Penn State grapplers rout Illinois in rare Friday meet

UNIVERSITY PARK – Although the temperatures outside Rec Hall were frigid, the atmosphere inside the venue was nothing short of sizzling as Penn State and Illinois hooked up in a Big Ten wrestling dual meet Friday.

Breaking an early 3-all tie, the Nittany Lions won the final eight bouts of the dual meet for a 31-3 win over the 11th-ranked Fighting Illini before 6,480 fans.

As for wrestling a match at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 2 p.m. afternoon matches, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said he likes it because it gives the meet a different feel.

“It’s a big match on Friday night and the first Friday night we wrestled here,” Sanderson said. “You can feel there’s a different energy which was fun and Nico (Megaludis) got things rolling there. They had some good kids fill in and that is not something we can worry about or complain about. I think all their guys were taped up. I am sure they’re not too happy about that.”

So how did Sanderson feel his troops competed?

“I think we wrestled OK,” he said. “We wrestled well in some matches, but in some, I think we need a little more urgency. That (Illinois) is a tough team. They are a little tricky and that is something we have to work on. You have seven minutes to wrestle and we want to use every minute. I don’t feel like we used every second of all our matches tonight.”

There is always a feature match in most dual meets, and that one came in the opener where defending NCAA champion Jesse Delgado and runnerup Megaludis locked horns.

Delgado defeated Megaludis 7-4 for his national crown one year ago.

Although the first period was scoreless, Delgado drew a stall warning. Megaludis went up 4-2 after two periods with a takedown and reversal to offset a pair of Delgado escapes.

Delgado tied the bout with a reversal in the third period, but Megaludis escaped with 55 seconds left and the two wrestlers ended the bout as Megaludis walked away with a 5-4 win over the defending national champion.

“He (Delgado) took what I wanted (the national championship) and there’s not a day that passes when I don’t think about that,” Megaludis said. “I’ve been waiting ten months for it, but bigger things are yet to come. I’ll enjoy it more in March.”

The Fighting Illini tied the score at 3-3 when Zane Richards outlasted Jimmy Gulibon for a 3-1 win in overtime, but Zain Retherford remained unbeaten when he pounded John Fay for a 15-3 major decision at 141.

Zack Beitz made it two wins in a row for the Lions at 149 when the former Juniata High School standout used a switch for a reversal in the third period and a 4-2 victory over Caleb Irvin.

Taking advantage of his second Rec Hall appearance since returning to the lineup, Dylan Alton used a pair of takedowns and an escape for a 5-2 win over Zac Brunson. With the Alton win, the Lion lead increased to 13-3 at halftime.

Holding the 10-point lead, the Lions used three major decisions in a row to break things wide open.

David Taylor made it four wins in a row with an 11-3 major decision over Jackson Morse. Taylor overcame an escape by Morse in the middle period with a half dozen points in the final period.

“I don’t know what David was doing,” Sanderson said. “Maybe he just got frustrated. I know he’s not real happy with his performance and he shouldn’t be.”

Matt Brown wrestled like a man on a mission at 174 as he hammered former Central Dauphin standout Tony Dallago for his 12-2 major decision. Brown used three takedowns, three back points, an escape and a penalty point plus time for his major.

Ed Ruth completed the trifecta of majors for the Lions as he toyed with Nikko Reyes for a 14-3 win. Ruth broke the match wide open with nine points in the final period.

Morgan McIntosh rode at six-point middle period to a 10-3 victory over Jeff Koepke at 197 before former Bald Eagle Area standout Jon Gingrich returned to the Penn State lineup and handled Chris Lopez for a 6-1 decision to set the final.

Penn State (11-0, 4-0 ) is at Michigan State Jan. 31 and then visits Michigan on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2.