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Looking Back at Session I

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said early this week that a key to a successful postseason comes in being ready to go from the start, avoiding any type of early let down.

The Nittany Lions did just that Saturday morning, storming into the Big Ten Championships to advance eight to the session two semifinals, which kick off at 6 p.m. in the Breslin Center.

Session I Team Standings - Top 5
1. Ohio State - 85.5
2. Penn State - 81.5
3. Michigan - 64.5
4. Iowa - 39.0
5. Illinois - 29.0 

Penn State did what Penn State does best, remaining focused on the bonus points, going 15-2 with seven majors and five pins.

"Looking for falls, it's going to be important in this tournament," Mark Hall said. "There's a lot of strong teams here so just making sure I do my part and compete my hardest."

Hall and Bo Nickal were among the many Nittany Lion highlights from the first session. Both recorded some of the fastest pins of the morning to advance to the Big Ten Championships semifinals. 

Hall went 2-0 with a pair of pins, while Nickal registered the morning's fourth fastest fall. Following a first round bye, Nickal made quick work of Minnesota's Brandon Krone, earning the pin at the 1:25 mark.

 "[I'm] looking to score some points for my team and help us put some points on the scoreboard," Nickal said. "Just trying to wrestle through every position and have some fun." 

Hall opened the day with Michigan State's Logan Ritchie, taking a 6-1 lead into the third period with four minutes of riding time. In a relatively low scoring first two for Hall, by the time the third period rolled around, Hall was feeling it.

"He took a shot and I stuffed him and as soon as I got that move I pinned him in, I knew it," Hall said. "But had I not, it was the same idea, just looking for points and putting him on his back." 

Back in action against Wisconsin's Ryan Christensen, Hall went for it early, converting a first period take down into a pin just 47 seconds into his quarterfinal match. 

"It's just a position I'm familiar with," Hall said. "Usually, guys know it's coming so if I do it I have to be quick with it and I just hit it as hard as I could and it felt good. Putting myself there was important too. Instead of just going around and getting two, taking the chance and that's something that not a lot of people would do."

To the sound of a roar from the Penn State fan section in the stands, Penn State's Jason Nolf returned to the mat after an injury in late January.

"It was a little boring because I'm usually getting pretty excited to wrestle," Nolf said when asked about what it felt like to miss out on the final month of the regular season. "The matches that we had were awesome, I didn't mean my team was boring but just the fact that I wasn't out there was a little less exciting for me because I also want to be out there."

Nolf wasted no time getting back to his usual self, pinning Michigan State's Jake Tucker at the 2:33 mark. He capped off the quarterfinal round with a 15-2 major decision against Minnesota's Jake Short.

Ask any of the Nittany Lion wrestlers though, and there's still room for improvement headed into tonight's Big Ten semifinals, with Penn State currently trailing Ohio State 85.5-81.5 in the team standings. 

"There's tons of room to improve and we're still going out there and wrestling hard so it's just exciting to see us getting a lot of points and scoring a bunch and getting to our attacks but at the same time, seeing that we have a lot to improve on his really exciting," Nickal said.

Up Next in Session II -
125: No. 14 Seed Carson Kuhn - vs. Northwestern's No. 9 Sebastian Rivera in Consolation 2 

133: No. 6 Seed Corey Keener - vs. Wisconsin's Jens Lantz in Consolation 2 

141: No. 2 Seed Nick Lee - vs. Illinois' No. 14 Michael Carr

149: No. 1 Seed Zain Retherford - vs. Ohio State's No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes

157: No. 2 Seed Jason Nolf - vs. Michigan's No. 6 Alec Pantaleo 

165: No. 3 Seed Vincenzo Joseph - vs. Michigan's No. 7 Logan Massa

174: No. 1 Seed Mark Hall - vs. Northwestern's No. 17 Johnny Sebastian

184: No. 1 Seed Bo Nickal - vs. Illinois' No. 7 Emery Parker

197: No. 2 Seed Shakur Rasheed - vs. Purdue's No. 24 Christian Brunner

285: No. 3 Seed Nick Nevills - vs. Ohio State's No. 2 Kyle Snyder

Second Period Leads Penn State Past Minnesota

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of a Pegula Ice Arena crowd watching its first home Big Ten Tournament game in program history, No. 4 Penn State used five different goal scorers to defeat No. 5 Minnesota, 5-3.

