By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Fans filled the stands at Rec Hall and music blasted from the sound system as the Penn State wrestling team prepared to take the mat.
The Nittany Lions returned to action Thursday night, kicking off the 2012-13 season with the annual Intrasquad Dual.
The Intrasquad Dual is an exhibition that allows Penn State wrestlers to compete against each other for spots in the starting lineup, while giving them a chance to wrestle in front of a crowd after months of practice.
Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson stated afterwards how much he had been looking forward to seeing his team competing in front of the fans.
"It's been a long time just practicing in the room," said Sanderson. "It's nice to see those guys get out there and wrestle in front of a crowd."
While Sanderson said that he and his staff have decided on most of the starters, there are still a few spots up for grabs, namely the heavyweight position, where newcomer Jimmy Lawson just edged out returner Jon Gingrich with a 3-2 decision on Thursday.
Lawson, who transferred from Monmouth University where he played football, was competing in his first wrestling match since high school.
"It was definitely exciting," said Lawson. "I'm trying to learn as much as I can and get to the same level as the rest of my teammates."
Lawson and Gingrich, both redshirt sophomores, have been so close in competition this preseason that Sanderson wants them to wrestle one more time before deciding on a starter.
"They're still neck and neck," said Sanderson. "Both of them are great athletes and both have a lot of potential."
Two spots that Sanderson said are pretty much in place after the dual are 141 where senior Bryan Pearsall beat freshmen Zack Beitz 4-2 in a hard fought battle, and 133 where redshirt freshmen Jordan Conaway beat junior Frank Martellotti.
Though Conaway looks to hold down the 133 spot, true freshmen Jimmy Gulibon was also particularly impressive in his 133 bout against redshirt sophomore Cameron Kelly.
Gulibon, who Sanderson believes will end up redshirting, showed excellent quickness in his 13-5 major decision.
"I was pretty nervous coming into the match," said Gulibon. "As the match progressed I felt a lot better and it was pretty sweet."
While fans got to see newcomers like Gulibon and Lawson perform for the first time, they were also treated to some familiar faces, such as two time All-American and defending National Champion Ed Ruth.
Ruth, a redshirt Junior who has switched to 184 after competing at 174 last season, was typically impressive in a match that resulted in a tech fall against redshirt sophomore Brandon Phillips.
"I've been waiting for this all summer," said Ruth. "It feels good to get back in front of a crowd."
Another standout performance from a returner starter came from redshirt sophomore Matt Brown, whose pin against redshirt freshmen James Frascella was the only fall of the night.
Sanderson said that overall he was very pleased with the performances of his wrestlers during the match.
"I think the guys wrestled well and are in pretty good shape," said Sanderson. "I'm very happy with their showing tonight."
The Nittany Lion's season begins for real on Nov 16, when Lehigh University travels to Rec Hall.