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Lions Roll to B1G Championship

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a Big Ten dual title within reach Penn State wrestling didn't squander its opportunity. The Nittany Lions finished the regular season with a dominant 45-6 win against Maryland on senior day. 

True freshman Nick Suriano opened competition with a tech fall win over Michael Beck before Triston Law dropped a tough match by fall. Up next at 141, Jimmy Gulibon, Penn State's only starting senior, gave Penn State the lead in the third bout of the day, sparking just the momentum the Nittany Lions needed. The 9-4 win against Ryan Diehl marks Gulibon's sixth straight.

"He's extremely committed and dedicated," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He's a guy that won't eat a 'Cheeto', even in the summer. He has incredible ability and he's as fast as anyone I've ever coached, but speed alone won't win. It would be great to see Jimmy finish the season on a strong note, and be happy and get up on the podium real high. It makes me smile just thinking about it, I'd just love to see him finish strong."

With the year-long one match at a time approach on the minds of the Nittany Lions, junior Zain Retherford says Gulibon is just as ready for the postseason as the rest of the team. 

"He's ready to go," Retherford said. "I think our whole team feels pretty fresh for this time of the year. I think our coaches do a really good job of that. Jimmy's the same way, he's looking good out there and he's ready now. If March is now he's ready."

The energy continued to surge in Rec Hall as Penn State rattled off five straight pins, with each one bringing the Rec Hall crowd of 6,661, a season high, to their feet. 

Retherford collected his team-leading 13th pin while Jason Nolf captured his 11th of the season. Following a tough Friday loss to top-ranked Isaiah Martinez, Vincenzo Joseph responded with his first pin of the season in just under four minutes. Freshman Mark Hall then quickly won by fall at the 1:14 mark with his 11th pin, before Bo Nickal finished off the streak with his 12th pin in 2:08. 

"Bonus points are always a part of winning in the postseason and winning dual meets so we need our guys looking for those extra points," Sanderson said. "So that's good, that's what we want and they feed off of each other in those situations. That's what we need going into Big Ten's and the national tournament." 

At halftime, Penn State took the time to celebrate and honor the contributions of its former wrestling lettermen. A group surrounding the mat was introduced one-by-one to a large roar from the crowd.

"I can't explain why the passion and the support and the fire is still there with a lot of our alumni but it's like that throughout all of Penn State University," Sanderson said. "That's one of the things, if not the thing, that makes Penn State really stand out in my mind coming from a different school. Just the support and the passion, you see it in the football games and it trickles into every sport. When your alumni are around all the time, it sets a great standard for the kids that they're going to be around when they graduate."

Penn State also hoisted the Big Ten regular season (dual meet) trophy in a special postmatch ceremony at the middle of the mat to celebrate the Nittany Lions' fourth title, earned outright this season.

Earning the top spot in the in the Big Ten conference, the top-ranked Nittany Lions will now head to Stillwater, Oklahoma to meet No. 2 Oklahoma State in the 2017 NWCA Dual Championship Series. One of even in the the annual dual meet events, kicks off Sunday, Feb. 19 at at 4 p.m. ET in Gallagher-Iba Arena. For more on the event, click here.

Hall Highlights Illinois Victory at Home

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Consistency has been a strong suit for top-ranked Penn State wrestling and nothing changed Friday night as the Nittany Lions rolled to a 34-7 victory against Illinois.

The match began at 125 pounds and and true freshman Nick Suriano continued to show why he is one of the top wrestlers in his weight class. Suriano jumped out to a 6-2 lead after the first period and continued to pour on the pressure for a 17-6 major decision against Travis Piotrowski.

"I'm just thinking about scoring points and putting the pressure on guys," Suriano said. "I feel like my offense and my confidence increase every match and I'm feeling real good. I'm training to win gold in March and I've got the best partners and coaches. I'm wrestling the best guys in the room every week and I'm getting better." 

