UNIVERSITY PARK - It was billed as the Division I dual meet of the week when fifth-ranked Oklahoma State invaded Rec Hall for a head-on clash with top-ranked Penn State.
Wrestling before a loud and enthusiastic crowd of 6,571, the Lions won six of the ten bouts including the final three to send the Cowboys back to Oklahoma on the short end of a 23-12 Penn State victory.
"Looking at the matchups on paper I think it was probably 5 and 5," said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. "We obviously saw them at the (Southern) Scuffle, but they didn't wrestle their heavyweight (today). They won some close matches we would like to have won, but these guys kept plugging away. We got the pin which was much needed at that point."
Happy with the win, Sanderson also had some good things to say about the importance of a big enthusiastic crowd.
"I thought it (the crowd) was great," said Sanderson. "I thought our fans did a great job. It was loud most of the time. If you go out there and push the pace they're going to support you. I was very happy with the crowd and they are getting better and better."
The Cowboys won three of the first five bouts to take a 9-6 lead in the dual meet at halftime.
Nico Megaludis got the Lions off to a solid start when he overcame a 4-1 deficit in the first period to outscore Eddie Kilmara 10-3 for an 11-7 win and a 3-0 Lion lead.
After surrendering a pair of takedowns to Kilmara, the Lion junior turned it on as he finished with four takedowns, a pair of escapes and time advantage for his come-from-behind win.
"I was just in my own little zone," said Megaludis about the slow start. "I had five minutes left and just wanted to take it to him and make him pay."
Following the Megaludis win, the two teams traded 2-0 decisions.
Jon Morrison made a first-period takedown stand up for his 2-0 nod over Lion redshirt freshman Jimmy Gulibon at 133 before true freshman Zain Retherford remained unbeaten (25-0) when he used a third period escape and 1:50 time advantage stand up for his 2-0 win over Anthony Collica at 141.
Retherford rode Collica for the entire second period before picking up an escape 14 seconds into the final two minutes.
With the Retherford win, the Lions regained the lead at 6-3, but the Cowboys rallied back to take the next two bouts when Josh Kindig made two takedowns and an escape stand up for a 5-2 win over Zack Beitz at 149 before Alex Dieringer rode a five-point first period to a 6-4 win over Dylan Alton at 157.
With the pair of wins, the Cowboys took a 9-6 lead to their locker room at halftime.
The general thought about wrestling the Nittany Lions is that you better have a big lead heading into the second half of the lineup. Trailing by the three points (6-9), the Lions proved that to be the case as they came out of the locker room following the break with fire in their eyes to rack up wins in four of the final five bouts for a 17-3 spread in team points to win going away.
David Taylor got the Lion ball rolling when he won a methodical 5-2 decision over Tyler Caldwell, but Chris Perry used a first-period takedown and some stalling tactics for a 4-3 win over Matt Brown.
With the Perry win, the Cowboys were once again on top by a score of 12-9, but with Ed Ruth, Morgan McIntosh and Jon Gingrich waiting in the wings, the Lions were going to have a lot to say about the final outcome of the dual meet.
"He's pretty good," said Sanderson of Perry. "I'm not going to go into the tactics or anything like that. He had to score points. You don't usually beat a national champion with one takedown. That's what he (Brown) was trying to do and he was real close to scoring. Perry did a nice job coming out on top."
Persistence paid off for Ruth as he cradled Nolan Boyd no less than seven times before he finally rocked Boyd to sleep for the fall at 5:41 of their matchup.
With the Ruth fall, the Lions regained the lead at 15-12, and as it would turn out, it was all over but the shouting.
McIntosh continues his impressive and aggressive wrestling as the sophomore mauled Kyle Crutchmer for nine points in the middle period to break the bout open a close bout en route to a 16-2 major decision.
With the McIntosh win, the dual meet was all but in the books at 19-12 PSU, but Gingrich had some icing to put on the Penn State victory cake in the final bout of the afternoon.
Gingrich, a former standout athlete from Bald Eagle Area, used a half dozen takedowns, an escape and time advantage for a 14-5 major decision over Ethan Driver to set the final at 23-12 Lions and send the fans to the exits.
"Our heavyweight had a little bit of an injury. We might have used him but really I don't think I would have," said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. "We ran out of horses. You just hate to coach keeping the score down. I felt like in the last three matches the opponents were scoring and we were outmatched. It's not an ideal situation I'd like to be in, but I definitely felt that toward the end."