STATE COLLEGE - The question might be how much difference is there between the 23rd-ranked wrestling and the top-ranked squad?
After Sunday's dual-meet between the Pitt Panthers and Penn State Nittany Lions, the answer to that question can be summed up in three words: It is huge.
After seeing the team score deadlocked at midway through the dual, the Lions flexed their muscles down the stretch, winning the final five bouts in a 28-9 win.
Not only was it a big win for the Lions, but it also took place before an NCAA dual-meet record crowd of 15,996 in the Bryce Jordan Center.
"I think that is very exciting," said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson about breaking the record. "We were hoping that it would happen because it is a great deal for our program and also a big deal because it happened between two Pennsylvania schools. We really appreciate everybody who came out and supported this team and wrestling in general."
Nico Megaludis got the Lions off and running at 125 when he used an escape and takedown in the middle period to go along with a time point for a 4-1 win over ninth-ranked Anthony Zanetta.
Shelton Mack got the Panthers on the board for the first of only two times in the dual when he was three points better than Jordan Conaway for a 5-2 win at 133 pounds. But true freshman Zain Retherford remained unbeaten for the season at 141 when he used a pair of escapes and 1:49 time advantage for a 3-2 nod over freshman Edgar Bright.
Following the Retherford win came somewhat of a stunner as James English was holding a 4-2 lead over former three-time PIAA state champ Mike Racciato of Pen Argyl when Racciato caught English in the middle of a scramble and pinned the Lion with only eight seconds left in the bout.
With the Racciato fall, Pitt held its only lead in the meet at 9-6, but that would be the final scoring for Pitt.
James Vollrath quickly took care of that when he used three takedowns and an escape for a 7-2 nod over Cole Sheptock to tie the score at 9-9 heading into halftime.
While the Panthers had a few things to holler about in the first half of the meet, they had nothing to call home about in the second half.
David Taylor put State on top for good when he slicked and crunched Geno Morelli for the fall just nine seconds into the middle period.
"I really don't know what happened," Taylor said with a chuckle. "Really, I just shot in and I have a couple of tricks when that happens. I put him on his back and the ref called a pretty quick pin. Maybe it was a little too fast, but I am not really complaining about it. I was in pretty good position and I liked where I was because I am at my best when I am in flurries. Today I was able to create some flurries and action and today good things happened."
Matt Brown followed with a dominating 9-3 win over Tyler Wilps at 174 and former PIAA state champ Wes Phipps from Grove City gave the fans a lot to cheer about when he thumped Aaron Rothwell for a 13-3 major at 184.
"(Ed) Ruth will be coming back here pretty soon, so it was kind of my last little hoorah," said Phipps. " I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had and have some fun. The coaches said go out there and score (a lot of) points. I just won a match in Boston the same way, kind of getting some takedowns and tried to replicate it."
As for wrestling on the elevated mat, Phipps and his teammates thought it was a lot like the national tournament.
"I thought it was sweet," Phipps said. "It's a lot like NCAAs with the big stage rose up, and it makes a pretty sweet sound whenever you pick a guy up and slam them down on it."
With the Phipps win, the Lions clinched the win with a 22-9 lead with two bouts remaining.
With only the final score to be determined, Morgan McIntosh and Jimmy Lawson picked up decisions to set the final.
Now 5-0 in dual meets, the Lions will next hit the mats when they host Ohio State on Sunday in Rec Hall.
Penn State 28, Pittsburgh 9
125 - Nico Megaludis, PS, dec. Anthony Zanetta, 4-1 (3-0). 133 - Shelton Mack, Pitt, dec. Jordan Conaway, 5-2. (3-3). 141 - Zain Retherford, PS, dec. Edgar Bright, 3-2. (6-3). 149 - Mike Racciato, Pitt, pinned James English, 6:52. (9-6). 157 - James Vollrath, PS, dec. Cole Sheptock,7-2. (9-9). 165 - David Taylor, PS, pinned Geno Morelli, 3:09. (15-9). 174 - Matt Brown, PS, dec. Tyler Wilps, 9-3. (18-9). 184 - Wes Phipps, PS, maj. dec. Aaron Rothwell, 13-3. (22-9). 197 - Morgan McIntosh, PS, dec. Nick Bonaccorsi, 4-3 OT. (25-9). 285 - Jimmy Lawson, PS, dec. P. J. Tasser, 3-1. (28-9)