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Wrestling Postview: #1 Penn State Roars Back to Defeat #7 Lehigh

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Nittany Lions celebrate 2016 National Championship
JP Pearson

Cael Sanderson has still never lost to Lehigh.

Sporting a lineup missing two starters, Cael’s Nittany Lions all approached their bouts with a team mentality, and fought hard up and down the lineup to pull out the victory late, extending PSU’s dual meet win streak to 35.

The PPL Arena environment looked supa dope via the flawless Patriot League webstream. It included a raised stage and long carpet for the Mountain Hawks to run out & up to enter the lighted mat in the center of the darkened arena, and Lehigh’s lightweights gave the crowd plenty to cheer for:

125 Darian Cruz WBF Devin Schnupp (1:13); Lehigh 6-0

Cruz is better, we knew it, he knew it, and he showed it. A sick & slick pick of Schnupp’s ankle, turned into a near-side cradle for the boom, and nasty PSU deficit.

133 Scotty Parker WBF Domenic Giannangeli (4:12); Lehigh 12-0

Dom wrestled tough! Gave up a tough single leg, but fought hard and didn’t get ridden long. Also, and this is important, he rocked an extremely veteran moustache, looking every bit the picture of old-world eyetalian his surname suggests.

In p2, he got right up again. But then got real sloppy with his neutral hand fighting and Parker dumped him with a hard underhook that took Dom to his back where he remained until the mat-slap. Something didn’t look right to Cael, who burned the team’s lone challenge unsuccessfully.

141 Luke Karam DEC Jered Cortez 2-0 ; Lehigh 15-0

Cortez started out cautiously, as Byers noted the tension that could be felt in the arena. Karam wrestled even more cautiously, spending more time on one knee in neutral than he did when chose bottom in p2! This one was ugly, but to be fair, it’s the kind of bout that’s bound to happen in a tight dual—the bouts that offer fodder for fans of either team to complain about stalling, very much like some of the later ones for PSU fans.

Oh well.

Cortez had a tough go in neutral, where they were both fairly evenly matched, but an even tougher time on the mat, where Karam was the superior grappler. In the end, PSU fans had Zain to look forward to for washing off this one’s stank.

149 Zain Retherford WBF Cortland Schuyler (1:27); Lehigh 15-6

Zain came out with his hair on fire, clearly wrestling for his team. While so doing, he finished with his 42nd career pin. Thankfully, it looked quite painful.

Pin by Pain. Again.

157 Jason Nolf TF Ian Brown 23-8 (6:40); Lehigh 15-11

Brown’s a bit of a tank, so Nolf gassed him in the first period. Took him down 11 times, but no way Brown was gonna get pinned mitigating a 15-0 team lead, so Nolf settled for the 23-8 tech.

165 Gordon Wolf MD Bo Pipher 24-12; Lehigh 19-11

Another fighter! Penn State backups wrestled like they were inspired by Bill O’Brien today. Vincenzo Joseph did not weigh in, and Bo Pipher weighed in at 155.6 in his stead. Gordon Wolf looked and wrestled like he had 10+ pounds on Pipher, but was unable to end the bout prematurely, either by Technical Fall or Pin.

Pipher got a takedown in the middle of the second period that surprised everybody, except himself apparently. He wore out in the third period, though, finally succumbing to Wolf’s size and strength and he demonstrated how gassed he was. Wolf looked understandably disappointed at the end, and fairly tired himself.

174 Mark Hall DEC Jordan Kutler, 3-2; Lehigh 19-14

Down eight team points, this would often be a bout where Penn State would push for Bonus Points, but Jordan Kutler is too good. First period ended cagey & scoreless.

The second period began with a Kutler escape and a great shot by Hall and even better defense from Kutler. Then Hall put on the slickest duck under you may see this year. Lordy, that was fast and tight and Kutler had no chance. He quickly gave up the escape though, so the third began 2-2, with Hall down.

After Hall’s escape and 3-2 lead, Kutler needed some points, but didn’t display any earnest attempts to procure them, until there were only 30 seconds left. Hall deftly thwarted a boss-ass double-leg attempt and burned some clock on the edge of the mat. Hall earned a stall warning with 7 seconds left, but held on for the 3-2 final.

184 Bo Nickal DEC Ryan Preisch 3-2; Lehigh 19-17

Another cagey match that resulted in a Penn State decision! Nickal earned a takedown on a nice shot in the middle of the first period, but the resultant position was awkward and he couldn’t put on much of a ride, and the period ended 2-1.

Nickal chose down to start the second and quickly escaped for a 3-1 lead. Things got more physical in neutral and Preisch earned a stall warning. Lots of ties and head taps, but no more shots.

Preisch chose down for p3, Nickal put on a tough ride, but Preisch fought out of it about with about 1:30 left. Nickal had a great shot on the left leg, but Preisch spun around on it to force a stalemate. A minute and a half of chippiness later, and the whistle blew.

197 Anthony Cassar DEC Jake Jakobsen 8-3; Penn State 20-19

It was nice to see AntNee’s urgency both early and late in this one. Team was still down, only two bouts left. Had a nice single early in the first, then a big double-leg late in the period.

Cassar chose down in the second and nearly got a reversal, but Jakobsen threatened a turn that forced Cassar to turtle and flatten out, where he remained for the entire period.

Jakobsen escaped quickly in p3 and pushed the pace to turn the 2-4 deficit. Then Cassar counter-shot from an ankle pick up to a big double for takedown #3, even finishing with a 4th one late in the period.

285 Nick Nevills DEC Jordan Wood 2-0; Penn State 23-19

Phew! This got real close. Scoreless first period, quick Nevills escape in the second, but then a gorgeous single leg by Wood had Nevills on one leg and fighting hard to sprawl the other one on the edge of mat, which he did successfully. Man, that’s the kind of takedown defense Nevills is gonna need if he hopes to best his current #3 ranking against either Adam Coon or Kyle Snyder.

Wood HAD to choose down for the third period, where Nevills has shown complete dominance early this season, including against current #3 Tanner Hall in the Allstar Classic. He exploded up early and there was extreme action throughout, with Nevills maintaining control for the entire period. Man, what a ride!

The Takery

Understated woo. And a sigh of relief. This was a total team effort, from the fight the backups provided, to the urgency and points-seeking the stars demonstrated. It was a thrilling dual.

Although Penn State pulled out the W in the end, its existing vulnerabilities became more clear and with what Ohio State showed out with in Las Vegas this weekend, it’s become imperative that the Nittany Lions get and stay healthy.