A sensational dual before a sold out crowd at Rec Hall saw No. 2 Penn State defeat No. 1 Ohio State, 19-18. The score does not begin to tell half of the story, as the dual seemed destined to be for Ohio State at intermission due to Penn State needing to win at least four of the final five matches to have a chance to pull off the victory.
For Penn State that isn't usually a problem, but when the other team has Bo Jordan, Myles Martin, Kollin Moore and Kyle Snyder, doubt creeps in. Instead, Cael Sanderson waved whatever magical instrument he had in his possession and Penn State found a way.
The dual started at 125 pounds with Carson Kuhn making his debut for Penn State against No. 1 Nathan Tomasello. He got off to a flying start with three first period takedowns, but Tomasello was able to recover and started pouring scores on late, picking up a 21-12 major decision and giving the Buckeyes an early 4-0 lead.
At 133 pounds, Ohio State built its lead when No. 2 Luke Pletcher defeated Corey Keener, 5-4. Pletcher is similar to Dean Heil when it comes to pulling out close matches, so while Keener tried a variety of shots, Pletcher's defense did not loosen up.
Then, at 141, the dual seemed to be falling toward hopeless as No. 6 Nick Lee dropped a 7-6 decision to No. 11 Joey McKenna. It was thought that Penn State would need to win all the matches they were favored in, and for Lee to drop a decision was a real gut punch. McKenna was able to earn the decision with some very strong riding, picking up a riding time point that ended up being the difference. It was a match that certainly looks like one Lee can learn from, and it would not be shocking to see this result reversed the next time they square off.
No. 1 Zain Retherford got Penn State going with a 20-4 technical fall victory over No. 7 Ke-shawn Hayes, who made the peculiar decision to start down in the third period against Retherford, which it proved costly for Ohio State. Retherford picked up six nearfall points and two additional stall points. The tape is out on Retherford and somehow wrestlers are still choosing bottom anyway. There is not a safe place against Retherford, but underneath him is one of the least sought after positions in the NCAA.
No. 5 Micah Jordan picked up a 24-9 technical fall victory over Bo Pipher. Jordan was able to pick apart Pipher regularly, and it was a tough spot for Pipher. As this dual headed into intermission, Ohio State held a 15-5 lead, and Penn State was left wondering if a comeback could be done.
No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph got the second half started with a 12-3 major decision victory over No. 14 Te'shan Campbell. Joseph controlled the pace of the match and was rarely threatened by Campbell, who has an impressive physique but he never was able to get his offense going. Like Hayes, Campbell he struggled to get out from underneath Joseph. Ohio State's lead was cut to 15-9 as the two featured bouts of the dual took place.
No. 2 Mark Hall came in needing to beat No. 3 Bo Jordan, which managed to do with a 6-4 win. Hall trailed 4-3 in the third period when he hit his trademarked duck under to take the lead. From there, Hall rode out the period and picked up a crucial win. Not only did this result get Penn State back in the dual, it also gave Hall a chance to get the No. 1 seed in March from current No. 1, Arizona State's Zahid Valencia.
Sanderson never likes to see his guys stop wrestling, and No. 1 Bo Nickal epitomized this ideal against the Buckeyes. Nickal was able to pick up a fairly surprising 10-2 major decision over No. 2 Myles Martin. The way he picked up this major was rather surprising, as Nickal was only up 5-2 in the third period after Martin scored an escape. Nickal was able to get a takedown with about 1:20 left in the period, and tried a variety of tricks to get Martin, who did not budge, onto his back.
Nickal had already locked up a riding time point, so he was effectively up 8-2, a turn would give Nickal a major and give Penn State the opening it needed to win the dual. With two seconds left in the period, Nickal picked up the major after he was able to turn Martin for two nearfall points. Penn State took its first lead of the dual, up 16-15.
Then, the upset of the night happened. Sanderson selected surprise starter Anthony Cassar over No. 7 Shakur Rasheed, and the decision paid off, as Cassar stunned No. 1 Kollin Moore, 6-3. The situation at 197 pounds for Penn State is a head scratcher, especially considering the rumor that Rasheed beat Cassar in a wrestle-off this week.
*2 days ago https://t.co/myfFxfpImu— Christian Pyles (@CPyles8) February 4, 2018
However, Sanderson made the brave decision to go with Cassar in the biggest dual match of the year, and Cassar made that decision payoff. Moore had a couple of very solid shots that Cassar was able to fend off, and score the match clinching takedown with 1:16 left in the third period. Who knows who Sanderson is going to put out there for the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, but whether it is Cassar or Rasheed, both guys are capable of making a run. Penn State was up 19-15 as the heavyweights made their way to the Lion logo.
The dual of the century came down to one of the more fascinating aspects of dual wrestling. No. 1 Kyle Snyder, fresh off of reminding everyone that he's the best heavyweight in the world a week ago, needed to pull off a major decision victory to give the Buckeyes a chance. Last season, Snyder beat Nevills 19-9 in Columbus, so it was possible for Snyder to pull it off.
He didn't. Nevills was able to score a couple of takedowns en route to losing 15-10 in one of the most exciting matches of the dual. Snyder put it all on the line, trying to throw Nevills to his back but never managing to get Nevills turned. This result will probably go down as the loudest Rec Hall has ever cheered for a loss, as Penn State went on to win the dual, 19-18.
What more can be said about a team with this much toughness? Penn State seemed destined to suffer its first loss in 43 dual matches, but did not lose. This was not the best team that Penn State could put out there, and they still got it done against their biggest rivals in front of a national audience.
It seems almost unfair to single out anyone in particular in what was truly a spectacular dual. Whether it was Kuhn's fire, Retherford or Nickal's persistence, Cassar's toughness, or Nevills' determination, any one of the 10 who put on a singlet last night for Penn State is worthy of praise. Ohio State brought their best, and Penn State still clinched the Big Ten dual championship, anyway. This was a great precursor for the postseason, as these two teams will battle for a Big Ten and national championship.
Last night, though, Penn State showed why they are the top dogs in wrestling, and with Sanderson in charge, it is hard to see Penn State relinquishing that crown anytime soon.
- 125 pounds - No. 4 Nathan Tomasello maj. dec. Caron Kuhn (0-1), 21-12, Ohio State 4-0
- 133 pounds - No. 2 Luke Pletcher dec. Corey Keener (12-6), 5-4, Ohio State 7-0
- 141 pounds - No. 11 Joey McKenna dec. No. 6 Nick Lee (20-4), 7-6, Ohio State 10-0
- 149 pounds - No. 1 Zain Retherford (21-0) tech fall No. 7 Ke-shawn Hayes, 20-4 (TF 7:00), Ohio State 10-5
- 157 pounds - No. 5 Micah Jordan tech fall Bo Pipher, 24-9 (TF 6:06), Ohio State 15-5
- 165 pounds - No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (16-0) maj. dec. No. 14 Te'shan Campbell, 12-3, Ohio State 15-9
- 174 pounds - No. 2 Mark Hall (22-0) dec. No. 3 Bo Jordan, 6-4, Ohio State 15-12
- 184 pounds - No. 1 Bo Nickal (21-0) maj. dec. No. 2 Myles Martin, 10-2, Penn State 16-15
- 197 pounds - Anthony Cassar (16-2) dec. No. 1 Kollin Moore, 6-3, Penn State 19-15
- 285 pounds - No. 1 Kyle Snyder dec. No. 6 Nick Nevills (19-4), 15-10, Penn State 19-18