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Nittany Lions Open Season with Victory Over Lehigh

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By Matthew Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - A sellout crowd packed Rec Hall Friday night in anticipation of the Penn State wrestling team's first match of the 2012-13 season.

Competing against 24th ranked Lehigh, Penn State's top ranked squad opened the season in convincing fashion, defeating the Mountain Hawks by a score of 29-6.

The Nittany Lions wasted no time getting started, winning the first four matches of the night to set the tone for a victory that saw them win eight of 10 bouts.

Afterwards, head coach Cael Sanderson stated he was pleased with the performance of his squad, especially against a tough squad like Lehigh.

"They're a well-coached team that's solid throughout the lineup, " said Sanderson. "Overall, I think we wrestled well against them."

Sophomore Nico Megaludis, who entered the season ranked second in the nation at 125, started the match off with a bang for the Nittany Lions with a dominant win over junior Alex Abreu that resulted in a tech fall and a score of 20-5.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway followed at 133 with a hard fought 3-2 win over freshman Laike Gardner that saw him score an impressive takedown in the match's final 10 seconds to score the victory in what was arguably the most dramatic moment of the night.

"I was starting to get desperate so I wanted to finish quick," said Conaway. "I don't know how technical it was but I got it done."

The win was especially sweet for Conaway, as it came in his first ever start as a collegiate wrestler.

"It was awesome to be out there," said Conaway. "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to step out there in a Penn State singlet and wrestle in that environment."

Another performance that stood out was senior James English's 5-2 decision over 18th ranked Shane Welsh at 149, which gave the Nittany Lion's a 14-0 lead after four bouts.

English, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and hadn't wrestled in Rec Hall since November of 2010, came up with two late takedowns to upset Welsh.

Having not wrestled competitively in so long, the victory was extra special for English, who stated he was extremely excited to get back on the mat.

"I was a little nervous but it felt great to battle and get the win," said English. "I'm just thankful to be back and get to wrestle again."

Although the victory came against a ranked opponent, Sanderson did not seem surprised by English's performance.

"He did a great job but that's not the first time he's done something like that," said Sanderson. "It probably won't be the last either."

The marquee match of the night occurred at 184, when Penn State junior and defending national champion Ed Ruth took on Lehigh's third-ranked senior Robert Hamlin.

The bout lived up to its hype, with Ruth getting off to a fast start and eventually holding on for a well-earned 11-9 victory.

Sanderson stated that he was impressed that Ruth was able to perform strongly against an opponent that will be one of his toughest challengers all year.

"He started out incredible," said Sanderson. "I think he was able to do some really nice things."

For the Nittany Lions, the best part of the victory was being able to compete in a packed house in front of such passionate fans.

"It was crazy being in front of the fans," said Conaway. "Having a sold out crowd was awesome."

There is little time to rest for Penn State, who has its first road meet of the year on Sunday, when they take on West Virginia at 2 p.m. 

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