Jimmy Gulibon also continued his winning ways with a 10-2 major decision against Mousa Jodeh, while Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf each recorded bonus point victories against ranked opponents.

The marquee matchup was at 165 pounds with fourth-ranked Vincenzo Joseph taking on top-ranked Isaiah Martinez and the bout did not disappoint. Trailing 3-1 with just seconds left, Joseph tried to shoot in on Martinez, but the two-time NCAA champion held strong and came out of the scramble with a takedown for the 5-1 decision.

"I thought it was a good match," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We've got to go get that take down and find a way to get that takedown. Martinez is obviously hard to score on and is very good at scrambling if you get to his legs. I think Joseph comes away confident feeling like he could've won that match." 

After the tough loss for Joseph, another true freshman, Mark Hall hit the mat for his first performance in front of the Rec Hall crowd. Hall masterfully put together a 16-1 tech fall win in full time against No. 12 Zac Brunson, emphatically pumping his arms up to get the crowd louder before heading off the mat. 

"I wish I could wrestle in front of that crowd all day," Hall said. "But, I'm just doing my part and working to score as many points as I can, no matter what position and that's what it all comes down to. I was a little hesitant first period getting my shots. I was scoring off his shots and when I got on top I was just being a hammer on top and scoring points from there. Really after that scramble on the edge of the mat and wrestling through that was when I was like I can compete with anyone and everyone in this weight class."  

Bo Nickal added another win this season with an 18-5 major decision against Emery Parker, while Matt McCutcheon grinded out a 3-1 decision at 197. Nick Nevills avenged last season's loss to Brooks Black with a 5-0 decision to end the dual.

"[Nick Nevills] has made a lot of progress," Sanderson said. "More than anything he's just strong and healthy, he's confident in his body. We would've liked to see him attack a little bit more but he did a nice job and beat a tough kid tonight." 

The Nittany Lions are back in action Sunday at 2 p.m. when they host the Maryland Terrapins. Penn State will also be celebrating senior night in their final home dual of the season. 

This Week in Penn State Wrestling

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By Brandon Pelter, GGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Determination and grit are two qualities that separate a class of wrestlers from the rest, and two qualities that Penn State wrestling simply isn't lacking. 

This year, Penn State sophomore George Carpenter is just one of the Nittany Lions in the lineup who consistently brings his all when stepping foot on to the mat.

"I just focus on my effort," Carpenter said. "I just do the best I can. That's really all you can do."

Carpenter was thrust into the Nittany Lion starting lineup at 133 pounds after Jered Cortez was sidelined with an injury. Making his debut against Binghamton, he rolled to a 17-2 tech fall win against the Bearcats' Ian Lupole. Since then, he has faced some of the top wrestlers in the country including Iowa's Corey Clark, Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello and Nebraska's Eric Montoya. 

"I do my best to improve with every opportunity that I have," Carpenter said. "I like to think I've improved quite a bit."

Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson also noted that Carpenter's hard work extends off the mat too.

"George is a fighter," Sanderson said. "He's been a little outmatched but he's running back to the center and he's going to give it his best effort. That says a lot about a person. Just things bigger than wrestling, and obviously there are a lot of things bigger than wrestling, and one of them is just your attitude and your effort and he's doing a great job. His effort is great and we're proud of him."

A member of the team in each of the last three seasons, Carpenter redshirted in his first season in 2014-15 wrestling unattached, before wrestling in open tournaments last season. Carpenter, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina native, has another tough task ahead of him Friday night when he'll face sixth-ranked Zane Richards of Illinois.

Postseason Approaching
The start of February marks the near end of the regular season for the Nittany Lions. Penn State wrestles just three more matches before gearing up for a busy month of March featuring both the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

"I think our guys are wrestling well," Sanderson said. "We've certainly been tested with the best and we have little things that we can improve upon and that's always our focus, individually and as a team. But overall, we're pleased. We're always trying to focus on the positives. If you're focusing on the things we aren't doing right then you drive yourself crazy, but there is a reality that we have to improve some of those things. I think we're doing a lot of things really well right now." 

