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Wrestling Postview: #1 Penn State Outlasts #18 Wisconsin in Fierce Battle, 24-13.

Now THAT’s what a Big Ten Dual Meet is supposed to feel like!

Nittany Lions celebrate 2016 National Championship
JP Pearson

Big Ten Dual Season kicked off in earnest this past weekend, and Penn State fans got an up-close and personal look at the two primary approaches employed by opponents of this era’s wrestling dynasty.

Friday Night in Evanston against Northwestern got pritTEE yawny.

But back home on Sunday against Wisconsin, the confines were friendly, but the opponent brought some serious fight.

Opposing Coaches Watch

On Friday after Jason Nolf & Mark Hall’s bouts against plodding Northwestern opponents (one of whom was ranked #3 in the country), I quipped:

So yesterday, after watching a wholly different experience in the way Wisconsin battled Penn State, I got more curious about each teams’ coaching staffs and what kind of wrestlers they were when they were on the mat.

First thing I did was to hit the old brackets, because, my word, it’s one of the best things any wrestling fan can do. I got all the data I needed, for free, from the archived work of the great wrestling historian, Jairus K. “Jay” Hammond. I’m grateful that the current caretakers of Hammond’s data (though, I’m not sure who all they are) haven’t started charging us for his work, and you can still download every single Nationals bracket up through 2016, at Hammond’s old site,

I only created one chart, of each staff’s Nationals finishes:

Coaching Staff Comparison, with each coach’s own wrestling finishes at The Nationals.

I also only considered the three primary coaches on each staff, excluding the 4th “volunteer assistant” positions.

We don’t learn much of anything about styles from the chart, but I thought a few things were interesting:

  • NW had the most AA placements, but PSU, led by Cael’s 4, had the most Titles.
  • At one point yesterday, we saw Casey stand up to verbally jab at whatever protest Bono was issuing, and I wondered who would win in a battle between the two of them. Turns out, we very nearly saw it in both 1996 and 1997, but they were a weight class apart. Casey didn’t move up from 142 until 1999, two years after Bono was finished.
  • Both Reader and McDonough had one year they just barely missed AA. I know McD’s was from a shoulder injury, but welcome input in the comments for intel on Reader’s 2010 finish. Cael was his coach for the 7th & 4th place finishes, but 2010 was Reader’s first year without him.
  • Of the nine coaches, only Cael, Howe & Brewer were 4x AA’s.

From the brackets, and my bracket-jogged memory, there were a few other notes:

  • Cody Brewer was an attacking wrestler all four years. He had multiple Bonus Point matches in Year 1, but ran into Logan Stieber. Same in Year 2, but Tyler Graff. Year 3 (2015) was the year of the Odd Seeding across the board at Nationals and he somehow landed a 13-seed out of a 1-loss season, but he bonused everybody until a regular decision over Cory Clark in the Finals.
  • Andrew Howe, stud that he was, was not much of attacking wrestler. Relatively, of course. Only 3 of his 20+ bouts at Nationals ended with Bonus Points.
  • Storniolo won a Big Ten Championship at Penn State as a freshman, but at Nationals, from the 8-seed, lost to Jeremy Spates in the R12. After that, he transferred to Oklahoma to wrestle for Spates’ father, Jack. Would also love to read more about this back-story.
  • By his Senior year, Bono was into Bonus. He had a Fall, a Tech Fall (called Match Termination that year) and a Major, before going into OT in the Semifinals and Finals (against Lincoln McIlravy).
  • McDonough was always into scoring lots of points, until his shoulder injury.
  • Looking at Reader’s brackets, there were a lot of bouts where he scored more than 7 points, even in years he didn’t finish as well.

There’s probably a lot more weight that could be put into the coaches’ personality differences, versus Nationals results, but it was fun to look into nonetheless.

Wisconsin Dual Team Scoring

Anyway, let’s dig back into the Wiscy Dual and see what happened. Penn State’s team twitter account posted quite a few of these off-mat and entrance videos:

Early upsets by Badger wrestlers resulted in a team score chart pretty far outside PSU recent norms.

Noteworthy achievements in today’s result:

  • This was the first time this year that Penn State has won fewer than 8 of 10 bouts; Wiscy took 4 of 10 from them.
  • Penn State won the takedown advantage 33-8.
  • Penn State’s Dual Meet winning streak now at 51. Penn State hasn’t lost a dual meet since a 21-18 defeat to Oklahoma State, in Stillwater, on February 15, 2015. Iowa’s record is 76, under Tom Brands.

