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20 Thoughts on the Penn State-Ohio State Dual Meet

On Friday, No. 1 Penn State beat No. 3 Ohio State 24-14. It was a workmanlike performance. But that doesn't mean it didn't warrant further thought.

1. Concussion protocol. I understand why they put rules into place; no one wants to mess with brain trauma, and the effects it can have on athletes. But I've seen it come into play three times this season, and each time the athlete was down significantly, winded by his opponent, deemed fine after the protocol was initiated, and went on to wrestle somewhat more aggressively after getting an over-five minute break in action.  Each time, the wrestler did appear to have his head knocked, don't get me wrong; but this seems like a very useful tool for an otherwise crafty coach to get his gassed competitor unpenalized breathing time, because unlike regular injury time, under concussion protocol the wrestler who isn't being examined doesn't get to choose what position they start in--so the injured wrestler (or, if you're cynical like me, the "injured" wrestler) gets actual benefits to taking this time. That's unfair if you're up a lot, and wearing down your opponent who gets to gather his breath and rest on the mat. Like if, say, you're Jason Nolf and you're wrestling a coach's son like Jake Ryan.

2. In this week's instance of "concussion protocol", it wasn't even clear this was what it was. At first it seemed as though it was deemed basic blood time that was switched to injury time (which starts 90 seconds after the injury occurs), when Tom Ryan was forced to back off away back to his corner from his son by the refs. But when that wasn't enough time to give Jake the breather he needed, it was switched to concussion time, and he was examined on the mat by the trainer and given as much time to have this examination conducted as the referees would give him. Though I'm admittedly not an athletic trainer and not well-versed in that regard, but this is the first "concussion examination" I've seen that's been conducted on the mat and not with the athlete taken into the locker room. Ryan wasn't stood up, and he wasn't given what I'd deem a full array of concussion tests. I'm not unbiased here, but to my untrained eye it seems as though both Ryans knew exactly what the letter of the law was--the new rules say that concussion tests can be administered on the mat, after all (though I'd argue those may not be as conclusive as off the mat tests) and used those to their full advantage. These new concussion rules, though they may have the wrestlers' best interests at heart, need to be examined again after the end of the season.

3. At Illinois, there was balanced, unbiased refereeing. Against OSU there was not. The refereeing directly cost Nolf a chance at a tech fall, as they were incredibly slow to call not only his takedowns of Ryan, but also his letting up of Ryan--often his hand would be on Ryan's head, with nary a body part but one or two fingers touching and the ref would still neglect to call an escape. With that lack of urgency there wasn't enough time for the catch and release necessary for a tech. And the OSU staff knew it, and with their lack of stall calls, Ryan was able to dance his way to a simple major decision, getting his team an extra point.

4. Speaking of reffing decisions, how many times does Kenny Courts have to flee the mat before he's dinged for stalling? His mode of attempting to escape a very effective ride that Matt McCutcheon had going was simply to try to inch his way out of bounds two or three times, and get a restart. It's a mark of this ridiculous crew that Courts was only warned for stalling late in the third, and Mouse never got a point off of it--even though Kenny never was the agressor, and the Nittany Lion had over two minutes of riding time. Dancing isn't wrestling, and neither is backing up.

5. I'm pretty sure this is the same reffing crew that did the Wisconsin dual. There were less cautions on starts, though, because I think the PSU staff knew it too.

6. I can't get over these refs--that takedown awarded to Micah Jordan over Jimmy Gulibon at the very end of that match was suspect given how all of the matches were called all night. I could see it if they were calling those two points consistently--but Nolf didn't get the benefit of the same style of TD, and neither did Bo Nickal later on. Only in the early scrambles did the Ohio State wrestlers, Jordan and earlier Nathan Tomasello, got those TDs. That's not even referreeing.

7. BSDer JtotheP does not like Johnni DiJulius:

I don't blame him. He did nothing on bottom when Jordan Conaway had a most effective ride going, burying his head in the mat and turtling up to do his best "I won't give up bonus points" way of wrestling (seeing a pattern here?). It's ugly, and disappointing, and above all else gives into so many stereotypes of the sport as boring and antiquated.

8. Speaking of the DiJulius-Conaway match, what a little bitch Tom Ryan is. He rightfully got cautioned by the refs when he launched himself a good four feet--or more--over the line after JDJ *only* got two back points after a fairly early takedown of Jordan. Whether he thought it should have been a pin or additional back points or what exactly he was whining about I'm not sure, but that's not the way to compose yourself if you're a leader of the sport--or if you're the defending national champion coach. Ryan purports to be both. He looked like neither. He looked like a child. I've lost all respect for him.

9. I lost more respect for him when he visibly cheered on his son after he had only given up 8 points to Nolf after the 2nd period. And the referees didn't give him another caution or mention anything when he was over the line yet again in any other matches--which he was repeatedly. He should have been disqualified. What a joke.

10. Another joke? How out of position these average officials were to make calls on counts for back points, let alone pins. Nickal had Martin clear on his back, and the official was on the other side of the duo, and nonchalantly went to look--no sense of urgency. Kudos to Cael Sanderson for using a challenge on that ridiculous no-call there--and I'm not surprised it wasn't overturned, because referees in this sport rarely will second guess themselves. The Penn State coaches were right in front of the action, with their eyes on the back of Martin. The refs weren't. I trust Frank Molinaro way more than the zebras, bias or no. And Ryan's questioning of the challenge was ridiculous as well.