With the score tied up at two late in the second period, the Nittany Lions found the back of the net twice in less than a minute to break away in a game that was deadlocked up until that point. 

"To me, the end of the second was the difference in the game," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Both teams certainly deserved to win, it was extremely close. That game could've gone either way."

Sophomore Denis Smirnov and junior Andrew Sturtz, however, made sure it was the Blue and White coming out on top. Smirnov gave Penn State a 3-2 lead with just 1:11 left in the second after scoring his 15th goal of the season. Sturtz then matched his teammate by scoring his 14th goal of the season just 54 seconds later. 

"It was huge," Sturtz said when asked about the strong finish to the second frame. "We're finally starting to learn how to play with a two-goal lead. Going into that third period with a little extra cushion was good." 

"Those were two great goals by Denis and Sturtzy. That was the difference," Gadowsky added. "I think the little bit of inspiration we got helped us close it out."

Despite the offensive success in the third, including a total of three goals on 12 shots, the Golden Gophers continued to hang around. With 4:27 remaining in the game and Minnesota down one and on the power play, it was the Nittany Lion penalty kill that came up big.

"I felt we killed really well," Gadowsky said. "Obviously we gave up two and you usually feel bad about that, but I thought we killed very well."

Penn State played five of the last 10 minutes down a man and did not give up the slim lead. Sturtz talked about the importance of Penn State's penalty kill and how the team's depth is a big factor in being able to stop the Minnesota man advantage.

"I thought we were good," Sturtz said. "Other guys stepped in and that's the good thing about our team, we have so much depth that guys can play on the penalty kill. That's what we've done all year."

Minnesota, who was 2-4 on the power play up to that point, couldn't get the job done when it mattered most. Alongside goaltender Peyton Jones, the Nittany Lion defense helped Penn State get the stop it needed on arguably its most important penalty kill of the season. 

Freshman Evan Barrat then put the icing on the cake registering an empty net goal, his ninth of the year, with only 30 seconds left on the clock.

Penn State will carry its four-game winning streak into game two of the series as they look to advance to the Big Ten semifinals. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

Nittany Lions Prepare for B1G Stage

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Big Ten Tournament days away, Penn State wrestling continues its postseason preparation. After a third consecutive perfect season for the Nittany Lions, they are now looking to earn their seventh Big Ten title in the last nine years.

Not much has changed when it comes to preparation, as Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson noted the high level of intensity has remained the same as usual.

"It's tricky because you're trying to get ready for nationals, that's obviously the most important thing, but you have to get there and our conference meet is very important to us too," Sanderson said. "We've been training hard and we'll come home and train hard next week."

According to Sanderson, the Nittany Lions will be with top-ranked Jason Nolf at 157 pounds. Nolf was injured against Rutgers on January 28th and has not wrestled in competition since.

"He's doing well," Sanderson said. "He's a tough kid and healed quickly so we'll see him Saturday. Right now the plan is to get him out there and compete and we'll see from there."

With Nolf returning to the lineup, Penn State will see both familiar contenders take to the mat in East Lansing, Michigan as well as new ones.

While Sanderson noted he prefers the Nittany Lions set their goals higher than a spot in the NCAA Tournament, he also mentioned there's no denying the path to being a national champion begins with qualifying.

Senior Carson Kuhn is one of those Nittany Lions fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It will take a few wins for Kuhn, but he is ready for the challenge.

