PSU WRESTLING: No. 1 Nittany Lions blow past No. 7 Nebraska, 25-6
By ANDY ELDER
For The Express
UNIVERSITY PARK — Just a week after the top-ranked Penn State wrestling team notched an 11-point win that left its coach taking the blame for a rather flat performance, the Nittany Lions on Sunday wrestled more like their fans are used to seeing.
Penn State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) won eight of 10 bouts against No. 9 Nebraska (8-3, 2-2) and accumulated a 24-7 edge in takedowns to win easily, 25-6, to run its winning streak to 52, even without starting 184-pounder Shakur Rasheed in the lineup.
Despite the fact that the Nittany Lions only recorded one bonus-point win, head coach Cael Sanderson seemed pleased with the improvement his team showed a week after its desultory 24-13 win over Wisconsin.
“You always have to think you can do better. Otherwise, you’re probably going to move backwards. I think Nebraska is a very strong team. Going into this dual meet it could be very close score if we don’t win those close matches,” he said.
“It was good to see our guys win close matches. It was good preparation for them, to be in battles like that. I think we could wrestle with a little more enthusiasm, a little more fire. They were better than we did a week ago. It’s progress and we’ll focus on the positives.”
The dual meet featured 17 ranked wrestlers and six matchups featuring pairs of ranked wrestlers. Penn State won all six of those matchups.
Two marquee bouts came back to back, at 157 and 165.
Penn State’s top-ranked Jason Nolf, the two-time defending NCAA champion at 157, was paired with second-ranked Tyler Berger, a two-time All-American. Nolf ran his career mark over Berger to 4-0, but this matchup was the closest of the four. Nolf used four takedowns, an escape and a penalty point to earn a 10-4 decision.
“Yeah, I’m not satisfied because even though I did take him down four times, I expect more out of myself. I’m not upset with how hard I wrestled and my effort. I think I gave 100-percent effort. I just had a little different mindset, I think,” Nolf said.
“Subconsciously, I was more focused on keeping my hands down and keeping him from darting in because I know that’s his shot, he’s gonna back up, back up and then try to dive in on my legs. As I was chasing him, I was trying to keep my hands down so it was kind of preventing me from getting my offense a little bit but I’ll adjust and make sure I do next time.”
At 165, top-ranked and two-time defending NCAA champion Vincenzo Joseph had a rematch with Nebraska’s Isaiah White, who Joseph defeated 4-2 in a second sudden-victory period in the 2018 NCAA quarterfinals.
After a scoreless first period, Joseph rode White the entire second period and escaped in time to preserve a riding-time point in a 2-0 decision. It was Joseph’s first time competing since the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2.
“I think the match went a little differently this time. I’d like to get to my offense more. I’m sure we’re gonna be wrestling again in the future. I knew I could ride him on top, so I just tried to put a tough ride on him and it worked out best,” Joseph said.
“He’s a good hand fighter, good at keeping space between whoever he’s wrestling. And me, I’m kind of shorter so he’s good at kind of keeping me away. He’s a good wrestler. We’ve been wrestling for years. He beat me in high school a few times. He’s fast, he’s good at it. It just makes me a little cautious and I don’t want to just run in there because he can dart in and get to my legs. I have to play it a little safer; next time I’d like to open it up a little more….see what happens.”
Sanderson said the way Joseph won shows his personal growth.
“I think White is just a tough kid, great speed and athleticism. You’ve got to wrestle him in an intelligent way. It was good to see Vincenzo be able to win a match on a riding point. I don’t think that’s something we would have seen a couple years ago. I think he’s improving in those areas,” he said.
Penn State’s only bonus-point win came at 133 where No. 13 Roman Bravo-Young tallied nine takedowns and amassed 3:33 in riding time to earn a 20-7 major decision.
The Nittany Lions got decisions in the rest of their wins. No. 6 141-pounder Nick Lee (5-4) and No. 10 Brady Berge (7-4) each bounced back from upset losses against Wisconsin.
Penn State also got decisions from No. 1 174-pounder Mark Hall (5-3), No. 1 197-pounder Bo Nickal (8-6), who Sanderson said “wasn’t himself” and from No. 4 285-pounder Anthony Cassar (10-4).
After a scoreless first period, Cassar escaped quickly to start the second and turned up the intensity, scoring four takedowns in a 10-4 decision over No. 14 David Jensen.
“He’s definitely a very smart wrestler. His conditioning is very strong. He’s not a guy who’s going to slow down or fade as the match progresses,” Sanderson said of Cassar.
“He’s competitive. He’s confident. He thinks he can take anybody down. He just has to commit to it a little bit more. That’s what he started doing. As soon as he started throwing himself in there, he started scoring those takedowns.”
Sanderson gave credit to a Nebraska team that was rarely out of position and prevented some formidable defense that was at times difficult for Penn State to penetrate.
“They were doing a really good of controlling ties and slowing guys down. I think they were ready for the matches. We needed to wrestle with just a little … whether it’s enthusiasm or more urgency, or whatever you want to say. They’re very solid. Very good fundamentals,” he said
“It’s great preparation for us. It gives us some things to work on all across the board. We’ll take it and get better from it.”
Penn State goes on the road next weekend for a pair of duals, 7 p.m. Friday at Purdue and 2 p.m. Sunday at Indiana.
No. 1 Penn State 25
No. 9 Nebraska 6
(Sunday at University Park)
125: No. 13 Zeke Moisey, NEB, dec. Devin Schnupp, 6-1.
133: No. 13 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, maj. Dec. Jevon Parrish, 20-7.
141: No. 6 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 19 Chad Red, 5-4.
149: No. 10 Brady Berge, PSU, dec. Jordan Shearer, 7-4.
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, PSU, dec. No. 2 Tyler Berger, 10-4.
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, dec. No. 6 Isaiah White, 2-0.
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, dec. No. 9 Mikey Labriola, 5-3.
184: No. 5 Taylor Venz, NEB, dec. Mason Manville, 7-1.
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, dec. No. 11 Eric Schultz, 8-6.
285: No. 4 Anthony Cassar, PSU, dec. No. 14 David Jensen, 10-4.
Referee: John Nath.
Ridge Riley Award winner: Jason Nolf, 157 pounds.
Takedowns: Nebraska 7; Penn State 24.