11. Once again, the Penn State wrestlers were the clear aggressors all throughout the night (as evidenced by the takedown differential, whereby 2/3 of OSU's takedowns were in the heavyweight bout. HEAVYWEIGHT!!). This is the story of this squad, and this program--as evidenced by the appearance of four Nittany Lions on the NCAA most dominant list. But even more evidence of this was in some of tonight's marquee matchups.  Nico Megaludis had chances tonight, and was the definite aggressor even in his loss to Tomasello--he's the one who took the majority of the shots, and it was only on a late counter that Tomasello was able to scramble around and take Nico down. Nico's been historically frustrated by wrestlers who stall their way to victories over him (see: Delgado, fucking Jesse) but the only way he'll make it to the top of the podium in his last opportunity is if he doesn't let that late frustration get the better of him, as he did on Friday. He'll likely have at least one, if not two, more opportunities against Tomasello to rectify this. Let's hope he learns from it and moves on, getting the better of the Buckeye next time.

12. Similarly, Gulibon was in many ways the more aggressive wrestler even though he was ranked well below Micah Jordan. If it wasn't for that (what I deem) bogus late-awarded TD against the #4 141-er, the score would have been a very, very respectable 4-3 (as it was, 6-3 is still good) and Jordan had to work incredibly hard for the victory. Gulibon was back from the injury at a better form than we'd seen from him in months, and though he let Jordan dictate the pace much of the match--as he has been wont to do for much of his career--he didn't seem to get flustered. Jordan's opening TD was a counter off of a Gulibon attempt, and Jimmy had a really strong ride going on in the 2nd--something that a younger Gulibon wouldn't have been able to accomplish. It says a lot that Micah cut him very early on in the third. Even in the loss, I was pleasantly surprised.

13. And even though he lost by tech, Jan Johnson was still freaking shooting against Kyle Snyder when down double digits. He would not give up. He didn't turtle. He wasn't coached to mitigate the damage and not give up bonus points "for the team" and the overall score--he was coached to get after it no matter what, to be aggressive, and to try no matter your opponent. That's the Penn State way right now, and holy hell if it isn't respectable and impressive. Kudos, young man. You went out swinging and I applaud you. And poor Nick Tavanello.

14. I'm not just happy about the Penn State wrestlers' aggressiveness--but also about their tough riding. Conaway, McCutcheon, and Gulibon all had really great rides going, which in many instances isn't something you really see in Penn State wrestlers aside from the traditional riders like Zain and McIntosh. Conaway went into his ride having been down over a minute in riding time and finished that match with a riding time point--that was damn impressive. And Mouse rode Courts out a full period--something you have to like to see. Sometimes, being aggressive includes painfully riding your opponent. I dig it.

15. Where was Shakur Rasheed? Wasn't even announced, and I didn't even see him on the sidelines. It was a little disappointing, though Morelli did admirably keeping Bo Jordan to a regular decision in his stead.

16. I blame Bscaff for Nico losing. He had prewritten a lot of his postmatch writeup, and had Nico winning and the BSD wrestler of the meet. I'm a very supersitious sports fan, and that kind of jinxing just will not stand.

17. Intermat's preview of this dual meet predicted that Snyder would pin Johnson, and that Zain would only major his opponent. That's right, Snyder--who I believe has never pinned a single opponent--would have a fall, and Zain--who majored multiple top ten guys in recent weeks--would only major an unranked opponent on a ridiculously opportunistic stage. It's like they don't watch wrestling at all. Needless to say, they were wrong on both counts.

18. I feel for Zain Retherford. The casual wrestling viewers are all aboard the Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal trains, and why not--these redshirt freshmen are incredibly exciting to watch, and we get to watch them for three more years to come. But Zain just demolishes his opponents week in and week out, and there's no one even close, and doesn't get the press or accolades and goes about his business and isn't even satisfied with a first period pin. That's the type of wrestler that will be a multiple year winner. He's expected to win, and he does. Ho, hum.

19. Speaking of ho, hum--how about Morgan McIntosh? The dual was all but over by the time the Californian hit the mat, with the only way that the Buckeyes had a shot at victory being if Morg got pinned or tech falled. Ha. All he did was pull his best Nolf impression, playing catch and release all damn day with his opponent--someone none of us expected to be the Buckeye wrestling at that weight. Just how impressive was Morgan's tech? About thirty seconds to go in the third, my mom turns to me and says, there's no way there's enough time left for Morgan to get the tech--he was only up about 10 points at the time--and I just grinned and said, just you wait, Mom. Lo and behold, escape and takedown, lather rinse repeat, and he got the five. Boom. Tech. On the way to a title.

20. Words cannot describe what a cluster parking was at the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night. I left my hotel (2 miles from the BJC) at 5 pm. I ran into my seats at 5:58. I ended up parking at the Natatorium (not exactly legally) 10 minutes til, having bailed on many of the official parking routes multiple times, even though I had prepaid parking--because the logistics were so bad. Multiple factors likely went into this: the changing of the dual time from 7 to 6 so it hit what little rush hour there is in Happy Valley; the lack of enough parking attendants; the fact that it was on a weekday and not a weeknight, unlike every other BJC dual. Regardless, when 20% of the dual attendees aren't in their seats when the meet kicks off, that's a problem. And one that needs fixed the next time you have an event of this magnitude.


The BJC dual is such a special event--but why not make it even more special? Cael has always been an advocate for advancing and growing the sport of wrestling, and getting recognition for other, less known programs. Thus, why not have an "undercard" dual prior to the headlining Penn State dual? Next year, the athletic department could invite another, smaller D1 program (such as nearby Lock Haven) to "host" at the BJC two hours prior to Penn State's dual; this would give their wrestlers the opportunity to wrestle in front of a big crowd, and wrestling fans the opportunity to watch more of the sport they love. Win-win.