"I'm really excited," Kuhn said. "I've wrestled on big stages before and this is going to be a really big stage too, but I think I have the experience to be able to relax and do my best and compete at my best potential. I've had a lot of road blocks but it seems like all those road blocks are gone now so I'm going to do everything that I can and wrestle hard and have some fun."

At 133 pounds, fellow transfer Corey Keener is also excited for his first experience at the Big Ten Tournament. Progressing throughout the season, the senior is now ready to make the most of his opportunity.

"I'm feeling very confident," Keener said. "I've had some good practices, and the matches that I lost in the Big Ten duals, I know I can compete with those guys and I know that I can beat them as well. I would've liked to have won those matches, that's always nice, but it's nice wrestling those guys and getting a feel for where they're at and where you're at and where you need to improve. I think I've worked on those areas. I'm excited to compete against those guys this weekend."

At 141 pounds, Nick Lee also continues to prepare for his first postseason. For Lee, his preparation comes in working with one of Penn State's best, Zain Retherford, to keep improving.

"He's a really good partner for me so I try to seek him out to get practice with him," Lee said. "He's really good, one of the best in the world, so there's a lot I can learn from him."

As Lee continues to learn from the two-time NCAA national champion, his biggest lesson comes from one of Retherford's top strengths.

"You see guys wrestling Zain and they get really tired," Lee said. "I think (practicing with Zain is) good for me because it helped my conditioning and neutral, top, bottom, all areas he's good, so really everywhere I can learn from him and everywhere I've gotten better."

Since making his Penn State dual debut against Michigan, Sanderson and the staff have been confident in the true freshman from the start.

"We look at him as a title contender, he has put himself in that position now," Sanderson said. "Big Ten title contender and national title contender and if you can win the Big Ten, you can win the nationals. I think he has come a long way and he hasn't really changed, his work ethic has been the same and he has been preparing for this for a long time."

After a tight battle for the spot in the postseason lineup, Shakur Rasheed will represent Penn State at 197 pounds. Opponents will have to watch out for Rasheed's lethal cradle, which Sanderson can recall seeing many years ago when Rasheed was in high school.

Following a six hour drive to watch Rasheed wrestle, Sanderson arrived for an unexpected visit to see all of seven seconds of Rasheed on the mat before he hit the cradle and pinned his opponent.

"I think he has shown he can beat anybody," Sanderson said. "There are some very good wrestlers in the weight class but Shakur is planning on winning. He has a great chance at doing that."

Penn State will also be traveling Jarod Verkleeren, Brady Berge, Anthony Cassar, Devin Schnupp and Luke Gardner to East Lansing. While they won't be competing for the Nittany Lions, they play a vital role on the team. 

"Gardner does a great job," Sanderson said. "You have him watch film on somebody and he can imitate them perfectly. It's very helpful for us. They keep our guys safe but also give them a nice feel and a good test."

Nittany Lions Celebrate a Dominant Senior Day

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State didn't only honor its eight senior wrestlers before the match, it put on a show. It was a show that those in attendance won't forget.

Penn State topped Buffalo 55-0 with seven pins to finish off its third straight perfect season. The 55-point shutout win sets a school record, while the seven pins tie another program record, both dating back to a 54-0 win against Millersville in 1983.

For the Nittany Lions wrestling on the mat in Rec Hall for the final time, the goal was the same as always, stay focused and earn bonus points. That goal was no different for senior Zain Retherford, who added to a Penn State pinning streak just the way he has done in 51 other career instances.

"It was awesome as always," Retherford said. "I tried to be myself out there, like always. I tried not to really change up what I do even though it was the last one. I'm just grateful for another opportunity to wrestle out there." 

On his way off the mat for the final time in Rec, Retherford slapped the mat as a goodbye to Rec Hall and to the fans.

"It was something that I wanted to do," Retherford said. It was something I visualized last night. It was a way to say thanks to the fans and Rec Hall."

