Lions win 6th straight, beat Michigan
Nickal records lone fall of dual meet
UNIVERSITY PARK — Even when his team trailed 8-0 and 11-3 early in the dual meet Friday night against No. 4 Michigan, there was no panic in Penn State coach Cael Sanderson.
Instead, he said, there was more a sense of anticipation to see how his team would deal with the deficits.
“I’m more excited to see how our team is going to respond. This same group of guys responded. They’re tough. They can win tough matches, close matches,” he said. “We would rather score a few more points, but when you’re wrestling an opponent that is as good as we saw tonight, sometimes you’ve got to find a way to win those matches. It’s exciting.”
No. 1 Penn State found a way once again, winning seven of 10 bouts, including the final five, in a 25-11 win in front of 15,703 fans in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) handed the Wolverines (9-1, 5-1) their first loss of the season.
The Nittany Lions came out after the break and swept the final five bouts to turn an 11-6 deficit into the 14-point win. Three of them weren’t easy — in fact, they were decided in the closing seconds.
That fact wasn’t lost on Michigan’s first-year coach, Sean Bormet.
“It was a razor-thin dual meet. At the end, that scoreboard didn’t really reflect it but that dual meet was decided on one takedown in three separate bouts,” he said. “I thought our guys competed really well. I thought at the majority of the weights we had more offense. They ended up capitalizing on some nice counter-offense but overall, it was a razor-thin dual meet.”
At 165, top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph needed a sudden victory takedown at the buzzer to clip seventh-ranked Wolverine Logan Massa, 4-2.
“It’s kind of fun. I’m not saying wrestling close matches is fun, but it’s exciting,” Joseph said. “It’s a moment you’re going to remember. You want to win it and you’re going to do whatever you can to win it. It’s exciting for me.”
Top-ranked 174-pounder Mark Hall also needed a late takedown to pull out a win. With the match tied 1-1 with under 30 seconds to go in the third, Hall hit a shrug and snuck around third-ranked Myles Amine for a takedown. Amine escaped but couldn’t get a winning takedown as Hall hung on for a 3-2 decision.
Second-ranked Shakur Rasheed, back in the lineup with a wrap on his right knee after missing the last three duals, hit two quick takedowns in the first period and made them stand up. He added an escape in the third for a 5-3 decision over Jelani Embree.
Penn State then sent the crowd home happy with a pair of decisive wins at 197 and 285. Bo Nickal built a 14-4 lead on Jackson Striggow before locking up a near cradle and decking Striggow in 5:50. Then, at 285, second-ranked Anthony Cassar used six takedowns, including a double that took No. 8 Mason Parris to his back early in the first period, for a 19-8 major decision to close out the win.
Cassar said he fed off the BJC crowd.
“I love it. I felt at peace before the match. I trust my training. I feel like I work harder and I’m more committed than most. I trust that. I had a lot of fun tonight,” he said.
Michigan grabbed wins in the first two weights to jump out to an 8-0 lead.
No. 15 Drew Mattin staked the Wolverines to a 3-0 lead as he blanked Devin Schnupp, 6-0. It was a win of sorts for Schnupp, who was blanked 8-0 last year by Mattin.
Then, at 133, with Roman Bravo-Young still sidelined by a right knee injury, Michigan’s top-ranked Stevan Micic rolled to a 20-5 technical fall over Penn State senior Scott Stossel, who was making his dual meet debut. Micic rolled up seven takedowns in the win.
The Nittany Lions finally broke through at 141. No. 7 Nick Lee scored two decisive takedowns in the first period and tacked on one each in the second and third in a 10-4 upset of No. 5 Kanen Storr.
At 149, Jared Verkeeren subbed in for Brady Berge, who didn’t weigh in. Verkleeren built a 5-3 lead on Malik Amine through two periods. The Wolverine escaped and scored a takedown in the third, added a riding time point for a 7-5 final.
Penn State cut the lead to 11-6 at the break after No. 1 Jason Nolf dominated No. 5 Alec Pantaleo, 9-2. Nolf mounted a 6-0 lead in the first period. He opened with a takedown and then hooked up a bow and arrow on top and turned Pantaleo for four nearfall points.
Sanderson said that his team’s toughness shone through.
“They’re just tough kids. They come from backgrounds where they have a history of pulling those tough matches out,” he said. “We hope we can advance that in their careers, in their mindset and their training. Ultimately it’s the decisions they make. You get up on that stage in an environment like that, you’ve got to stay focused. I think they have a history of doing that.”