Why Penn State's Win Over Ohio State Could Be Best of Cael Sanderson Era

By Rob Dougherty on February 12, 2019 at 8:57 am
Penn State put in a championship level display against Ohio State on Friday night
Aaron Doster - USA Today Sports

In what was the most anticipated college wrestling dual of the season. No. 1 Penn State flexed their muscle on Friday night, beating No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus by a score of 28-9, and arguably that scoreline flattered the Buckeyes. It was a complete demolition and destruction, and might be the best dual performance of Cael Sanderson's tenure at Penn State. 

Weight Result Team Score
133 No. 15 Roman Bravo Young dec. No. 6 Luke Pletcher 2-1 (TB-1) PSU 2* - OSU 0
141 No. 5 Nick Lee dec. No. 2 Joey McKenna 7-6 PSU 5 - OSU 0 
149  No. 3 Micah Jordan dec. Jarod Verkleeren 10-8 PSU 5 - OSU 3
157 No. 1 Jason Nolf tech fall No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes 21-6 (TF 5:51) PSU 10 - OSU 3
165  No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph maj. dec. No. 12 Te'Shan Campbell 11-2 PSU 14 - OSU 3
174  No. 1 Mark Hall maj. dec. No. 18 Ethan Smith 12-4  PSU 18 - OSU 2**
184  No. 1 Myles Martin maj. dec. Mason Manville 18-6 PSU 18 - OSU 6
197  No. 1 Bo Nickal pin No. 2 Kollin Moore WBF (1:38) PSU 24 - OSU 6
285 No. 4 Anthony Cassar maj. dec. No. 19 Chase Singletary 18-8 PSU 28 - OSU 6
125 Malik Heinselman dec. Devin Schnupp 7-4 PSU 28 - OSU 9
  • * Roman Bravo-Young lost a team point for Penn State due to a headgear spike post-match
  • ** Ohio State lost a team point due to a late challenge after the Hall major decision victory

For Ohio State, to compete and potentially knock off Penn State, they would need to hold serve in all the matches in which they were favored, and score more bonus points than the Nittany Lions. That didn't seem like such a big ask pre-match, especially given the depth of Ohio State's lineup and how well they have wrestled this season. However, it never materialized on a night where Penn State turned in an excellent performance. 

When No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young went to overtime and defeated No. 6 Luke Pletcher, the Buckeyes were in big trouble. Even though Bravo-Young got a team point deducted for a headgear spike, the win meant Ohio State was going to need a big upset or some timely pins of their own to keep pace. Bravo-Young sported a knee brace, but it didn't stop his ability from pulling an upset over one of the scrappiest opponents at 133. 

When No. 5 Nick Lee defeated No. 2 Joey McKenna, the Buckeyes were already sunk, and the dual was just two matches old. McKenna came out looking for big points, but Lee weathered the storm and scored two third period takedowns to win 7-6. This was one of the best wins of Lee's college career, and considering how strong McKenna has been the last two seasons, it may arguable be his best. It's safe to say that no one is going to out-pace Nick Lee this season, and McKenna could not on Friday night. 

A 10-8 decision victory for No. 3 Micah Jordan over Jarod Verkleeren was just a temporary bandaid for Ohio State. Verkleeren turned in an excellent performance, but ultimately was robbed late when he scored the match tying takedown, and was hit with his second stall warning when he and Jordan went off the mat. The stall call was for Verkleeren "pushing" Jordan off of the mat, but it certainly looked like Jordan was the more likely one to be running off of the mat. 

Jason Nolf and Vincenzo Joseph compounded Ohio State's misery with a technical fall and major decision respectively. Nolf just did the thing where he gets a lot of takedowns and back points. Joseph did the thing where he's insanely hard to score on, and he scores regularly. At half time, Penn State was up 14-3, and the story line  switched from could they win to how big the margin of victory would be. 

A Mark Hall major decision over No. 18 Ethan Smith was another match where he showed his freaky defense and borderline absurd scrambling. No. 1 Myles Martin gave the hosts something to cheer for with an 18-6 win over Mason Manville. Martin won and dominated as he should, Manville showed a lot of fight for someone wrestling up two weight classes. 

However, the biggest kick in the gut was yet to come for Ohio State. Less than halfway through the first period of the night's most anticipated bout between No. 1 Bo Nickal and No. 2 Kollin Moore, Nickal secured a cradle and pinned Moore in swift fashion. Disappointed Buckeye fans fled for the exits with two matches to go. The biggest match of the year was reduced to the equivalent of scoring an early third-quarter touchdown to go up 40. It was a done deal.

No. 4 Anthony Cassar picked up another ranked win, and Malik Heinselman won the final match at 125 for the Buckeyes. The dual was over, 28-9. Penn State went into Columbus and flexed their muscle. The standard is still in Happy Valley, and Tom Ryan and his staff have to wonder where it all went wrong. 

So that begs the question, was this Penn State's greatest dual performance ever? This isn't their toughest win ever, defeating Ohio State in Rec Hall without Jason Nolf takes that cake, but the performance Penn State turned in on Friday was arguably better. To destroy the hopes of the Buckeyes in just two matches was out of this world type stuff. Ohio State could have realistically been up 9-0 or more after the first three matches, and they were down 5-3 instead.

Penn State has had other memorable dual performances, the 27-13 win at Oklahoma State in 2017 after Nick Suriano (redacted) was injured, the 26-11 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Iowa in 2017 are two standouts for me as well that deserve some consideration. If you have any other performances of the Cael Sanderson era that you think deserve mention, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. 

For this team to go into Columbus, against a very difficult matchup in Ohio State, and to throttle them like they did exhibited why Penn State remains the standard in the sport. It also may have been the best Penn State has ever looked under Cael Sanderson. What can't Penn State do under Sanderson you might ask? Well, you can scratch blocking a field goal off the list. 

Penn State will be on the mat this weekend against Michigan State and Illinois. 

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