Rec Hall is a special place to Retherford, who loves the unique environment.

"No matter who the opponent is, it's always fun to wrestle in this crowd, in this environment," Retherford said. "I like the Bryce Jordan Center too, but I think this place is special. It has that tradition and this place is packed and it's very intimate, so I like it a lot. It's my favorite place to wrestle."

Among the flurry of pins, one stood out. If you blinked you might've missed Bo Nickal pin Brett Perry at 184 pounds in just 11 seconds. The quick pin is the second fastest in Penn State history, tying a David Taylor 11-second fall in 2014. Penn State took 25 bonus points in its final bout of the season. 

"I think it's just kind of who you are," Sanderson said. "I think these guys are going to wrestle for bonus points regardless of the match and it just so happened that they were able to score a lot today. I think it just has to be something you value and something you look for all the time. It's not a deal where you think 'well we're at the nationals so let me try to get bonus points for my team' If you don't have that mentality early you're probably not going to have that mentality late."

With a week off before the Big Ten Championships up next, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson decided to give Shakur Rasheed the start at 197 pounds, as he pinned Joe Ariola in just 1:57. Postmatch, Sanderson confirmed Rasheed as the favorite to represent Penn State in the postseason at 197 pounds. 

"We're very comfortable and believe in both of them," Sanderson said. "We're just leaning toward Shak right now. Sending him out today, that's what we said would be the indicator of who we are going to send to the Big Ten Tournament and right now that's the plan."

Seniors Prep for Final Rec Hall Dual

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Nittany Lions prepare to host Buffalo Sunday, the seniors are also ready for their final dual meet in a Penn State singlet at Rec Hall.

Ahead of a special ceremony planned to honor the eight Nittany Lion wrestlers set to depart the program, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson took just a moment to reflect on the group.

"This has been a special class," Sanderson said. "These guys have had a lot of success in their career but it's a little strange because senior day is the national tournament really. Hopefully Saturday night is the last match and that's kind of our mindset, but at the same time you have to take a second and reflect, and we are very grateful for the seniors and their leadership and the example they've set."

For Sanderson, the real time to reflect comes roughly a month after the season at the team's end of the year banquet following the NCAA national championship. When asked about a few individuals in the class though, Sanderson spoke to imprint the Nittany Lions would leave behind when the time arrives.

Two-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford is among the eight Nittany Lion wrestling seniors.

"Zain's brought everything," Sanderson said. "He has been a great example, he's a tenacious competitor, consistent. Every day he has been in here he's giving us his best and he does the same thing in the classroom. Socially he has been a great leader. Very rarely do you have all those things align in a leader and we've been fortunate the last five years to have Zain in the program. He's been a special one."

For Retherford, it isn't just the success he will remember when his Penn State career comes to a close in mid-March.

"(I'll remember) the relationships I've made with the team, my teammates, with my coaches here and outside of that, with the student body too," Retherford said. "The time I've had here, the experiences, the places we've gotten to travel, I'll just remember all the experiences. I think that will be the biggest thing."

Throughout his career, Retherford has lost just three matches and enters the weekend three pins away from eclipsing the Penn State career falls record. During his time at Penn State, the three-time All-American has always been keen on keeping his focus locked in on the task at hand, taking things one day at a time.

"If you look too far ahead or focus too much on the past results and things that have happened, you don't really compete as well," Retherford said. "I think that's just something I've learned about myself. I compete my best when I'm focusing on the next task at hand. That's what is true to me, so I'm just going to focus on what's ahead."

For someone like junior Nick Nevills, he's learned so much from his senior teammate, but perhaps the most from his work ethic.

"I've never been around somebody that has ever worked this hard and somebody who has pushed himself to a different level," Nevills said. "It's laser-like focus, it's almost unreal. It seems like when it's time to focus, he's a robot, where he can just tune everything out except for what he's doing in the moment. It's pretty cool, but he can also just switch it right back to relaxing and having fun the second we're done with practice. He can put a huge smile on his face and make anyone else on the team laugh."

