UNIVERSITY PARK - The No. 2 Penn State wrestling team started its 2012-13 season the way it ended the 2011-12 campaign - in dominating fashion.
The two-time defending NCAA champions raised their 2012 NCAA championship banner and then proceeded to announce to the nation that the are ready to take its first step toward a three-peat.
Winning eight of 10 bouts and rolling up a 28-6 advantage in takedowns, Penn State (1-0) lambasted No. 24 Lehigh (1-1), 29-6, in front of a sellout crowd of 6,422 in Rec Hall.
"Overall, our team wrestled well. Lehigh's a well-coached team and they're solid all the way up their lineup. It looked like the first match of the year, a little flat," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. "We need to get a little more fire out there and sharpen our sticks a little bit. That's to be expected."
Even with four new starters in the lineup, the Nittany Lions proved too much for the Mountain Hawks to handle.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway (133) and sophomore Jon Gingrich (heavyweight) made their varsity debuts. Fifth-year senior James English subbed in for No. 6 Andrew Alton at 149 and sophomore Matt Brown made his varsity debut as a starter at 174 after filling in at 197 a couple times last season.
The marquee match of the night came at 184 pounds, where defending NCAA champion Ed Ruth, ranked No. 1, met two-time All-American Robert Hamlin, ranked No. 3.
Ruth earned an 11-9 win that looked like it would be a laugher early.
He scored three takedowns in the first period and looked light years ahead of Hamlin in amassing a 6-3 lead after one period. But, in the second, Hamlin countered a couple lackadaisical Ruth shots for takedowns and the period ended with Ruth leading, 11-8.
Hamlin escaped to start the third, but Ruth defended several Hamlin shots and hung on for the 11-9 win.
"He started out incredible. He's so good he can get a little sloppy and he got a little sloppy," Sanderson said. "You can't be sloppy with a guy like Robert Hamlin. He's going to make you pay for it, because he's very tough and he's just good in all positions and he's in great shape."
Penn State had the match wrapped up before the Ruth-Hamlin showdown, having won six of the first seven bouts.
The Nittany Lions roared out to a 14-0 lead after four bouts, and ended the match with 26 takedowns to just six for Lehigh. No. 2 Nico Megaludis (125), Conaway (133), Bryan Pearsall (141) and English (149) all won.
Megaludis, the defending NCAA runner-up, rolled up a s19-4 technical fall in 5:07.
Conaway, in his varsity debut, eked out a 3-2 win with a takedown with 6 seconds to go.
"It was crazy, with all the fans and everything, a sold-out crowd," he said. "It was awesome. I was grateful for the opportunity to step out there in a Penn State singlet and wrestle in that environment."
Pearsall, in his third year in the starting lineup, edged Anthony Salupo, 7-6, on the strength of 1:06 in riding time.
English scored two takedowns in the final 11 seconds to pull out a 5-2 win over No. 18 Shane Welsh. English, who sat out last season after shoulder surgery, said he was just pleased to get on the mat.
"It felt really good. I was a little bit nervous at first," he said. "I'm just really grateful that I can be back and wrestling."
For his effort, English was awarded the Ridge Riley Award.
Lehigh broke through at 157 where No. 13 Joey Napoli avenged a PIAA finals loss by doubling up No. 2 Dylan Alton, 4-2.
Defending NCAA champ and second-ranked David Taylor started defense of his 165-pound title with a dominating 20-5 technical fall in 5:46.
At 174, No. 4 Matt Brown rolled up a 12-2 major decision.
No. 3 Quentin Wright, in his first bout at 197 pounds, notched a workmanlike 10-4 decision.
At heavyweight, Gingrich dropped his dual meet debut, 5-3, to Jack Delia.
Penn State returns to the mat at 2 p.m. Sunday when it travels to Morgantown, W.Va., to take on West Virginia.