125 #15 Connor Brown Major Decision Devin Schnupp, 18-9; Wiscy 4-0

Devin Schnupp continues to entertain the PSU faithful with his effort. Conventional wisdom says he’s still a tad too small in the corpus, but that heart of his sure is outsized!

In the first period, he gave up one TD and didn’t escape. In the second period, Brown extended the lead with an escape, a reversal and 4 near fall.

But in the third, Schnupp kept wrestling, through a ton of reversals, and kept the loss to a MD.

133 Roman Bravo-Young MD Jens Lantz 13-5; Tied 4-4

RBY continued his bounce-back from getting decked in the Scuffle Semis, but this was the first glimpse we got of how hard the Badgers were going to fight to avoid giving up points. I say first, because the Underdog Fight at 125 was provided courtesy of PSU’s Schnupp.

Lantz forced a number of restarts and stalemates in the first period, and also picked up a stall warning, but held RBY to only two takedowns.

He gave up two more in the second, and earned his second stall warning, resulting in a point. And in the third, he only allowed one, and RBY never even threatened the Technical Fall.

141 Tristan Moran DEC #4 Nick Lee, 12-10 SV; Wiscy 7-4

Moran’s a Stillwater, OK native, who had great results in Open competition his first three years at OkSt, but couldn’t crack the starting lineup there. His transfer to Wiscy this offseason really bolsters the Big Ten competition at this weight, as Nick Lee found out.

Man, looking back through BSDWrestleBro, bubba0077’s pbp in the open thread reminded me how wild this thing was!

141 Lee vs Moran first period pbp

The second period continued the action: one takedown for Lee, two escapes for Moran, and another potentially dangerous.

But the third period was straight fire. Lee got a reversal that survived a Bono challenge, but then Moran got an escape and a takedown of his own, to send it into Sudden Victory. Cael challenged a non-call on a Lee takedown that looked very, very close, but the call stood. In the first tie-breakers, each wrestler escaped in the allotted 30 seconds.

But in SV2, Moran was awarded a takedown and the upset victory.

It was an action-packed scrap. A bummer that Lee lost, but he’ll have plenty of good film to review. BSDWrestleBro, mattinglywasking noted that there were multiple opportunities for Lee to run a half nelson during those scrambles, so it’ll be interesting to see if Lee & Coach Cody see the same thing.

Best thing about that loss for us? Big Ten Network has begun releasing select match videos to youtube, and this is one. Here, rewatch it now, and tell us what you saw.

149 Cole Martin DEC #9 Brady Berge 8-7; Wiscy 10-4.

Here’s another Badger who was extremely stingy giving up points to Penn State, but not in an eyesore sort of way. He never earned a stall warning, but he forced multiple restarts and stalemates.

Berge continued his offensive aggressiveness, and earned 3 takedowns in the first period, but he also gave up 3 escapes and two stalemates.

Martin tied it up in the second, with his fourth escape and his first takedown.

And in the third, with little time remaining, he secured the win with the final takedown.

Given recent chirpiness from Freestyle fans who like to take scoreboards like this one to advocate for new rule change suggestions (a ridiculously common and annoying pastime in the wrestling community, imo) like 3-point takedowns, I have some takery...

I contend that this score is fine and that current Folkstyle scoring is accurately commensurate with the 3-position skillset that the style intends to incentivize--and in correct priority order:

  1. Pin’em = mat slap
  2. Turn’em long = 4NF
  3. Turn’em short = 2NF
  4. Take’em down = 2
  5. Hold’em down = 1
  6. Don’t let’em hold you down = 1

Berge’s 7 points consisted of 3 takedowns and 1 escape. Martin’s 8 points consisted of 2 takedowns and 4 escapes.

This is fine.

Mat wrestling is important, and Berge had difficulty riding Martin in any significant way and never threatened to turn him.

The math checks out. In this kind of battle, Berge needed to either score a fifth takedown of his own, stop the second takedown of Martin’s, or hold Martin down on the mat for longer.

157 Jason Nolf TF Devin Bahr 25-10 (6:37); Wiscy 10-9.

Man, did we ever see some Nolf dominance this weekend! Our man is out here in this final go-round showing the world his greatness. Nolf has always been “fun” to watch, and we joke around here about him playing with his food before eating, but this weekend dude came out with intent to chow immediately.

He racked up 5 first-period takedowns against Bahr, but the very first one was indicative of his weekend approach. We’ve seen Nolf score many, many different ways over the years, but head-in-the-belly freight-train blast doubles hasn’t been a terribly common one.

