STATE COLLEGE - Any way you slice the pie, the pieces that belonged to the Penn State wrestling team were bigger than those of Lock Haven University.
Taking eight of 10 bouts and racking up a total of 10 bonus points along the way, the Nittany Lions easily outdistanced the Bald Eagles by the final of 34-6 before a crowd of 6,500 fans in the home opener for the 'Nits.
"I thought our effort was good," said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. "That is what we are looking at now and from here on out, that is what we want. If we're putting good effort in, we'll get good results. In the two matches we lost, the effort was good and that is the foundation of everything else. If the guys keep working hard and hustling they will keep progressing."
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER SHANNON
Penn State 149-pounder, and Juniata High School graduate, Zack Beitz wrestles Lock Haven's Mac Maldarelli during the Nittany Lions' 34-6 victory over the Bald Eagles Sunday in Rec Hall.
Going into the dual, LHU head coach Scott Moore knew the cards were stacked against his young Bald Eagle wrestlers squaring off against the top-ranked Nittany Lions.
However, despite the odds facing some of his wrestlers, Moore liked what he saw from his team for the most part.
"We knew coming in that in some of the weight classes they had a lot of experience against some of our younger guys," said Moore. "We just told the guys to go out, fight hard, have fun, hold position and don't give up easy takedowns and I think for the most part, we were able to do that. Obviously I am not pleased with the final score, but for the most part, I was pleased with the way we wrestled."
In addition to seeing his wrestlers compete against the number one team in the nation, Moore and his staff were looking to gain some respect.
"That (the final score) is something that will improve as long as we continue to fight hard," said Moore. "I think everybody in here (Rec Hall) wanted to see competitive matches where the guys came out and fought hard and I think most of the people are leaving with that thought in their mind. We are hoping that they feel that although there is a lot of improving to be done, Lock Haven is a young, tough team that goes out and wrestles hard."
Moore also feels that wrestling a top team in the environment that Rec Hall provides can do nothing but help his young wrestlers mature.
"I honestly think we should have won the two matches by a few more points, but in this environment you just never know how the guys are going to respond," Moore said. "We want to come up here and wrestle to better prepare our guys for matches like this down the road. You don't get too many opportunities to wrestle in front of six thousand people and we have to take every opportunity we have to let them experience an atmosphere like this to prepare them for what will come around at the end of the year."
Nico Megaludis got the Lions off and running at a fast pace at 125 when he put on a takedown clinic against Ronnie Perry, Magaludis slicking Perry eight times en route to a 21-6 technical fall.
Jordan Conaway extended the Lion lead to 8-0 when he doubled up on Matt Bryer for a 10-5 decision. Conaway had defeated Bryer 13-3 one year ago.
Zain Retherford made it three wins in a row for the Lions with a solid 6-1 win over Dan Neff at 141 before Mac Maldarelli got the Bald Eagles on the board with a hard-fought 8-7 win over Zack Beitz.
Beitz fought back from a 2-5 deficit after one period, still trailed by one (5-6) after two before he tied the bout at 7-all.
Maldarelli escaped with less than 30 seconds left in the bout and the two wrestlers ended the bout on their feet.
"It is tough to wrestle before a crowd like this was today," said Maldarelli. "There is no bad kid on that team so you have to fight hard for everything you get."
As for the flow of the match, Maldarelli felt he went away from his normal approach to a match and that might have had some effect in how close it was at the end.
"I was just trying to hold on," Maldarelli said about the final seconds of the bout. "I feel my conditioning is pretty good so I just try to stay tough at all times and not give up any points, especially in the third period. I think in a one-point match I have enough defense to hold my own against anybody."
As for why the early lead dwindled into a close encounter, Maldarelli admitted that it might have been due to losing a little focus.
"I took him down twice in the first period so I felt pretty confident at that point," he said. "I think I just kind of went off my horse a little bit by slowing the pace down by not using my offense as much as I should have."
Although Beitz came out on the short end of the final score, Sanderson liked what he saw from his freshmen 141-pounder.
"I thought Beitz did well," said Sanderson. "He could have won that match, but he has to get better at finishing his shots. Any time a kid is taking that many shots in a match, they'll be good because eventually he will get some of those to work.
James Vollrath put the Lions back on the winning trail at 157 when he picked up a late takedown on Billy Randt plus time for a 12-4 major decision.
With the four wins in the first five bouts, the Lions held a comfortable 15-3 lead at halftime.
David Taylor provided a strong start for the Lions to begin the second half of the dual as he dominated Jake Kemerer for a 16-3 lead before getting the fall at the 6:09 mark of the bout. Of Taylor's eight wins on the season, six have been by fall.
"Kemerer and I were roomates for a year and teammates for a couple of years," said Taylor. "He is explosive with his shots so I expected him to come out and shoot on me. I just treated it like any other match. I just went out there and scored as many points no matter what color singlet the other guy was wearing. I can tell that he (Kemerer) is going to be good because he was in on me with a couple of good shots."
Matt Brown followed Taylor's fall with an 18-3 technical fall over true freshman Adam Mackie at 174 to push the Lion lead to 26-3 with three bouts left on the card.
Fred Garcia became the second and final LHU winner at 184 when he used a first-period takedown and an escape in the third period for a 3-1 win over redshirt freshman Wes Phipps.
"He (Phipps) is definitely a strong, young kid," said Garcia. "I've got a better mentality though and I let him mentally know that he was in a match. I just have to keep pushing the pace to continue to score points."
Garcia said that he feels confident while wrestling close matches.
"I just have to stay mentally strong and wrestle my match," he said. "Maybe I should have stayed after him a little more than I did."
With only the final score to be determined in the meet, Morgan McIntosh and Jimmy Lawson combined for eight team points to set the final with a pair of major decisions.
Highlighting the season opener was the hoisting of the 2013 NCAA championship banner. Participating in the ceremony was former Bald Eagle Area PIAA state champ, two-time Nittany Lion NCAA champion and four-time Penn State All-American, Quentin Wright.