Penn State will also celebrate the contributions of Matt McCutcheon within its senior group. Although he hasn't been on the mat much this season, his impact and legacy is greater than what the fans might see from the outside looking in.

"Matt has been one of my all-time favorite people in the program," Sanderson said. "He's just a great leader and everybody trusts him. He's a great competitor - this year he's just banged up. Just a great individual, a kid that you would trust with anything and an honest kid. I don't know if there's a better compliment than that, he's an honest, hardworking kid. He means enough to us that he has been with us everywhere and will be through the remainder of the year." 

Both McCutcheon and Retherford will join fellow seniors Jered Cortez, Corey Keener, Carson Kuhn, Devon Van Cura, Ethan Wissler and Kenny Yanovich in Rec Hall for one last time, Sunday at 2 p.m.

Bonus Points
Sanderson noted whoever starts at 197 pounds Sunday will most likely get the nod to represent the Nittany Lions in the postseason. Both Anthony Cassar and Shakur Rasheed have battled for impressive wins this season, leaving Sanderson with a tough decision that he's yet to make.

Nittany Lions Grit Out Another Victory

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com 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.

Nittany Lions Set for BJC Dual

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a memorable finish last weekend to beat Ohio State, the top-ranked Nittany Lions look to bring the same focus and mentality into a second straight top 10 showdown against Iowa this weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center.

"I thought our effort was great last week but you can always wrestle better," Sanderson said. "I thought we had a good effort out of all of our guys but this is a big match - BJC, Iowa always has a great team and they're an intense team. They're coming in here to wrestle great so we've got to be ready. I think our team was relaxed last week and we are relaxed this week as well but we'll find out Saturday night."

Turning the Page to Iowa
The Nittany Lions have now shifted their focus to the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2) in another highly anticipated matchup. For Penn State, moving onto the next opponent shouldn't be a problem, but it will need to make the most of its opportunities. 

"They knew the schedule long before these matches come up," Sanderson said. "Ohio State's a big match, Iowa is a big match and they've known that and then Buffalo and we're into the Big Ten Tournament. You only get one chance at each match so you want to make the most of it."

For senior Zain Retherford, Penn State's mentality is key to its success both on the mat and when it comes to the bigger picture.

"I think we went into last weekend really not having anything to lose so I think carrying that forward and always being reminded that we want to win anything that we go into," Retherford said. "We're competitors and at the end of the day I'm happy with how we compete and how we approach the sport and how we approach life that way. That's the bigger picture, always keeping that in the back of your mind but still going out to win."

While Shakur Rasheed and Anthony Cassar continue to dazzle fans on the mat, Sanderson says it will once again be a match day as to who gets the start.

Kuhn's Debut
Carson Kuhn made his Penn State debut against one of the country's best, Nathan Tomasello. Although Kuhn was on the losing end of an intense battle, the senior was excited to make his Rec Hall debut. 

"I've wrestled on a lot of cool stages, but nothing like Rec Hall," Kuhn said. "It's completely different. I think the fans are very educated, you can tell through the way that they react to the calls that the refs make to the moves that wrestlers are doing. It's just awesome to have that many people, with that much support, with knowledge about the sport." 

Nickal's Last-Second Points
Bo Nickal and Myles Martin met at 184 pounds and Nickal capped off a 10-2 major decision with two near fall points with just two seconds left, adding a crucial bonus point for Penn State. 

"I just saw him lying on his belly," Nickal said. "Our coaches teach us to wrestle seven minutes so that's what I was focused on doing. I didn't really know that I was going to get the bonus point until I looked up at the scoreboard, but I was happy I was able to do that for the team."

X-Tra's
On Monday USA Wrestling announced Rec Hall would be the second host site in the inaugural Final X series. The event will kick off Saturday June 16 at 6 p.m.,  helping decide the 2018 U.S. Freestyle Senior World Team rosters for both the men's and women's teams.

