By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In Penn State wrestling's return to Rec Hall after months on the road, the Nittany Lions started out in a hole. Down 6-0 early after forfeiting the first bout of the night, Penn State responded with one of its best performances of the season. Capturing a 43-6 win, the Nittany Lions overcame an unfortunate start and an aggressive Purdue team that seemingly challenged Penn State throughout the evening.
"I think the guys wrestled well," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You have to be ready for Purdue because they're tough when they come in and they wrestle hard. I think our guys wrestled well. We felt terrible about forfeiting at 125, we just didn't have a choice."
With Penn State trailing 6-3 following a hard-fought win for Corey Keener at 133 pounds, Nick Lee took to the mat donning the Penn State singlet in Rec Hall for the first time. The true freshman didn't disappoint the more than 6,500 fans in the stands with a 14-4 major decision against Nate Limmex at 141 pounds.
Hardly dealing with even the slightest bit of nerves, the crowd at Rec Hall was just like Lee had visualized.
"It was a wrestling match, just like any wrestling match," Lee said. "But, it's special because I think the fan base that comes to Rec Hall is special. It's just nothing like I've ever experienced before. It was definitely a lot of fun."
Penn State notched bonus points in seven bouts, but despite the lopsided score, it wasn't as easy of battle for the Nittany Lions. While Penn State didn't allow any takedowns, there were plenty of scrambles and the Nittany Lions always seemed to come away with two points following the frenzy.
"I think our guys just fought for it in those positions," Sanderson said. "They were tough positions and they were in on our legs and it looked like we were beat, but these guys battled through it. It was great to see Corey (Keener) do that. Obviously Nick (Lee) did it in a couple situations. Even (Nick) Nevills, he was in a tight spot there, having been warned for stalling."
The dual's top showdown featured a top 15 matchup between second-ranked Mark Hall and 12th-ranked Dylan Lydy. After a slow first period, Hall led 2-1 before a late second period takedown set him ahead 5-1. Energized by the late takedown in the second, Hall dominated the third period on his way to an 11-3 major decision victory.
While Penn State battled, the Nittany Lions also collected four pins, including one from Shakur Rasheed at 197 pounds. After taking the mat to a thunderous roar from the crowd, Rasheed continued his dominant stretch and turned to another cradle, his signature move, at the 1:55 mark.
Normally someone to zone out the crowd, Rasheed noted the volume from the stands only gave him more energy.
When asked about his cradle though, Rasheed said he often works on it with his head coach, ultimately giving him the confidence to continue to rely on the move during matches.
"He has got a pretty darn good cradle, as you can tell," Sanderson said. "But I think why it works is because he has a lot of other opportunities to turn as well. He's really strong with tilts and really good at scrambling so he just has a lot of different angles he's coming at you with."