STATE COLLEGE - Wisconsin, can you say CHEESE?
Showing their dominance from the opening whistle, the Penn State Nittany Lions won the first seven bouts as they bolted out to a 27-0 lead before cruising to a 30-12 win over the Wisconsin Badgers in a Big Ten wrestling dual meet before 6,311 fans Friday night at Rec Hall.
"I think we wrestled well," said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. "The attitude was there and the guys spirits were where they should be when they stepped out on the mat. Those are good things to see, especially at this time of the year."
Brad Pataky made his return to the Rec Hall mats a successful one as he built up a 10-2 lead before doubling up on Tom Kelliher 10-5 to get the Lions off and running.
"It felt great," said Pataky about winning his last match in Rec Hall. "It felt more emotional and that was probably due to it being my last match here. There were a lot of positive things going through my head and really, it just felt like yesterday that I first stepped on the mat here."
Sanderson was happy to see Pataky made his final Rec Hall appearance a good one.
"That was huge for him to have that opportunity because things don't always work out as you hope they would," he said. "We had four other seniors who didn't have a chance to wrestle tonight, but he (Pataky) went out on fire and did what he had to do."
Other PSU seniors who were honored prior to the dual meet, but weren't in the starting lineup for the final dual meet of the season, were Eric Cashera (South Williamsport), Adam Lynch, Rob Vollrath and Michael Lorenzo.
Andrew Long picked up a huge win for the Lions at 133 when he put together four takedowns, two escapes, a penalty point and time advantage for a convincing 12-5 win over third-ranked Tyler Graff in the feature bout of the night.
"I felt real good out there tonight and I was really excited to be able to wrestle another tough opponent," said Long. "It gave me a good opportunity to see how the stuff I have been working on would play out in an actual match. The match also gave me a chance to get back into my groove so that I can wrestle and make things happen the way I want them to."
Sanderson liked what he saw from the transfer from Iowa State.
"Andrew looked great tonight," he said. "He really did a nice job with his conditioning as well as just sticking to his game plan out there. He is getting bigger and stronger and that is a tough kid he wrestled tonight. He (Graff) is one of the kids he is going to have to beat to be a national champ. It was just a great opportunity for Andrew to see him here at home."
Andrew Alton has had the misfortune of having to go against a lot of top-ranked wrestlers in the past two weeks, but Friday night it was all Alton as he racked up four takedowns and a reversal before he cranked Shane McQuade to his back for the fall 52 seconds into the middle period. With the Alton fall, the Penn State lead quickly became 12-0.
Third-ranked Frank Molinaro made it four wins in a row for the Nits as the junior pounded eighth-ranked Cole Schmitt for a 9-1 major decision at 149 before David Taylor mauled Kalvin York for an 18-2 technical fall in 4:57. With the Taylor win, the Penn State lead ballooned to 21-0 at the break.
Molinaro was staring at winning a regular decision, but the two-time All-American kept the pressure on to score a pair of back points in the final seconds to earn the major.
"That is what it is all about, being able to score those points at the end," said Sanderson. "It is points like that can make the difference between winning or finishing with a tie. We had a tie (for the team title) in the Southern Scuffle and one against Minnesota. That was a tough opponent and Frank just kept the pressure on and kept wearing on him."
James Vollrath made his Rec Hall dual meet season debut a good one at 165 as he made a rode a quick takedown and cradle for three back points for a 5-0 lead on his way to a 7-3 win over Shawn Perry before Ed Ruth made it seven wins in a row for the Nits when he shook off a slow start to down Ben Jordan 8-5.
Travis Rutt and Trevor Brandvold got the Badgers on the board with back-to-back falls at 184 and 197. Rutt led Quentin Wright 5-3 when he reverse pinned Wright at 4:41 of their bout before second-ranked Brandvold slicked and decked Nick Ruggear just 42 seconds into their bout at 197.
With the score 27-12 Lions, Cameron Wade officially put the meet in the books when he methodically downed Eric Bugenhagen 5-2 at 285 to send the fans scurrying to the exits.
With the win, the Lions finish the dual meet season 17-1-1, their next action slated for the Big Ten championships March 5-6 at Northwestern University.