Nittany Lions topple Rutgers
UNIVERSITY PARK — In what has become a recurring theme for the Penn State wrestling team, the Nittany Lions had to rally from yet another halftime deficit on Sunday to remain undefeated.
The No. 1 Nittany Lions (11-0, 3-0 Big Ten) swept the final five bouts to turn away a young, talented 16th-ranked Rutgers (12-2, 2-2) team, 27-11, at Rec Hall.
Penn State won seven of 10 bouts and the Nittany Lions once again dominated the takedown battle, 23-7.
“I think Rutgers wrestled really well. They have a really good team. We knew that coming into the week,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said.
Sunday’s dual marked the return of Brady Berge to the lineup after his surprise announcement a week ago that he was suspending his coaching career at South Dakota State and returning to Happy Valley.
Fittingly, it was Berge who started the Nittany Lions’ comeback and provided the turning point, as far as Rutgers coach Scott Goodale was concerned.
“We have to win that bout,” he said. “I don’t know how much our guy really wanted to win there. He has to dig deep and understand the situation. That was probably a big turning point. And then their hammers took care of business. They beat our good guys. At 184 and 197 they took care of business.”
With the match tied 2-2, Berge escaped to start the third and scored a takedown to earn a 5-1 decision in his return. That cut the Rutgers lead to 11-9.
Top-ranked Carter Starocci rolled up a 19-2 technical fall in 4:25 to give the Nittany Lions a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The defending 174-pound national champion has taken his offense to a whole new level this year.
“It’s a conscious effort,” he said. “I think last year I wanted to win so bad, it almost held me back. I think it’s a mindset, it’s die by the sword. That’s like a different conscious state you’re in and you wrestle more free and with more enthusiasm.”
At 184, top-ranked Aaron Brooks dominated No. 5 John Poznanski, using four takedowns, an escape and a riding time point for 2:31 in advantage to notch a 10-2 major decision.
In another matchup of ranked opponents, No. 2 Max Dean rallied from a 6-3 deficit to post a 9-6 win over No. 7 Greg Bulsak. Dean started his comeback by scoring a counter takedown in the second period.
“6-3 he’s winning and then he takes an ill-advised shot,” Goodale said of Bulsak. “I don’t know why. We talked all week about Dean’s counter offense. Don’t ever give up position when you’re leading 6-3. That counter offense, when he made it 6-5, it changed the whole match.”
Dean escaped to start the third and tie the match. He added a takedown and a riding time point for the win.
Fourth-ranked Greg Kerkvliet ended the match with a first-period fall in 1:45.
Rutgers took advantage of Lee’s absence to win three of the first five bouts and build an 11-6 lead heading into the intermission.
Penn State jumped out to a 6-0 lead with decisions at the first two weights. Ninth-ranked Drew Hildebrandt scored a takedown with a second to go to eke out a 4-2 win over No. 31 Dylan Shawver at 125. Then, at 133, top-ranked Roman Bravo-Young was just too quick on his feet, securing four takedowns in an 11-5 win over No. 20 Joseph Olivieri.
Rutgers swept the next three weights, two in overtime, to lead at the halfway point.
Third-ranked Sebastian Rivera needed just 3:36 to amass a 17-1 technical fall over Brandon Meredith at 141.
No. 19 Beau Bartlett opened his match against No. 18 Michael Van Brill at 149 with a takedown, but Van Brill was awarded a point for locked hands and an escape to send the match into the second period tied 2-2. The two wrestlers traded escapes in the next two periods and the match went into overtime.
Neither wrestler could score through the two-minute sudden victory and two tiebreaker periods. Neither could score in the second, one-minute, sudden victory period. Bartlett chose bottom in the third tiebreaker period but Van Brill rode him the entire 30 seconds. Van Brill, Sanderson said, had 34 seconds of riding time, so even if Bartlett had ridden him for the entire tiebreaker period, Van Brill would have won. So, Bartlett chose to give him the escape and start the final tiebreaker period neutral. He came close to scoring a takedown but couldn’t finish and dropped a 4-3 decision.
Rutgers won another overtime bout at 157, as Andrew Clark countered a takedown attempt by Tony Negron and scored a takedown of his own to pull out a 6-4 win.
Penn State hits the road for its biggest dual meet of the season thus far, a 6 p.m. Friday dual at No. 3 Michigan.
“We’re just trying to get better as we as we move along. We have big matches coming up,” Sanderson said. “Every match is big, but we’re excited to you know, kind of get on the road here and kind of test ourselves out a little bit as we push into the Big Ten schedule.”