By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bonus point victories are a strength yet again for the Penn State wrestling team. The top-ranked Nittany Lions collected five pins and a tech fall in addition to a major decision and two decisions to beat the Army West Point Black Knights 45-3 in the 2017-18 opener.
"We're just happy to be rolling," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We're happy to get out there and see where we're at and what we can work on and how we can improve. I think it's going to be a great year.
After Devin Schnupp dropped a close 6-4 decision to Army's Trey Chalifoux at 125 pounds, Central Michigan transfer Corey Keener tilted the match in the Nittany Lions favor with a pin to begin his Penn State career. The Pennsylvania native collected the fall with just 10 seconds left in the first period.
"Corey went out with the big headlock," Sanderson said. "We've been working on that all week. I thought that was a great to see."
Keener enjoyed recording the fall, but knows there are adjustments to be made.
"Going out with a fall was pretty nice," Keener said. "But, I definitely think I could've opened up a little more and tried scoring more points early in the first period. Ultimately, I was able to get the fall with the headlock."
Making his Rec Hall debut in front of 6,320 fans, the crowd was just like his teammates described to him before he hit the mat.
"It was nice to have that reaction from the crowd," Keener said. "Coming out, it was exciting. It was kind of different, I didn't really have any nerves and it was almost too calm I thought."
Jered Cortez got out to a winning start after jumping to 141 pounds with a 12-6 decision over Austin Harry.
Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Mark Hall, Bo Nickal and Nick Nevills did what they do best - all five won via fall. While Bo Nickal's was the fastest coming in just 26 seconds, it was Jason Nolf who stole the show.
Nolf won in 1:07, utilizing a "secret move." While it was not the same secret move we saw Nickal unleash to beat Rutgers' Nicholas Gravina last year, it was instead a move in which Nolf utilized his legs to take control of Luke Weiland to set up the fall.
"It might've been my first time (ever using it)," Nolf said. "It (comes from) a lot of play wrestling in the room and learning different things."
Cael Sanderson approved as well.
"I enjoyed watching it," Sanderson said. "He knows what he's doing. You may see that again, just guessing, throughout the year. He's getting pretty good at it."
After being unable to wrestle for two years, Anthony Cassar made his Nittany Lion debut at 197 pounds and didn't disappoint with a 10-3 decision over a tough Rocco Caywood.
"I was just excited," Cassar said. "It has been so long of just hard training and getting ready for competition that I really just tried to enjoy it as much as I could."
On media day, heavyweight wrestler Nick Nevills said he wantsedto be a top point scorer for the Nittany Lions this year. He got right on track defeating Bobby Heald via fall in six minutes and 10 seconds.
"We need him," Sanderson said. "He's capable of scoring bonus points, he's very good on top and he can scramble. "We want those guys competing in a friendly way with each other as teammates."
The Nittany Lions next host Bucknell at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Rec Hall.