After upset losses by Nick Lee and Brady Berge, and having seen the same Badger fight everybody else had, Jason Nolf came out the gate with some serious team wrestling attitude:

He added 3 more takedowns and 2 near-fall points in the second, and finished off the Tech with 3 more takedowns and a stall point in the third.

The Rec Hall crowd was understandably appreciative.

Bahr’s performance in getting tech-falled was heroic and almost by itself makes my point that Wiscy’s fight was more honorable and vastly more entertaining than Northwestern’s. Yes, Nolf forced Bahr into two stall warnings, one resulting in a point, but check out Bahr’s return to center after a restart with 1:19 left the match, already down 20-9:

Contrast that with #3 Ryan Deakin’s third period on Friday, where he gave Nolf 3 match points via two stall calls and a locked hands penalty point:

Coach Casey was on the mic with Jeff Byers Friday night and had this to say about that Deakin bout:

He’s upset after the match, because he gets ridden in the 3rd, but you know, I mean, hard to get away from a guy that gets called for stalling 3 times, drops to the ankles, I wasn’t sure what the strategy was, but whatever! You still gotta be able to get away. And so that’s what’s gonna bother him, and that’s a good thing. So he’ll go back and try to figure that out, but yea, he…just keeps trying to score points.

Yea, he does! So glad we get two more months to watch this all-time great compete.

Bonus media inserted late, courtesy of Nomad


Courtesy of BSDWrestle bro, mattinglywasking

165 #3 Evan Wick DEC Mason Manville, 6-1; Wiscy 13-9

Jeff Byers on Friday night mentioned that Cenzo was sick and might not go on Sunday, robbing fans of a first-time career match up between the 2x National Champions and last year’s 3rd-place All-American, redshirt sophomore Evan Wick.

Fanboy Protip: if you’re at all familiar with the dedication and ethos of that impressive genre of person known as the Wrestling Mom, you could put some goodness in your feed by following Mama Wick, who’d gotten similar word:

Byers on the mic Sunday barely mentioned Cenzo in any context, though it was noted in the BSD open thread that the BTN Student U announcers reported he was sick and expected to return next week.

Turns out Evan Wick was on his way back from his own ailments.

Mason Manville, for his part, on Friday had been registered to wrestle in the Shorty Hitchcock Open on Saturday. Coming out of the Scuffle, Cael talked about how this year’s non-starters could be having more success:

It’s just we have a lot of guys who are not starters who are going to open tournaments and I feel like they could be having more success than they are, right? I just believe they can win. I believe they can go to the Scuffle and win, whether they’re our starter or not. It’s a pretty simple sport, you know? It’s just a matter of scoring points. And with the training partners they have in here, I think...and Bo’s had a couple opportunities to wrestle in our starting lineup, and he’s done a great job for us. And he’ll probably have a couple more before it’s all over.

Having given Bo Pipher the opportunity on Friday night, up a weight (he dropped a tough 11-9 Decision in which he scored two takedowns late, but ran out of time to finish the comeback), Cael pulled Manville out of the Shorty and sent him out against Wick today, for his first career start in Rec Hall.

A better fit for the 165-pound class than Pipher, the Scuffle Runner-up at 157, Manville still struggled a lot with the body-type mismatch of Wick, and his long, long frame and legs—weapons he’s amazingly adept at utilizing.

Manville fought hard and was coached well against Wick’s smothering top game; he never got turned nor earned in a stall call after two Wick takedowns, one of which was a long-leg counter to a Manville shot, and escaped after one of them. He did choose neutral in the third, where he got in on a few more shots and drew a stall warning to Wick late.

174 #1 Mark Hall Technical Fall Patrick Spray, 24-5 (6:13), PSU 14-13

Team Wrestling in a dual meet is a cool thing to see. When Chris Bono had to pull #10 Ryan Christensen and send Spray out, #1 Hall knew he had to get the team lead back by putting up serious points. Then he did that, with typical variety from his scoring arsenal. Things like this stop kick-trip drop thing, where he shut em down and opened up shop.

He scored early and often. Two takedowns and two tilts in p1, two takedowns in p2, chose top in p3 then added two more takedowns in that period, and finished the Tech Fall.

Full match here:

184 Shakur Rasheed DEC Mason Reinhardt, 5-0; PSU 17-13.

There were two exceptions to this Badger Fight narrative, and they were back-to-back opponents of Rasheed and Nickal. Rasheed got a quick early takedown and began quickly working for a cradle. Reinhardt understandably and wisely put great effort into avoiding said cradle. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much else in his arsenal to put on display.

