Hawks get wings clipped by Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK — In the previous 107 meetings between Lehigh and Penn State on the wrestling mats, the Nittany Lions have dominated the series with the Mountain Hawks.

But what Penn State did Sunday in Rec Hall in running its series lead to 70-34-3 added new dimensions to its dominance.

The Nittany Lions swept all 10 bouts in a 42-0 shutout of the No. 10 Mountain Hawks — the third time they’ve done such in series’ history. Only this time, it was the most lopsided of the three. Penn State had previously notched 33-0 (Dec. 7, 2007) and 39-0 (Feb. 13, 1993) whitewashes. In this one, Penn State amassed an unheard of 47-0 edge in takedowns.

And while those numbers are awe-inspiring, the simple fact is Lehigh was missing six starters from its lineup.

“We want to fight and compete, just keep wrestling. You’re wrestling for your fans, you’re still wrestling for your teammates. It’s hard. This is probably the lowest point we’ve had as a program, result oriented. We still have good kids. Nothing’s changed. We’re going to be a lot better in a month. We’re going to be a lot better in two months,” Lehigh coach Pat Santoro said.

He went on admitting he’s never been part of a team that had suffered so many injuries to starters.

“Never. Never. Some of them are unrelated to wrestling. It’s been a really strange fall. It’s been very unique. We can sit back and feel sorry for ourselves when we have a lot of adversity, or we can rise up. I think we can rise up. Our attitude has to be consistent. The message has to be the same. We’re trying to get better every time out.”

Penn State stacked up two falls, a technical fall, four major decisions and three decisions.

Nittany Lions coach Cael Sanderson acknowledged the fact that the Mountain Hawks weren’t even at half strength in not scoring a takedown.

“I think our guys wrestled well, but we also saw half of Lehigh’s team. Who knows? I thought our guys wrestled well,” he said. “If today was the first day of the national tournament, we’re ready to go. Regardless of who our opponents are, we’re looking more at what we’re doing, how our tie-ups are, what we’re doing in the baseline defense. I think right now our guys are on track.”

With so many top-level Lehigh starters out of the lineup, only three bouts featured a pair of ranked wrestlers. Two of them came at the very start, after a random draw set the starting weight at 197.

Top-ranked Bo Nickal used seven takedowns to fashion a 19-4 technical fall over No. 15 Jake Jakobsen to open the match.

The, marquee matchup came next, at 285 pounds, where No. 5 Nittany Lion Anthony Cassar took on No. 6 Jordan Wood.

Cassar started with an impressive double-leg takedown in which he picked up the heavier wood and deposited him on the mat for the first of five takedowns he would score on the day in a 12-3 major decision win. He admitted that opening takedown made a statement.

“Yeah, definitely. A lot of these guys are a little lighter than I think when I first get in but it’s good to make that first takedown; it’s big. Definitely feel really strong and definitely can compete with those guys in that area,” Cassar said. “I have a little more pop. It was always taking a lot out of me cutting that weight down to 197 so I have a little more pop with my strength and power and speed and a little more true to myself at heavyweight.”

The final matchup of ranked wrestlers came at 174, where second-ranked Mark Hall won another close bout with No. 7 Jordan Kutler, 6-1.

“I think Kutler’s a really tough wrestler. He has great positioning and just great fundamentals. They wrestled a couple times last year and it seems like it was a one-point or a one-takedown match, so I was glad to see Mark get two,” Sanderson said. “I think he wrestled well. Kutler is one of the best guys in the country and I thought Mark wrestled really well. When he needed to go score, he got a little more urgency and he was able to go score.”

Penn State got back-to-back falls from two of its top-ranked wrestlers, 157-pounder Jason Nolf and 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph.

Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141) and Shakur Rasheed (184) all rolled up major decisions. Devin Schnupp (125) and Jarod Verkleeren (149) earned decisions. Schnupp won his second in a row.

“I guess it was a little bit of a confidence booster. I’m just trying to wrestle…just trying to keep it simple,” said Schnupp, who received a standing ovation for his effort. “It felt really good. Our fans are great. I definitely enjoy hearing from them.”

Penn State returns to action at December 14 in Rec Hall when No. 16 Arizona State visits in a dual meet.