By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In their second of two conference tests this past
weekend, the second-ranked Nittany Lions outpaced, outperformed and outlasted
the 12th-ranked Wolverines in front of another sold out crowd in Rec Hall.
A total of 6, 671 fans and spectators packed the athletic building on Sunday
afternoon to watch Penn State in its final Big Ten dual of the season. The
Lions won eight of 10 bouts on the day for a 34-7 victory over Michigan and
their sixth conference win of the year.
The win gives Penn State a final Big Ten record of 7-1 for the 2011-'12 season, which ties with Minnesota for the best in conference and earns the team a share of the Big Ten regular season dual title.
Head coach Cael Sanderson looked on as his wrestlers posed for pictures with their new conference title trophy after the match, but said that the accomplishment was not one that he was too concerned with.
"I didn't know there was a dual title to be honest, but it's a great honor," said Sanderson. "We're real happy with it obviously; if you win any kind of Big Ten title that's a great conference with a lot of tough competition so we're happy with it. That wasn't our goal but it's one of our stepping stones along the way."
The Lions picked up three decisions, two majors, one technical fall and two pins to tally 34 dual points over Michigan's seven. Sunday's match makes for the ninth dual this season where Penn State scored more than 30 points over its opponent.
Redshirt junior Quentin Wright was one of several Lions to bring the Rec Hall crowd to its feet that afternoon, registering a second period pin over Wolverine 184-pounder Hunter Collins. Wright said that he is not surprised at the way that his teammates are continually dominating their competition. He said that he is individually still working to be better and better one match to the next.
"We feel like we've got a few more notches to go but we're still making progress," said Wright. "I know those guys definitely were ahead of me in terms of the pace. Last year I was just worried about winning and this year I'm worried about wanting to get those bonus points so it's completely different."
Another performance that got Nittany Lion faithful cheering came from a relatively unfamiliar face when redshirt freshman 174-pounder Matt Brown took to the mats. Brown bumped up two weight classes and stepped in at the 197 spot in place of freshman regular Morgan McIntosh, who was cleared to wrestle but was held out of competition after tweaking his right knee during last week's dual match against Ohio State.
Brown, who spent the last two years on a religions mission in Angola and Mozambique, was featured in a dual competition for just the third time this season and the second time in the weekend. Up against Michigan's freshman Max Huntley, who is ranked No. 15 at 197, Brown fought hard enough to keep the score even at one into the beginning of the third period. In the last six seconds of the final period, Brown rendered the only takedown of the match to win and upset Huntley in a 3-1 decision.
"It was pretty awesome," Brown said after the match. "That was the first time I have wrestled in front of Rec Hall and it was great. I'm just glad I could help out anyway I could really."
Sophomore 184-pounder Ed Ruth knows a thing or two about wrestling with Brown, as the two have become familiar drilling partners in the practice room, and Ruth said that he was not surprised that the redshirt freshman was able to wrestle at a weight class that is ten pounds heavier than his natural weight.
"Matt is definitely a versatile wrestler," said Ruth. "He can wrestle any way he wants to and whoever he wrestles, their neck is going to hurt. He's a definite grinder so yeah I think he can [bump up] the way he did."
Senior Frank Molinaro was alongside his teammates and coaches in the final seconds of Brown's dual, standing in applause with a bigger smile on his face than he usually wears.
"We're all just real happy for him because we know how hard he works and it's awesome when you see someone that works hard reap the benefits," said Molinaro.
The win over Michigan put the Lions at 11-1 overall this season with eight wrestlers who are ranked and seven of those eight holding one of the top ten spots in their respective classes. With the closing of the conference regular season and only two dual meets to go before the postseason, Coach Sanderson said that he's not expecting for his athletes to slow down anytime soon.
"They're going to improve each week," said Sanderson. "It's little things with each guy but these guys are gamers so they make the coaches look good. They're going to wrestle their best and when the lights are on they're going to be at their best. They'll absolutely continue to improve as we move forward."