UNIVERSITY PARK - It was billed as an early season Big Ten wrestling showdown when the fourth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers invaded Rec Hall to square off against the second-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.
When the smoke cleared from the dual meet, it was Minnesota on top as they defeated the Nittany Lions, 23-14, before 6,277 noisy fans.
"I think some of the guys realized they have to be aggressive and dominating," said Minnesota head coach J Robinson. "When we lost to Cornell Friday night we were just going through the motions. Today we were a lot more focused and we wrestled with a lot more intensity."
As for how he thought his Lion grapplers did in the meet, Sanderson simply referred to the final score.
"I think the final score pretty well sums it up," he said. "We had some glimpses of good wrestling and we are very optimistic about what we are going to be able to do this season. Obviously these guys (David Taylor, Ed Ruth and Frank Molinaro) wrestled well and it was good to see our two true freshmen (Nico Megaludis and Morgan McIntosh) continue to fight. Give them credit, they (Minnesota) wrestled well and they kind of beat up on us."
While the loss didn't set well with PSU head coach Cael Sanderson, what seemed to be even more disappointing to him was that in six of their seven wins, the Gophers had enough riding time for an additional point.
"After today it (mat wrestling) was," said Sanderson about being a concern. "They are a good team and they ride hard, but we can't be ending periods on the bottom and we had guys doing that today. That is just not a good sign for us and it is something we definitely have to address."
The Gophers set the tone of the afternoon in the first three bouts as they swept all three for a quick 11-0 lead.
Fifth-year senior Zach Sanders used a pair of takedowns, an escape and time for a 6-2 nod over true freshman Nico Megaludis at 125, David Thorn put on a takedown clinic with six slicks en route to a 14-5 major over Derek Reber and Nick Dardanes followed Thorn's takedown efforts with a half dozen takedowns on his way to a 19-6 major decision over Sam Sherlock at 141.
Frank Molinaro temporarily stopped the bleeding at 149 when he built up a 5-0 lead over Dylan Ness through the first two periods, Molinaro then hanging on to down Ness by the final of 16-10. Molinaro lost his bid for a major in the final thirty seconds of the bout when Ness outscored him 4-1 on the strength of a pair of take downs.
"I thought I wrestled pretty good up until that last 30 seconds," said Molinaro. "I lost my composure for a little bit and you just have to keep fighting. I think he (Ness) fought the whole match and when I let up there for 30 seconds when we got into a scramble and he did a good job of scoring points. In the future, I just have to close out matches like that one."
Jake Deitchler swung the Gophers back into the win column at 157 when he outscored Dylan Alton by a 5-1 margin in the final period to break open a 3-all deadlock to walk off the mat with a 9-4 win. With the Deitchler win, the Gophers had things pretty much their own way, or at least they thought so.
Down, but not completely out, the Lions began roaring in the first two bouts following the break when David Taylor and Ed Ruth came through with big bonus point wins.
Taylor turned Cody Yohn every which way but loose in posting a 17-1 technical fall in 4:29 and Ruth did one better than Taylor as he hammered Alec Ortiz for a 6-1 lead before decking Ortiz with 32 seconds left in the first period.
"We just have to move forward," said Taylor about the team loss. "Any time you lose it is really frustrating, but we just have to step up at a couple weight classes. The true freshmen (Nico Megaludis and Morgan McIntosh) are doing a phenomenal job and they are right there. It is only the second match of the season and there are some things we need to work on."
Ruth used his favorite pinning combination (cradle) to pick up his fall and he said he could feel (Alec) Ortiz possibly trying to defend against it so he had to just look for an opening to hit it.
"Right after the match, I kind of forget everything that just happened," chuckled the jovial Ruth. "Everything that happens out there is sort of instinctive and things just happen. I felt him fighting it the whole match and I have to give him a lot of credit because there were a lot of other places where I could have used better technique."
With the big wins by Taylor and Ruth, the Lions evened the team score at 14-all with three bouts remaining. However, unfortunately for State, the Gophers again put together three straight wins to win the dual meet going away.
Kevin Steinhaus used two takedowns, an escape and time point to down defending NCAA champion Quentin Wright, 6-1; second-ranked Sonny Yohn narrowly escaped a big upset when he scored an escape and takedown in the final seconds to edge PSU true freshman Morgan McIntosh 4-3, and in the finale, third-ranked Tony Nelson tossed a 5-0 shutout at fourth-ranked Cameron Wade to set the final.
"He is a true freshman, wrestling his second college match in a big match wrestling a fifth-year senior and what happened to him today was just a result of inexperience," said Sanderson. "He'll learn from that. When you get that lead with ten seconds left, you just have to close it out. I am very excited from the potential Morgan showed in that match and he'll be fine."
The Lions are idle until the Nittany Lion open which is set for a 9 a.m. start on December 4 at Rec Hall.