PSU wrestlers dominate opener
STATE COLLEGE – On the night the No. 1 Penn State wrestling team raised a banner to celebrate its seventh national championship, the curtain was raised on the careers of three new Nittany Lion starters.
Freshman Devin Schnupp (125), senior Corey Keener (133) and sophomore Anthony Cassar (197) all made their varsity debuts Thursday night in the two-time defending NCAA champs’ 45-3 shellacking of Army West Point.
The sellout crowd of 6,320 in Rec Hall was treated to five pins, a technical fall, a major decision and two decisions from a Penn State team that amassed a 34-4 edge in takedowns.
As season openers go, head coach Cael Sanderson seemed as pleased to get the season started as he was with his team’s performance.
“We’re just happy to be rolling. We’re happy to get out there and see where we’re at, what we can work on, where we can improve. It’s going to be a great year,” he said.
And why not? With an unprecedented five defending NCAA champions and an additional returning All-American, Penn State seems poised to make a run at an eighth title.
If the Nittany Lions are to do so, they figure to need production at 125, 133, 141 and 197. On this night, they got wins at three of those weights.
Army enjoyed its only lead of the night after 125 pounds, where the Black Knights’ Trey Chalifoux spoiled the varsity debut of redshirt freshman Devin Schnupp, 6-4.
Penn State then ran off four straight convincing wins from 133 to 157 to lead, 20-3, at the intermission.
Keener, the Central Michigan transfer, won his Nittany Lion debut as he caught Lane Peters in a headlock and pinned him in 2:50.
“Corey went out with the big headlock; we’ve been working on that all week. That was great to see,” Sanderson said, tongue in cheek.
Keener said he was happy with the fall, but not entirely pleased with his performance.
“I guess going out with a fall was pretty nice but I think I could have opened up a little more and tried to score more points early in the first period. Ultimately, I was able to get the fall with the headlock,” he said. “It was nice to get that reaction from the crowd. It was a good feeling.”
At 141, Jered Cortez used five takedowns to fashion a 12-6 decision over Austin Harry.
Then the hammers kicked in for Penn State.
Top-ranked 149 Zain Retherford, the two-time defending NCAA champion, rolled up a 17-1 technical fall in 4:13. At 157, top-ranked and defending champion Jason Nolf rolled to a 10-1 lead before notching a fall in 1:07, using a move that most in attendance struggled to name.
Nolf wouldn’t reveal the name of the move that looked like a half Nelson with his leg. He just called it “the secret move.”
“I enjoy watching it,” Sanderson said. “Yeah, he knows what he’s doing. You may see that again throughout the year; he’s getting pretty good at it.”
Vincenzo Joseph gave up the initial takedown of his match with Andrew Mendel at 165 before rolling to a 17-7 major decision.
No. 2 ranked Mark Hall and top-ranked Bo Nickal followed with back-to-back pins, at 174 and 184, respectively. Hall scored his in 4:09 over No. 19 Ben Harvey and Nickal in 26 seconds over Mifflin County’s Noah Stewart.
Cassar, who hasn’t wrestled in two years as he overcame two surgeries on an injured shoulder, seemed to gain confidence and momentum as the match went on. He used four takedowns to forge a 10-3 win.
“It was more excitement. When I got out there I definitely felt it a little bit. I was just excited. It’s been so long, hard training and getting ready for competition, I tried to enjoy it as much as I could,” said Cassar, who beat out returning starter Matt McCutcheon to earn the position. “It felt good being out there for the first time.”
Returning All-American 285-pounder Nick Nevills wrapped a bow around the whole proceeding when he locked up Bobby Heald in a near cradle and pinned him in 6:10.
“We’re happy, more than anything,” Sanderson said, “to get started.”
It looked like the Nittany Lions shared in that joy. They return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday when Bucknell visits Rec Hall.
125: Trey Chalifoux, A, dec. Devin Schnupp, 6-4. 133: No. 15 Corey Keener, PSU, pinned Lane Peters, 2:50. 141: Jered Cortez, PSU, dec. Austin Harry, 12-6. 149: No. 1 Zain Retherford, PSU, won by tech. fall over Knox Fuller, 17-1 (4:13). 157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, PSU, pinned Lucas Weiland, 1:07. 165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, maj. dec. Andrew Mendel, 17-7. 174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, pinned No. 19 Ben Harvey, 4:09. 184: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, pinned Noah Stewart, :26. 197: Anthony Cassar, PSU, dec. Rocco Caywood, 10-3. 285: No. 3 Nick Nevills, PSU, pinned Bobby Heald, 6:10.
Records: Army West Point 0-1; Penn State 1-0.
Next match: Bucknell at Penn State, 2 p.m. Sunday.