"I think the reason we have that is because of our fan base," Sanderson said. "They want to put the event somewhere that they know it's going to be successful. We have some great guys, some Nittany Lion Wrestling Club guys and some college kids that will be competitive but the main reason is because of our fans and our support so hats off to them. They're the ones that got that event placed here, but we're excited about it."

The other two events will take place June 9 and June 23. The locations and details will be announced at a later time.

Penn State Completes Comeback for B1G Dual Title

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the week leading up to Saturday night's mammoth Big Ten matchup against Ohio State, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson made expectations clear from the start.

In what Sanderson described postmatch as a strange week, with an injury keeping NCAA national champion Jason Nolf out of the lineup, everyone's absolute best was the only option. From start to finish, there was simply no doubting the Nittany Lions had accepted the challenge, with an energized full-capacity crowd adding perhaps a little bit of Rec Hall magic.   

"These guys knew they were going to have to step it up and we were going to have to have a big match or two like [Anthony] Cassar," Sanderson said. "Everyone in the Ohio State lineup is really good so they're tough at every weight class."

Well before Cassar brought fans to their feet in a stunning upset of Ohio State's top-ranked undefeated Kollin Moore, the electricity in the atmosphere had already been ignited.

We'll come back to Cassar.   

Making his debut for the Nittany Lions at 125 pounds, Penn State's Carson Kuhn ignighted a deafening roar early, unleashing a pair of first period takedowns against Ohio State's NCAA national champion Nathan Tomasello. While Tomasello emerged with the major decision to put the Buckeyes on the board first, Kuhn's potential was particularly inspiring to Sanderson and the staff.

"Even throwing Carson Kuhn out there the first match he's had in two years, he looked good," Sanderson said. "We knew he was going to get tired, especially in that we threw him out there in his first match in that atmosphere. It's going to take a toll an anybody. I thought he wrestled well and showed some of his potential." 

While Sanderson noted Kuhn could have opted to travel to an open tournament at Edinboro, he chose to instead remain in Happy Valley.

"He could have gone and got some matches some other way in his preparation but he wanted to wrestle and I think that takes a lot of courage and kind of shows you what kind of kid he is," Sanderson said. 

Penn State quickly saw its deficit expand, as a quieted crowd saw the Nittany Lions enter the intermission trailing 15-5 with Bo Pipher's loss at 157 pounds following a pair of close loses by decision for Corey Keener and Nick Lee at 133 pounds and 141 pounds, respectively. 

Top-ranked Zain Retherford however, highlighted in between Lee and Pipher with a 20-4 technical fall with 3:19 in riding time. Taken down by Ohio State's No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes to start, Retherford calmly regrouped to close out a dominant effort.

"It kind of caught me off guard," Retherford said of Hayes' early takedowns. "Especially the second one, I was kind of putting my head down for a second after the first takedown like okay, I just got taken down. The second one, he got me when I wasn't really present at the moment. So when I went out of bounds I was just thinking alright, whatever happens is irrelevant I just have to be present for the rest of this period on and that's what happened." 

No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph re-energized the Nittany Lions with a 12-3 major decision with nearly two minutes in riding time against Te'Shan Campbell. Although securing some crucial bonus points, it wasn't about the point scoring for Joseph, who moved the Nittany Lions within, 15-9.

"It didn't really have to do with the team score," Joseph said. "I'm going to go out and try and score as many points as I can every time. I thought I wrestled pretty well today. I was trying to push the pace and just wrestle my style."

In back-to-back matchups featuring wrestlers all in the top three, Penn State came out on top with No. 2 Mark Hall earning a 6-4 decision against No. 3 Bo Jordan with 1:40 in riding time. It was No. 1 Bo Nickal though who moved Penn State ahead, 16-15, securing a 10-2 major decision with 2:40 seconds in riding time against No. 2 Myles Martin, helped out by a late turn for two near fall points in the last two seconds of the bout. 