So it looked ugly.

Two stalls and a restart in p1, a Rasheed escape and no other action in p2, and a stalemate and potentially dangerous in p3.

Rasheed’s game in the Opponent is Blocking; Try Something New department isn’t nearly as advanced as some of his teammates, but this is a bout I definitely would have liked to see more variety of attempts from Rasheed, despite the opponent strategy.

197 #1 Bo Nickal MD Beau Breske, 14-4; PSU 21-13.

Ugh, this guy was the other exception to the aggressive Badger style today. You could read his face: the gap between wanting to score for himself and wanting to minimize the points his bout allowed his opponents’ team was ... vast.

Which, hey, he succeeded in holding Nickal to a Major.

Scoring breakouts looked like:

  • 5 Nickal takedowns
  • 1 Nickal escape
  • 1 Nickal riding time point
  • 4 Breske escapes
  • 3 Breske stall warns
  • 2 Breske stall points
  • 4 restarts

Check out Breske and tell us if he looks like he wants to wrestle.

285 #4 Anthony Cassar DEC #9 Trent Hillger, 11-5; PSU 24-13

We saw Cassar’s confidence in his 285 neutral game at the Keystone vs. Nevills. We saw it grow some more in the Scuffle run to the Finals, where it stalled against #3 Derek White. Then we saw it blow up again on Friday night against a 280-pound Conan, in the form of five takedowns, two of which were feats of strength, lift-him-full-in-the-air, double-legs straight outta the gym.

Yesterday, like Hall, he spread his scoring across all three periods: one in the first, one in the third, and this buzzer beating beauty for his third of the second (ya follow!)

On The Mic

Cassar was Sunday’s Ridge Riley Award winner, given to the dual’s most outstanding Penn State wrestler, and he got on the mic with Jeff Byers afterward. The first thing out of his mouth:

Yeah, Wisconsin came to scrap, we love that at Rec Hall.

On his strategy:

Just score, really wanted the major. Come March, I’ll be my best product.

On his top wrestling:

Yeah, i feel Like I worked on it a lot in the offseason. I’m pretty good on my feet already. Got better at hand fighting, I can ride these guys, but I feel like I gotta get my turns going a little more.

On an Away - Home dual weekend, adversity and today’s team performance:

Yeah, it’s really good to test our discipline. Yeah it’s good to test that adversity and see who’s coming out the better man.

On being home this week, until Nebraska in Rec Hall on Sunday:

Yeah, I’m excited for this week, don’t have a match til Sunday, so I’m gonna get two solid lifts in. Pick up some heavy weight, put it back down. Eat a lot of food, and feel good.

After saying goodbyes, Byers added a quick remark of his own:

It was good to get this kind of scrap, with kids that are gonna fight—the way Penn State is accustomed to wrestling—at this point in the season. Don’t know that any other opponent really has done that.

Also on the mic afterward—the BTN mic--was #1 Mark Hall, whose Technical Fall gave the Lions the lead they never then relinquished.

“We saw maybe some kinks in our armor. The matches we lost were close. But it’s not the end of the year, it’s not the end game.”

These words echo a few of Cael’s post-scuffle takes early last week, and would be good thoughts to digest for fans eager with fyre takes about relative performance quality of the January version of these 2019 Nittany Lions: “I don’t think we wrestled fantastic, but if we were wrestling our best coming off of early January, we...we probably wouldn’t want that, right? We want to be at our best in March.”

Hall continued: “Credit to them, they’re a really good team. Coach Bono’s a really good coach, with what he did at South Dakota State, before he came to Wisconsin. But we knew coming in they were gonna wrestle hard. We gotta finish our shots, we gotta finish the match and wrestle some of those things a lot better.”

He finished off with a great shout out to you, fan: “We have the best fans in college wrestling. I’ve said before that wrestling in Rec Hall is the greatest thing in sports.”

The Takery

I thought this dual was lit.

We see it all the time now, and Cael said it again on Tuesday: it’s a simple sport.

There are only two ways to deal with the juggernaut of Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions: turtle or scrap.

This weekend we saw each approach, and yesterday’s wrestling by the Badgers is superior in two important respects: it’s more honorable, and it’s far more entertaining.

We also had it reaffirmed, in the timeless way that only this timeless sport can convey it, through fire: that iron sharpens iron. Wrestlers need competition to get better.

Penn State needs the Wisconsins to bring the fight in January, so it can lay down another hammer in March.