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Nittany Lions Grit Out Another Victory

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lions downed the Iowa Hawkeyes in front of a record crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday night with a 28-13 win.

An NCAA indoor wrestling record 15,998 fans watched Penn State battle and use timely pins for another big win. The crowd also marks a school record for the largest athletic event attendance in a non-Beaver Stadium event at Penn State.

"We started out a little slow," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "A few guys rallied and ended up wrestling really well at the end. It was a tough team and every match is a big match and at this time of the year it was good to see guys step up."

With the match tied at six, top-ranked Zain Retherford faced off with No. 2 Brandon Sorensen at 149 pounds. Retherford controlled most of the match, needing only two takedowns, an escape and 3:14 of riding time to beat Sorensen, 6-2, giving Penn State its first lead of the night, 9-6. Retherford is now 5-0 against Sorensen, who only has 14 career losses.

After Penn State lost two straight bouts, trailing the dual 13-9, Mark Hall set out to regain the lead for his team. With an early takedown, Hall unleashed the cradle on Iowa's Joe Gunther and collected the pin at the 1:00 mark to give Penn State a lead it would never relent. 

While Hall didn't feel any pressure to get a pin, he always wants to contribute the most he can for his team.

"Every dual meet it's my objective to get a pin," Hall said. "Every match that's the most team points you can get for your squad. It's definitely not a pressure thing, it's more just going out and doing what I'm good at. Getting to the positions I'm good at and if I'm in a position I'm not good at then I need to get somewhere where I am good." 

Hall set the Nittany Lions ahead 15-13 before Bo Nickal extended the Nittany Lion lead with six more points of his own. Nickal also turned to the cradle to finish off Mitch Bowman. After Hall needed only 60 seconds for his pin, Nickal needed only 50 seconds to register his 13th pin of the season. 

Shakur Rasheed got the nod for the Nittany Lions at 197 pounds and once again impressed with an 11-2 win against seventh-ranked Cash Wilcke. Two takedowns in both the first and third periods helped Rasheed to the major decision. 

The Nittany Lions remain in tight competition when it comes to 197 pounds with both Rasheed and Anthony Cassar continuing to impress when called upon.

"The competition is good," Sanderson said. "I wish we had that at every weight. Both Anthony and Shak [Shakur Rasheed] are wrestling great. We're proud of both of them and we love both of them and I think the team feels the same way about both of them."

In a bit of postmatch fun, Sanderson turned the mic over to Rasheed to clarify some pronunciations. While many fans know of Rasheed as Shak, Sanderson also has another nickname for the junior.

"He used to call me sugar," Rasheed said. "He [Sanderson] was the first one to call me that, I don't even know how he got that. But, I thought of it as Sugar Ray so it's cool."

At 285 pounds Nick Nevills closed out the night with a hard-fought victory over third-ranked Sam Stoll, 3-2. Following a 15-10 loss against Ohio State's top-ranked Kyle Snyder last weekend, Nevills is happy to get the big win. 

"Last week, for me, everyone was super excited, but I was bummed," Nevills said. "I felt like I was in that match but I think it has given me confidence. I wrestled well there, I wrestled well against Rutgers and this match I got the win. There are a lot of things I can work on, I don't normally let people get away from me as quickly as this guy did tonight. It's just something to take back into the room on Monday and get back to work." 

Penn State closes out the regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18th hosting Buffalo in Rec Hall.

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