UNIVERSITY PARK - About 4:10 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the big question floating around Rec Hall might have been when was the last time the Nittany Lion wrestlers defeated Iowa. Actually, nobody was sure, but Lion 184-pounder Quentin Wright said, "I think it was when I was a sophomore or junior at Bald Eagle Area High school. I remember being in the stands here and watching that match."
If that was a big question, possibly one even bigger might have been when the last time an Iowa team lost back-to-back dual meets and even further, when did the Hawkeyes make an eastern trip only to go home 0-2 for the weekend.
Friday night in Columbus, Ohio, the Hawkeyes were drubbed 21-9 by the Ohio State Buckeyes. Less than 48 hours later, the Nittany Lions nearly duplicated that score when they handled the Hawkeyes, 22-12, before a Rec Hall SRO crowd of 6,796 fans Sunday afternoon.
"These guys really wanted to win," said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. "We were a little hesitant throughout the match, but it was a big match for us and the program. To be able to get a win like this against an opponent like Iowa is certainly something we can build on."
The Hawkeyes won the first three bouts of the meet for a 12-0 lead before the Lions won the final seven matchups good for 22 unanswered points and the Big 10 win between two top-ranked teams.
"If you stumble on something, you have be tougher coming back and today, I am not sure that we were," said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. "If you look at the matchups, we lost seven straight matches in this dual meet. There has to be some type of change of emotion or energy or something from an individual point of view that has to spread throughout the team. We have to be able to turn that (negative) energy around and right now, we aren't doing that."
Although he lost 3-1 in overtime to former NCAA champion Matt McDonough, Nico Megaludis did what he needed to do as he battled McDonough right to the final buzzer.
"I thought Nico did a great job," said Sanderson. "He hustled and battled and he had a lot of tough situations. McDonough is real tough in those situations, but Nico has a big heart. For him to go out there against a guy like that and give himself a chance to win against a national champion in a big dual like this one, you have to take some positives out of an effort like that."
Tony Ramos bounced back from a loss to Ohio State by building up a 7-2 lead over Frank Martellotti before Ramos picked up the all at 4:20.
Montell Marion made it three wins in a row for the Hawkeyes at 141, but again, Bryan Pearsall kept the loss to a regular decision by a 7-3 margin. As for being down 12-0 against a team like Iowa, Sanderson was quick to point out that you have to just remain positive.
"You can't just stay positive, you have to feel positive because it is pretty easy sometimes to get down a little bit," he said. "We knew they were really tough in those first three weight classes and really, they are tough throughout their whole lineup. When you are down twelve points in a big dual it is certainly something not celebrate."
After the three losses, the Nittany Lions hit their strength package fueled by Frank Molinaro and Dylan Alton. Molinaro came on strong down the stretch to down Mike Kelly 11-5 at 149 and Alton used a pair of takedowns and an escape for a 5-3 nod over Nick Moore at 157.
David Taylor pulled the Lions three points closer with a 9-4 win over Mike Evans (6th) at 165 and Ed Ruth followed by picking up the only bonus point win for the Lions when he handled Ethen Lofthouse 10-1.
As a result of the Ruth win, the Lions went up 13-12 and they never trailed again.
Quentin Wright was solid at 184 as the defending national champion used three takedowns, an escape and a time point for an 8-2 win. With the win by "Q", State led 16-12 with two bouts remaining.
With the pressure on, true freshman Morgan McIntosh responded to the task at hand with a 5-3 overtime decision over Grant Gambrall. With the score tied at 3-all in regulation, McIntosh and Gambrall hooked up in a wild scramble and with only 17 seconds left in the first overtime period, McIntosh turned the Rec Hall crowd of 6,796 into a frenzy when he secured the takedown for the 5-3 win to lock up the dual meet.
"Coach Cael (Sanderson) always tells us to wrestle the entire match and that is what I was trying to do," explained McIntosh. "I usually try to score a lot of points off my opponents shots with re-shots. I saw my opportunity, I kept wrestling as hard as I could, I was able to get the corner and get the win. When I got the takedown, it was nice to hear all of the fans cheering and yelling. It was really cool."
For his effort, McIntosh was the recipient of the Ridge Riley Award for the meet. "For Morgan to do what he did was just incredible," said Sanderson. "He is going to fight tooth-and-nail and he will never give anything up by battling to the last second. That is what it takes to be a great one."
In the afternoon's finale, Cameron Wade put a little icing on the Lion victory cake when he dominated Blake Rasing for a methodical 4-0 win to set the final. Using a takedown (arm drag to a low single) more suitable for a lightweight, Wade was able to secure his takedown on Rasing that set the stage for the rest of the bout.
"I have been able to use it a couple of times," Wade said. "It just depends on what match I am in, but you have to keep bringing it out once in a while. It is hard to hit later in the match because big guys get slippery, but in the first period, it is a good move for me."
Now with Iowa behind them, the Lions can focus on Sunday when the Buckeyes invade Happy Valley for a key Big 10 dual meet. First whistle for that match at Rec Hall is set for 2 p.m.