Suriano, PSU show promise

UNIVERSITY PARK — When Penn State coach Cael Sanderson was asked at media day if he would be as confident in true freshman Nick Suriano leading off the lineup as he had been with four-time All-American Nico Megaludis, the coach’s matter-of-fact response might have surprised some.

“Yes, for sure,” Sanderson said. “It is that consistency and toughness which is what we want as the leadoff guy. Whether it is in Rec Hall, on the road, at a Big Ten tournament or national tournament, Nick will always be Nick.”

Suriano showed Sunday in his Rec Hall debut why Sanderson spoke with such confidence about him. The precocious freshman shut out fourth-ranked Stanford All-American 125-pounder Connor Schram, 3-0, in the No. 2 Nittany Lions’ 36-6 rout of the No. 14 Cardinal.

A 30th consecutive Rec Hall sellout crowd of 6,544 witnessed the raising of the 2016 Big Ten and NCAA championship banners and Sanderson’s 100th victory as Penn State coach.

The Nittany Lions won eight of 10 bouts, four by fall and four by decision, as they amassed a 32-6 edge in takedowns.

“I think, overall, our team is wrestling well and I think we have a pretty darn good team,” Sanderson said. “I think we’re excited about the future here.”

Part of that future is Suriano, who is 2-0 and has outscored his opponents 18-4 thus far. After a scoreless first period against Schram, during which Suriano coaxed a stalling call, Suriano escaped to start the second and went on the attack again. He earned a second stall call and expanded his lead to 2-0 after two. He rode Schram the entire third period to earn a riding-time point and the 3-0 win.

“It was an awesome experience. The crowd was unbelievable, it was a tough opponent and it was my first time here. It was awesome to represent Penn State here,” Suriano said.

“I was riding, sticking it to him, putting pressure on him. I felt him getting tired, felt him weaken in the third and I was gonna keep him down there. I wasn’t gonna let him out. I wish I took more risks like Cael teaches, attack a little more.”

Sanderson seemed pleased with the win.

“Schram’s a tough kid, real strong, fast. That’s a great win for Nick. He’s not satisfied. He’s not gonna be satisfied this early,” the coach said.

Stanford coach Jason Borelli said he expected more out his All-American.

“We expect him to be in national title talk. He didn’t show that tonight. He never touched the guy’s legs,” he said. “It was tough to get through Suriano’s jabs. We didn’t score and we lost.”

A random draw set the starting weight at 165 pounds and the Cardinal pulled off a stunner to silence the crowd. Stanford’s Keaton Subjeck twice caught Vincenzo Joseph in headlocks for a pair of six-point moves as he built a 15-5 lead after a period. Joseph outscored Subjeck the rest of the way, 7-3, but it wasn’t enough in an 18-12 loss.

“I’m not worried about Vincenzo. He takes a lot away from that loss today. He’s gonna be right in the mix as we move along,” Sanderson said.

Stanford’s only other win came at 141, where No. 2 Joey McKenna throttled Jimmy Gulibon, 6-2.

The rest of the match was all Penn State. Bo Nickal (184), Jered Cortez (133), Zain Retherford (149) and Jason Nolf (157) all recorded pins. Geno Morelli (174), Matt McCutcheon (197) and Nick Nevills (285) earned decisions, Morelli and Nevills over higher-ranked opponents.

Morelli used two takedowns, a stall point and an escape to fashion a 6-3 win over 13th-ranked All-American Jim Wilson.

“That was the first time I didn’t wrestle later in the match. I kind of liked it. I felt a lot more relaxed today. Any time you can get the momentum rolling it’s good,” Morelli said.

Nevills used a first-period takedown and a third-period escape to nip 10th-ranked Nathan Butler, 3-1.

“It’s only my fourth or fifth match total I’ve wrestled at really the DI level where I wasn’t wrestling redshirts,” Nevills said. “I’m not over the top thrilled with a 3-1 win, but at this point it’s a win and I can continue to keep working on things.”

Borrelli said his Cardinal obviously need more work to be more competitive with Penn State as this point in the season.

“Penn State has a very good team. They’re going to be right in the hunt this year, and maybe the best team in the country. They’re only going to get better,” he said.

“It’s hard to say if we’re in that bad of shape or if Penn State’s that good. We’ll go back to the drawing board and look at it. Penn State’s very good.”