Every match is a big match in this atmosphere. I think it was good to see these guys step up. We’re moving forward.”

Iowa led 13-9 after scoring a major upset at 165 and seemed to have all of the momentum. But even Iowa coach Tom Brands knew danger lurked.

“It unraveled in a hurry and it was similar to Ohio State. We knew we were going to have to weather that storm and it unraveled in a hurry,” he said.

“As a matter of fact, if you want some light humor, that crowd was relentless behind us and some guy looks at me after the first one (pin) at 174 and says, ‘It’s going to be a long night.’ Then after the second one at 84 I turned around, looked at him and said, ‘It’s not going to be a long night anymore.'”

Brands was referencing back-to-back pins, in 1:00 and :50, by Mark Hall at 174 and Bo Nickal at 184, that catapulted Penn State into the lead for good, 21-13.

Penn State then closed out the match with wins at 197 and heavyweight.

Shakur Rasheed kept the crowd in a frenzy at 197. He got the call a week after Anthony Cassar had upset top-ranked Kollin Moore of Ohio State. Rasheed used four takedowns, including one in the closing seconds, and 3:52 in riding time to major No. 7 Cash Wilcke, 11-2 at 197 pounds.

“(It was) really fun, especially out there. I went to the Iowa match last year and it was crazy. It would’ve been cool to beat them there, too, but it was crazy fun, just like the atmosphere,” Shakur said. “I don’t get every match because me and Anthony have been going back and forth, so I try to make the most of it.”

Nick Nevills rebounded from his loss a week ago to NCAA, world and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder with a 3-2 decision over No. 3 Sam Stoll. An escape and takedown in the third period was the difference.

“It was good. Last week for me, everyone was super excited but I was a little bummed because it felt like I was in that match. But I just think it’s given me confidence,” Nevills said.

“I mean, I wrestled well there, wrestled well (at) Rutgers. This match, I was glad I got the win. There’s a lot of things I could work on, I don’t normally let people get away from me as quickly as this guy did tonight. Just something I can take back to the room on Monday.”

Iowa freshman 125-pounder Spencer Lee quieted a revved-up Bryce Jordan Center crowd with a quick takedown of Carson Kuhn. Then, when Lee stacked Kuhn and pinned him in 2:05, the crowd was silent.

Nittany Lion 133-pounder Corey Keener got the home crowd back into it with two first-period takedowns of Paul Glynn in what would be a 5-2 decision.

Nick Lee, Penn State’s freshman 141-pounder, tied the match for the Lions, using four takedowns in an 11-8 decision over Vince Turk.

That set up a showdown of undefeated wrestlers in No. 1 Zain Retherford of Penn State and No. 2 Brandon Sorensen. Retherford scored takedowns in the first and third periods and accumulated 3:07 in riding time in a dominating 6-2 decision.

Hawkeye second-ranked 157-pounder Michael Kemerer scored six takedowns and rolled up 3:22 in riding time to post a 14-4 major decision over Bo Pipher and vault Iowa into the lead, 10-9, at the intermission.

Coming out of the break, another pair of undefeated wrestlers took the mat. Top-ranked Nittany Lion Vincenzo Joseph met No. 7 Alex Marinelli. The pair didn’t disappoint.

Joseph scored takedowns in the first two periods to build a 5-2 lead. In the third, though, Marinelli escaped and the two went upper body, Marinelli with a body lock and Joseph with double overhooks. Marinelli won the power struggle, taking Joseph down to his back for a six-point throw. Joseph would escape, but could not penetrate Marinelli’s defenses and the Iowa freshman had knocked off the reigning NCAA champion, 9-6.

“Marinelli is, you maybe followed some of my comments this year and maybe last year. We love Marinelli. He’s what we need and he’s a workmanlike personalilty, workmanlike person who … one thing about him is he’s selfish about the team, too. He’s not just about himself,” Brands said.

The crowd, hushed by the upset loss and the deficit, didn’t stay quiet for long because, as Brands said, the momentum unraveled in a hurry from there.

“Mark came back and got six points which we needed and then Bo and Shak wrestled great and nick got a win there. The guys did a nice job,” Sanderson said.

Penn State closes out its dual season at 2 p.m. Feb. 18 against Buffalo.

No. 1 Penn State 28

No. 7 Iowa 13

(Saturday at University Park, Pa.)

125: No. 3 Spencer Lee, I, pinned Carson Kuhn, 2:05.

133: Corey Keener, PSU, dec. Paul Glynn, 5-2.

141: No. 8 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. Vince Turk, 11-8.

149: No. 1 Zain Retherford, PSU, dec. No. 2 Brandon Sorensen, 6-2.

157: No. 2 Michael Kemerer, I, maj. dec. Bo Pipher, 14-4.

165: No. 7 Alex Marinelli, I, dec. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, 9-6.

174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, pinned Joey Gunther, 1:00.

184: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, pinned Mitch Bowman, :50.

197: Shakur Rasheed, PSU, maj. dec. No. 7 Cash Wilcke, 11-2.

285: No. 6 Nick Nevills, PSU, dec. No. 3 Sam Stoll, 3-2.

Ridge Riley Award winner: Zain Retherford, 149 pounds.

Attendance: 15,998.

Takedowns: Iowa 10; Penn State 17.

Records: Iowa 11-3, 6-3 Big Ten; Penn State 13-0, 9-0.

Next match: Buffalo at Penn State, 2 p.m. Feb. 18.