UNIVERSITY PARK - According to Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson, it wasn't one of the Nittany Lions' premier performances Friday night at Rec Hall.
That aside, it was a 23-13 win over Illinois as the Lions pushed their overall mark to 16-1, 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference.
"We won some tough matches, but we also lost a couple of tough ones as well that we would like to have gotten," Sanderson said. "That is something we have to figure out, but that is just part of the process here and we will keep trying to improve."
Although his squad had just been handled for the most part, Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan felt that for the most part, his wrestlers hustled.
"We wrestled hard for the most part, but we still need to finish some of our matches," he said. "I thought it was a competitive match, probably other than at heavyweight because we didn't compete there."
Starting at 285, the Lions jumped out to a 9-0 lead on decisions by Cameron Wade, Nate Morgan (125) and Andrew Long (133). Wade tossed a 5-0 shutout at Patrick Walker in a ho-hummer to get thing going before Morgan and Long each came on strong in their bouts to pick up wins.
Morgan took a 4-1 lead in the first period on a pair of takedowns before Logan Arlis came back to tie the score at 4-all with a third-period escape. With Arlis having riding time secured, Morgan needed a reversal for the win, and he got just that in the final 25 seconds to walk off the mat with a 6-5 decision.
"Morgan did a great job," Sanderson said of the freshman lightweight. "The guy had to ride him out and all Morgan had to do was get a reversal and that is what he did."
In the first of two battles between ranked wrestlers, Long (ninth) trailed B. J. Futrell (seventh) 6-4 after two periods. With his back to the wall, Long countered a Futrell shot for a takedown and cranked Futrell to his back for three near fall points and a 9-6 win.
In the second battle between two ranked wrestlers, Illinois's Jimmy Kennedy used a takedown, a pair of escapes and 1:43 time advantage for a 5-3 win over former Central Mountain standout Andrew Alton.
"He (Kennedy) is a tough kid," Sanderson said. "He has been around for a long time and he is very solid. There really wasn't a whole lot that happened in that match. I think Alton got overpowered when he was trying to horse him to his back with his move and I haven't seen that happen before. To beat the kid, he has to be on the offense. He has to go get the legs and score points like that."
Frank Molinaro got the Lions back on the winning trail at 149 when the two-time All-American dominated Eric Terrazas for a 5-0 shutout. With the Molinaro win, the Penn State lead stood at 12-3 midway through the dual.
Following the normal halftime break, David Taylor (29-0), despite surrendering three takedowns to Jackson Morse, mauled Morse for a 26-10 technical fall in 6:21 to push the Lion lead to 17-3.
Conrad Polz put the Illini back in the winners' circle with a 10-5 decision over Nick Fischer at 165, but all that meant was that Ben Friedl had the misfortune of having to deal with Ed Ruth. After a bunch of near misses on his feet while chasing Friedl all over the mat, Ruth finally secured a takedown to go on top 2-0 with 30 seconds left in the opening period.
Ruth cradled the Illinois 165-pounder for the fall with four seconds left in the second period, giving PSU an insurmountable 23-6 lead with two bouts left.
Quentin Wright and former Central Dauphin Ram Tony Dallago hooked up in a wild one at 184, Dallago winning by a narrow 8-7 margin. With the score tied at five after two periods, Wright went on top 7-5 on a takedown with 35 seconds left. However when Dallago and Wright got into a scramble, Dallago escaped the was awarded a controversial takedown at the buzzer for an 8-7 win over the Bald Eagle Area product.
Illinois won the final two bouts with a regular and major decision to set the final at 23-13.