Rec Hall nearly erupted shortly after as unranked Cassar topped Moore to give the Penn State comeback just enough momentum. 

"Once I got out there I just felt very present and calm," Cassar said. "Once I got the first takedown I knew that he wasn't getting on my legs and if I wanted to score I could."

In a match he had visualized since he arrived on campus three years ago and the culmination of both ups and downs, Cassar jumped to his feet and waved his arms to send the already screaming crowd into a full on frenzy.

"I ran out there and just in my head, I tried to stay present and do my best and I knew that if I did that, that's all the fans wanted and all the team wanted and it turned out in my favor," Cassar said. "I felt like I gave my best in that match."

At 285 pounds, Nick Nevills scored early with a takedown against Ohio State's top-ranked Kyle Snyder, falling by decision to finalize a 19-18 win for the Nittany Lions and at least a share of the 2018 Big Ten dual meet championship title.

Even as Hall lifted the trophy high into the air to a cheering crowd still in their seats and on their feet, for Sanderson, today was already on its way and it's time to get back to work.

Penn State Ready for Ohio State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Amidst a packed home weekend in Happy Valley, there's perhaps no more of an intriguing matchup than what's on deck at Rec Hall Saturday night. With the possibility of top 15 matchups against ranked wrestlers in seven of 10 bouts, it's the second-ranked Nittany Lions against the top-ranked Buckeyes.

"Ohio State has a really great team so it's a great opportunity for us to wrestle and we get to wrestle in front of our home crowd," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You shouldn't have to motivate your team too much for a big match like this. We'll see what happens."

From rematches to highly anticipated meetings there's no doubting Penn State is set for a big time Big Ten clash.

Take just a few steps inside the room at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex though and it's just another day.

It was Wednesday when Sanderson and a few Nittany Lions met with a slightly larger than usual mob of media members ahead of Saturday's meeting between two of only three remaining undefeated teams in the nation. 

Upon entering the room, Sanderson greeted the group with a smile, as music played in background with really no palpable sense of stress in the air, even at mention of the anticipated 40th consecutive sell-out slated for Rec Hall Saturday. 

"I think this team, pretty much everywhere we go we have a great crowd and they're ready to wrestle," Sanderson said. "Last week at Rutgers, they had the biggest crowd ever and the kids game out to scrap. I think it's nothing new and it's a big match  but we'll have another big match next week against Iowa and then we have one more home dual and we get ready to roll. There's going to be big matches this year, next year, so we'll be ready."

With a pair of lineups packed with NCAA champions and All-Americans, even last week it was Sanderson who said the bigger the matchup, the better his Nittany Lions are going be on the mat.

"I like it, I think big matches are fun," sophomore Vincenzo Joseph said. "It's the reason why we're doing it. We wrestle to beat the best guys and I think that's one thing we're going to get to do this weekend."

Ranked No. 1 at 165 pounds and 15-0 on the year, Joseph could potentially meet two-time NCAA qualifier Te'Shan Campbell, currently ranked No. 14 after joining the Buckeyes from Pittsburgh, where he competed from 2015-17. Although the two met in the title bout at the Keystone Classic last November, the two Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania natives go back a bit further. 

"Senior year, junior year of high school we probably worked out about three days a week together," Joseph said.

Regardless of rankings and potential matchups, if there's one thing Sanderson and his staff have been talking about lately, it's not getting lost in the moment.

"I think our coaches do a good job just talking to us every day and helping us realize that if you let yourself get lost in the moment then things can go a direction you don't want it to go, so everybody does a good job talking to one another and being in the moment and not thinking that my teammates will get the job done if I don't - then things aren't going to work out, and everybody just wants to do their job," junior Nick Nevills said. "I just think that as long as we focus and keep doing what we're doing, that shouldn't be a problem."