Redshirt junior Matt McCutcheon isn't new to the postseason grind though, and is ready to make a run this year.

"I think I'm more confident than I ever was," McCutcheon said. "I'm just going to go out there and score as much as possible and just have fun. Some guys don't compete as well when it comes to big tournaments and big matches, but I think our team is going to be relaxed and I'll be relaxed going out there and I think that's going to be very important." 

McCutcheon noted that for newcomers, like freshman Nick Suriano, it's all about staying relaxed and having fun.

"I think Suriano is obviously doing very well," McCutcheon said. "He's one of the top guys in the country and he's going out there and wrestling relaxed and I think you can tell that from the difference between his first match and now. You see him going out there and scoring a lot of points just like last match, he got a tech against a guy who's very good. I think that's just because he's trusting in the coaches and going out there and wrestling more relaxed and is opening up."

The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall this weekend for a pair of Big Ten duals hosting the Illinois Fighting Illini Friday, Feb. 10 before closing out the weekend welcoming the Maryland Terrapins Sunday, Feb. 12 on senior day.

Retherford Building Success on Consistency

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Success is nothing new for Penn State wrestling junior Zain Retherford. Retherford, a national champion and two-time All-American is 82-3 as a Nittany Lion, with a combined 212-6 record dating back to his high school career.

"He's just an incredibly solid individual," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "His progress has been in all aspects of his game. To say where is he going to continue improve, it'll be kind of a progression you don't even really notice because he's so consistent. He'll just get better and better."

Retherford closed out his high school career going 47-0 and captured two state titles in his four years at Benton High School. Arriving at Penn State for the season in 2013-14, Retherford came out with a bang wrestling in the starting lineup at 141 pounds as a true freshman. In just his sixth collegiate dual, and third at home, Retherford upset Ohio State's top-ranked Logan Stieber with a 4-2 win in sudden victory - a win that still gives him chills thinking back on.

"The crowd I think I remember the most," Retherford said. "I don't think a lot of people expected me to win or even to fight off a major decision so just having confidence in myself in that environment and then getting the crowd electric in there, I felt like the ground was shaking literally, I don't know. I just remember being really pumped up, being a true freshman, not a lot of expectations and just having fun."

Retherford finished the season placing fifth at the NCAA national championships with a 5-2 mark. Both losses coming to the first and second overall seeds. In 2014-15 Retherford took a redshirt season to prepare to wrestle at 149 pounds. While the move isn't a rarity, it certainly isn't the common way of redshirting a first-year wrestler.

"In the case of Retherford I don't think it's all that uncommon to wrestle a year and then take a year off," veteran Nittany Lion play-by-play radio talent Jeff Byers said. "The most typical is to obviously redshirt that first year, but it's certainly not unheard of. I think a lot of times that will benefit a kid because you see what you need to work on and what areas you want to develop, whereas when you're just coming out of high school sometimes you're not sure what it is you need to develop. But, it is pretty unusual to not compete in tournaments or anything like that during the redshirt season."

Retherford's 2015-16 season proved the redshirt year to be a success as he raced to an undefeated season with a 34-0 record, taken down just one time throughout the entire season. In addition, Retherford was the NCAA national champion at 149 pounds with a win over Iowa's Brandon Sorenson, was the NCAA's most dominant wrestler and was a finalist for the Hodge Trophy.

Along with the Nittany Lion's success, Retherford has continued that momentum into this year, currently out to a 15-0 start this season, one of three unbeaten starters heading into Friday's matchup. Retherford opened the season pinning each of his first seven opponents, before rising to tied for 11th on the Penn State all-time pins list with 30 in his career and 11 pins this year alone.

"I think greatness comes from consistency," Sanderson said. "You know what you're going to get, and it's not 'well is he going to show up this time or not.' He's always going to give his best effort and he's always going to be the same person regardless of where we are; home, on the road, nationals, first match of the year, practice, he's the same person every day. I think that's what the great ones are made of."

