Nittany Lions top Ohio State
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson has often said that he and his staff seek consistency from their Nittany Lions.
The same consistent excellence that has enabled Penn State to win eight of the last nine NCAA championships pushed No. 2 PSU (11-2, 8-1 Big Ten) past No. 6 Ohio State (10-4, 6-3 Big Ten), 20-16, Saturday night in front of 15,995 fans in the Bryce Jordan Center and a national TV audience on Big Ten Network.
The teams split the 10 bouts 5-5, but Nittany Lions were able to trump the Buckeyes’ one major decision with a fall and two major decisions.
Sanderson wasn’t exactly pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“I don’t think we wrestled great tonight – I don’t think that’s any secret. Our guys that are consistent were consistent and our guys that haven’t been consistent weren’t consistent,” he said.
“We need those guys that haven’t been consistent to step it up a little bit if we want to compete for a national title. But, we’re right there if you go up and down the lineup. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay positive.”
Ohio State Coach Tom Ryan said it was his Buckeyes’ inability to fight through positions in some key weights that was the difference in the match.
“When you lose fight in positions. It was 5-5. You get caught in a front headlock against (Mark) Hall and you go to your knees,” he said. “When you’re facing resistance and you don’t fight it, you’ve got a problem. Against (Aaron) Brooks, we hit resistance and our brain turned off. If it turns off against a wrestler who has moves like that, you’re going to find yourself in a world of trouble. That cost us.”
Penn State got a 46-second fall from second-ranked Hall at 174 and major decisions from No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (13-5) at 165 and No. 6 Aaron Brooks (15-4) at 184.
There were no bonus points to be had in one of the most anticipated individual matchups of the collegiate season, No. 1 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State and No. 2 Nick Lee at 141 pounds. Still, the match lived up to the hype.
Pletcher converted a single into a double for a clean takedown 30 seconds into the first period. Lee escaped six seconds later as the hyped BJC crowd quieted. The two jousted the rest of the period, but it was Lee pushing the pace.
“I mean it’s just seven minutes wrestling, you’re gonna give up takedowns sometimes so you just keep wrestling through the whole match,” Lee said.
Pletcher chose bottom to start the second and quickly escaped to push his lead to 3-1. Lee continued to push the pace, earning a stall call on Pletcher and, with less than a minute to go, Lee brought the crowd to its feet as he converted on a single to tie the match at 3-3. Lee barred Pletcher’s arm and rode him the rest of the period, coaxing a stall point to lead, 4-3, heading into the third.
Lee quickly escaped to start the third and brought the raucous crowd to its feet as he converted another single and rode Pletcher for another minute before the Buckeye could escape late in the period. Lee earned a point for 1:50 in riding time for the convincing 8-4 win.
“We knew 141 was a war. Lee is really good. It was a 1-2 matchup. We struck first and he just kept coming,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to be ready to fight the whole time. I’ve never been around someone who has achieved anything high in this sport and they can’t fight hard for seven minutes.”
Sanderson cited Lee’s consistency as a key to the win.
“Nick’s extremely consistent the way he trains year round, his lifestyle – those things pay off and we’re seeing that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m really surprised – Nick’s a pretty darn good wrestler. When you the match the skill with the commitment, this is what you get.”
Lee admitted he “was pretty excited” and his teammates, who usually talk about not getting caught up in a teammate’s match as they prepare for theirs, said they couldn’t help themselves.
“I was not very even keel. I was kind of jumping up and down and running around a lot, I got a little excited,” Joseph said.
Hall admitted as much, too.
“A really good match like that, the anticipation is huge and it’d be near impossible for us not to be jumping around. Yeah, it was cool to see. We’re excited for him,” he said.
Lee’s win gave Penn State an early 6-3 lead. Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman had won at 125, 5-3, before Roman Bravo-Young pulled Penn State even with a 10-4 decision at 133.
At 149 Jarod Verkleeren took No. 1 Sammy Sasso into overtime before giving up a takedown with two seconds left and dropped a 3-1 decision.
Brady Berge returned the mat for the first time since Dec. 6 against Lehigh. He scored a takedown in the first period and led 3-1 heading into the third. But Ohio State’s Quinn Kinner escaped, converted a takedown and rode out the rest of the period for a 4-3 win at 157.
Ohio State led 9-6 at the break, but Penn State started the second half of the dual with three-straight bonus-point wins. Joseph started the swing with a 13-5 major decision at 165 over No. 16 Ethan Smith.
Hall made quick work of No. 7 Kaleb Romero at 174 pounds. The nation’s second-ranked 174-pounder snapped Romero down into a front headlock and rolled him through to his back with a cement mixer, securing the fall in just 46 seconds.
“It (the fall) was pretty quick. I knew he was gonna shoot with his right hand and I just got where I was good and kind of made him pay the price,” Hall said.
“I just secured it and I think I kind of learned my lesson from the Iowa match. If I do something great, I gotta put it away.”
Brooks used six takedowns to roll up a 15-4 major decision over No. 12 Rocky Jordan at 184.
Ohio State took the final two bouts. Top-ranked Kollin Moore scored six takedowns on No. 17 Shakur Rasheed to roll to a 14-6 major at 197. And, at heavyweight, Gary Traub used a late takedown to upset No. 15 Seth Nevills, 5-4.
“We’ve still got a lot of wrestling left to do this season,” Sanderson said. “The big stuff’s coming up.”
No. 2 Penn State 20, No. 6 Ohio State 16
Saturday at Bryce Jordan Center
125: Malik Heinselman, OSU, dec. Brandon Meredith, 5-3.
133: No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, dec. Jordan Decatur, 10-4.
141: No. 2 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 1 Luke Pletcher, 8-4.
149: No. 1 Sammy Sasso, OSU, dec. No. 17 Jarod Verkleeren, 3-1 SV.
157: Quinn Kinner, OSU, dec. Brady Berge, 4-3.
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, maj. Dec. No. 16 Ethan Smith, 13-5.
174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, pinned No. 7 Kaleb Romero, :46.
184: No. 6 Aaron Brooks, PSU, Maj. Dec. No. 12 Rocky Jordan, 15-4.
197: No. 1 Kollin Moore, OSU, maj. Dec. No. 17 Shakur Rasheed, 14-6.
285: Gary Traub, OSU, dec. No. 15 Seth Nevills, 5-4.
Ridge Riley Award winner: Nick Lee, 141 pounds.
Takedowns: Ohio State 12; Penn State 19.
Records: Ohio State 10-4, 6-3 Big Ten; Penn State 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten.
Next match: American at Penn State, 2 p.m. Feb. 23.