Keeping the focus on what's happening internally on a day-to-day basis is exactly what the Nittany Lions are keyed into, leaving almost all emotions aside.

"I think the only emotion for us really, is we want to focus on having fun," true freshman Nick Lee said. "That's kind of the attitude going into every dual and we just want to be our best every match. If you focus on one match or the other too much then you're going to overlook guys or overlook certain matches." 

Although the expectation for every Nittany Lion in the lineup to be at their best each time is always there, it's hard to pass by the importance this week, with top-ranked NCAA champion Jason Nolf out of the lineup at 157 pounds due to an injury. As Sanderson noted though, whoever steps in won't need any extra motivation to rise to the challenge. 

"I think our kids who aren't starting, they're are in that arena almost every match," Sanderson said. "Whoever it will be has been here a few years at least, so it's not like it's a new thing. You get a choice what you focus on and they'll have that choice. We have some scrappy kids."

Penn State Dominant in Minnesota Victory

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, the bigger the match, the better the Nittany Lions are going to wrestle. Come Friday night, Penn State did not disappoint, rising to the occasion with a dominant victory against Minnesota.

In front of a packed crowd, Penn State protected its unblemished record in full white out conditions at Rec Hall.

"I think Minnesota is always a tough team," Sanderson said. "Their kids are always in good shape and well coached. We had some close matches in the middle but our guys, for the most part, found a way to score some points."

Penn State opened at 157 with top-ranked Jason Nolf earning a decisive 19-5 major decision against No. 18 Jake Short.

Things got a bit tighter in the next two bouts as No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph defeated seventh-ranked Nick Wanzek, 3-1, at 165 pounds with a late first period takedown ultimately proving key in the victory. At 174 pounds, No. 2 Mark Hall entered the third period leading Minnesota's Chris Pfarr, 2-1, before closing out a 10-3 decision with a solid final period. 

The Nittany Lions then saw back-to-back pins from Bo Nickal at 184 pounds and Shakur Rasheed at 197 pounds.

Nickal pinned Dylan Anderson at the 5:31 mark, calmly reviewing his 12th pin of the season in the media room after the win.

"I've kind of been doing that one for a while, probably since like the eighth grade," Nickal said. "So I know if he steps with his foot, I've pretty much got it."

Also going with what's tried and true was Rasheed, who needed less than a minute to pin Brandon Krone at :55 with his signature cradle.

"I feel like everybody can kind of see that he's got a pretty good cross-face cradle but that doesn't stop him from hitting it," Nickal said. "I'd say that it's pretty good, he likes it and he keeps hitting it. I'd think I would keep hitting it too if nobody's going to stop it."

Penn State's third bout of the evening between ranked wrestlers also came in its last of the night as No. 7 Nick Lee met a two-time NCAA qualifier in All-American Tommy Thorn, who entered the matchup ranked 10th on the year.

Nearly pinning Thorn in the third period, the true freshman was both dominant and confident in a 13-3 major with 3:07 in riding time. 

"I thought Nick wrestled really well, Thorn is tough - a lot of experience, he's tough in all positions," Sanderson said. "Nick had a great match, wrestled well, finished his shots. He definitely look likes each match he's gaining a lot of confidence and he's wrestling really well."

For Lee, that confidence comes from his team and coaches, relying on his training and his own upcoming move, with perhaps a bit of a boost from a crowd he described as brining a special energy Friday night.

"I was out there focused on wrestling and just confident in the week leading up and the whole season training," Lee said. 

With the Golden Gophers in the past though, Penn State has another quick turnaround, heading to Rutgers for a 2 p.m. matchup against the Scarlet Knights Sunday at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

"Looking forward to going to Rutgers," Sanderson said. "They always have a great crowd and a lot of energy, a great atmosphere. They have a solid team so we have to be ready to wrestle."

@GOPSUSPORTS

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