Lions roll over Bucknell, Sanderson wants more

UNIVERSITY PARK — When you’re as consistently good as the No. 1 Penn State wrestling team has been, sometimes managing expectations is harder than managing opponents.

Sunday’s 36-6 romp over Bucknell in front of 6,535 Rec Hall fans was a prime example.

Bucknell was missing several starters and the expectations of many fans were probably that of a repeat performance of the five-pin exhibition the Nittany Lions put on in their season-opening win over Army on Thursday.

Instead, Penn State won eight of 10 bouts and rolled up a 49-4 disparity in takedowns while only posting two falls, two technical falls, two major decisions and two decisions.

“I think that was kind of obvious, the energy level was a little low. Obviously, our job is to still do our job. For the most part, I think our guys did. The effort wasn’t great in a couple of matches,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “If you’re changing your mindset and approach depending on who you’re wrestling, that’s probably not a good thing. We just want our best every time.”

So far managing expectations and managing opponents hasn’t been a problem for two-time defending 149-pound NCAA champion Zain Retherford. His pin, in 4:14, was one of two, along with Jason Nolf’s (3:33).

“The only expectations I really focus on that I can control are my own expectations. Anything else is a distraction,” he said. “I focus on what I want to get out of a match, what I want to get out of this year and wrestle the way I want to wrestle. That’s all I can really control.”

After Retherford and Nolf’s back-to-back pins, Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall produced back-to-back technical falls at 165 and 174 respectively. Joseph used 10 takedowns to notch a 23-8 win and Hall used eight to get the job done in a 21-6 romp.

Corey Keener (133) and Bo Nickal (184) produced 12-4 and 16-6 major decisions, respectively.

Jered Cortez notched a 10-4 decision and Nick Nevills closed out the dual with an 11-4 decision. Nevills hit a takedown at the buzzer for what he said he thought was a major decision.

“I just straight up forgot the score. I don’t know what was going on. I got lost there. It was a real rookie mistake. I thought with the last-second takedown that was a major. I still got the points wrong in my head,” he said.

Penn State’s only losses came at 125, where Devin Schnupp couldn’t finish several shots in a 3-1 decision, and at 197, where Anthony Cassar dropped an 11-8 decision despite three third-period takedowns.

Sanderson said Schnupp just needs to gain some confidence and a belief he’s good enough to win. After Cassar’s promising debut Thursday, Sanderson said his problem was more physical than mental.

“Obviously, he has to get off the bottom. He can get off the bottom. He just has to make his mind up there. That was kind of the issue today. That’s why he lost; he spent a lot of time on his belly,” Sanderson said. “That had a lot to do with him not doing a good job with his weight management, more than anything else.”

Still, Penn State is 2-0 with two lopsided wins and an early-season lineup that seems plenty potent. Sanderson said he likes this lineup, but there’s still room for improvement and it may change.

“We’re happy with the team we have. We’ll see how things develop. There are still opportunities for guys to earn spots or take spots, however you want to look at it. We have some open tournaments coming up,” he said. “We feel good about the team we have out there right now.”

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