Lions hold off Ohio State

ASSOCIATED PRESS Penn State's Mark Hall, top, wrestles Ohio State's Bo Jordan at 174 pounds Saturday at Penn State’s Rec Hall.

STATE COLLEGE — No. 1 Penn State did what very few thought was possible Saturday night in front of an electric Rec Hall crowd of 6,699 — beat No. 2 Ohio State without Jason Nolf in the lineup.

The Nittany Lions clinched a share of the Big Ten dual meet championship when they edged the Buckeyes, 19-18, by winning four of the last five bouts of the night.

Ohio State had built a 15-5 lead through five matches, including a pivotal tossup win at 141, which many thought dashed the Nittany Lions’ hopes.

“I think overall our guys wrestled well. We lost some close matches. I thought they did a great job. We were down and needed a lot of points. It was a great dual. Ohio State has a really, really great team. We’ll see them again here shortly,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said.

“It’s been a strange week knowing, obviously, we’re coming into the match without (Jason) Nolf. It was a little different. These guys knew they were going to have to step it up and we were going to have to have a big match or two, like Cassar. Everyone in the Ohio State lineup is really good.”

Ohio State coach Tom Ryan gave credit where it was due, to the second half of Penn State’s lineup.

“They wrestled very well in the second half. Their good guys came back and they did a great job,” he said.

“It’s one of three battles. We have the Big Tens coming up and the NCAAs and it’s one of three battles. We have some things we need to work on. We kind of fell apart a little late in a couple matches. it looked like the nerves got to us a little bit in a couple of those matches. We have to be ready for those moments.”

Trailing 15-5 at intermission, Vincenzo Joseph pulled Penn State closer with a 12-3 major decision over Te’Shan Campbell, scoring 10 points over the final two periods.

Then, at 174 and 184, in a pair of rematches of 2017 NCAA finals matches, Penn State added two more wins to take the lead.

No. 2 Mark Hall, trailing 4-2 heading into the third, escaped, scored a takedown and rode No. 3 Bo Jordan for the rest of the period. He amassed 1:40 in riding time for another point and a 6-4 win.

Then, at 184, No. 1 Bo Nickal used three takedowns and a late turn to earn a 10-2 major decision over previously undefeated Myles Martin, 10-2.

Penn State led 16-15, but Ohio State had the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers at 197 and 285, Kollin Moore and Kyle Snyder, respectively.

Nittany Lion Anthony Cassar took down to start the third with the matched tied, 2-2. He escaped, earned a takedown and a riding-time point for a 6-3 win over Moore.

Cassar ran a lap around the mat and blew kisses to a roaring crowd.

“I don’t know what I was thinking. I was going crazy. It was just a culmination of a lot of ups and downs over the past few years. It was something I had envisioned wrestling like that and celebrating like that after a match in Rec Hall since I got here three years ago,” he said.

At 285, Nittany Lion Nick Nevills faced NCAA and Olympic champion Snyder needed to keep the match to a decision to ensure an outright win.

Nevills scored the initial takedown, and another in the second, to keep the match close. Snyder’s six takedowns fueled a 15-10 win, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a Penn State win.

“Nick did a good job under the circumstances,” Sanderson said.

With a crowd that had filled the stands nearly 30 minutes ahead of the start of the meet teeming with anticipation, Boise State transfer Carson Kuhn finally made his debut for Penn State.

Although three-time All-American Nathan Tomasello would emerge with a 21-12 major decision, Kuhn showed his potential. After an initial takedown by Tomasello, Kuhn went on the offensive scoring three takedowns, including a headlock off the edge of the mat and led 8-7 at the end of the first period. Tomasello, though, piled up 14 points over the final two periods for the win.

Ohio State picked up another, close win at 133. Second-ranked Luke Pletcher scored a couple takedowns in the first period and made them stand up in a 5-4 decision.

The Buckeyes picked up a tossup win at 141, where No. 11 Joey McKenna decisioned No. 6 Nick Lee, 7-6, on the strength of 1:32 in riding time advantage. The pivotal points came late in the second period when McKenna scored a takedown at the final buzzer to tie the match at 4-4. McKenna added two escapes in the third and Lee a takedown, but no more, as McKenna held on.

Retherford finally got Penn State on the board at 149, but he had to overcome an early 4-1 deficit to do it. Ke-Shawn Hayes scored two first-period takedowns, but Retherford dominated from there. The Nittany Lion scored a takedown and four nearfall points in the second to build an 11-4 lead. In the third, he took top and turned Hayes twice and benefitted from two stall points and a riding time point in a 20-4 technical fall.

125: No. 4 Nathan Tomasello, OSU, maj. dec. Carson Kuhn, 21-12. 133: No. 2 Luke Pletcher, OSU, dec. Corey Keener, 5-4. 141: No. 11 Joey McKenna, OSU, dec. No. 6 Nick Lee, 7-6. 149: No. 1 Zain Retherford, PSU, won by tech. fall over Ke-Shawn Hayes, 20-4 (7:00). 157: No. 5 Micah Jordan, OSU, won by tech. fall over Bo Pipher, 24-9 (6:06). 165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, maj. dec. No. 14 Te’Shan Campbell, 12-3. 174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, dec. No. 3 Bo Jordan, 6-4. 184: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, maj. dec. No. 2 Myles Martin, 10-2. 197: Anthony Cassar, PSU, dec. No. 1 Kollin Moore, 6-3. 285: No. 1 Kyle Snyder, OSU, dec. No. 6 Nick Nevills, 15-10.

Referee: John Nath.

Takedowns: Ohio State 30; Penn State 18.

Records: Ohio State 12-1, 7-1; Penn State 12-0, 8-0.

Next match: Iowa at Penn State, 8 p.m. Saturday at Bryce Jordan Center.