The top-ranked Nittany Lions hit the road this week, traveling to Columbus, Ohio to take on the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in a 6 p.m. matchup. 

Check in with Sanderson ahead of Penn State's trip to Columbus.

Livingston Highlights Northwestern Victory

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three pins highlighted an outstanding 45-3 win for the Nittany Lions against the Northwestern Wildcats Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high crowd of 6,630.

"I think the effort was good for the most part," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You're always looking to improve obviously but overall, I think we wrestled well and all things considered, we were out in Wisconsin two days ago and we get back in time to get off the bus and go right to practice last night and we're wrestling again [today]. But I think the guys, overall we looked good." 

True freshman Nick Suriano set the tone with a pin of Anthony Rubinetti 3:10 into the bout while Caleb Livingston collected a pin in his first home dual at Rec Hall at 165 pounds. Jason Nolf also recorded a pin at 157 pounds.

"The atmosphere was awesome," Livingston said. "Wrestling in Rec Hall has always been a dream of mine when I started on the team four-and-a-half years ago.

Livingston was named the Ridge Riley Award winner, given to the most outstanding wrestler of the dual. The Vollrath family, whose son Jimmy, a former Penn State wrestler, passed away earlier this year, presented the award to Livingston.

"I found out afterward when I won the Ridge Riley award that in Jim Vollrath's last match he also won the Ridge Riley award with a pin," Livingston said. "So for me that was pretty special. He was a good friend of mine, a wrestling partner, who we lost earlier this year, so it really meant a lot to me that we had very similar circumstances and I was able to win the award as well as him." 

Livingston said it was a teammate that taught him the move he used to win with the pin, one that meant so much to him in honor of a former Nittany Lion.

"That's a move I've got to credit Zain [Retherford] with for showing me," Livingston said. "I learned it because he hit it on me about three or four times in practice in one match and pinned me with it. I turned to him and said hey you have to show me that move because I wasn't going anywhere. So we worked on it, that was about two weeks ago, and when I got on top of him I felt his arm kind of extend and I knew that move was there so I went for it."

Just last year, Livingston wrestled in six bouts at heavyweight to replace a then-injured Nick Nevills, jumping up to 205 pounds, but this year he feels much lighter wrestling at 165.

"I feel a little lighter now that I'm not a heavyweight anymore for that brief stint," Livingston said. "It took me a while to get that weight off. I got up to 205, but that was a whole lot of Canyon Pizza." 

Jimmy Gulibon also dazzled the crowd, continuing his momentum with a tech fall win over Alec Mckenna. Gulibon has now scored 35 points in the last six periods of wrestling.

"He's wrestling well," Sanderson said. "His shots are great, his attacks are great, he's just as solid as he has ever looked so I'm excited for Jimmy [Gulibon] and for the rest of the season. It's fun for us and we like him, we want to see him happy, going out there and having a good time."

Mark Hall collected his first home dual win, but by forfeit. While, Zain Retherford also won by forfeit, securing 50 straight wins for the junior.

Although the Northwestern forfeits weren't exactly what Sanderson was expecting coming off of the road victory at Wisconsin Friday night, there wasn't much Penn State or Northwestern could do. 

"It's disappointing when you find out your guys don't get matches, we want them to wrestle, especially after we missed a tournament in December," Sanderson said. "We wanted to watch Zain wrestle, we wanted to see Mark Hall wrestle, we wanted him to get that match. They didn't do that on purpose, it just kind of is what it is." 

The Nittany Lions travel next to Columbus, Ohio to face the Buckeyes at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb 3. 

This Week in Penn State Wrestling

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State senior Jimmy Gulibon continued his season last week, while Nittany Lion freshman Mark Hall got his first experience in dual meet action.

For Gulibon, he earned a win over Iowa's then-No. 18 Topher Carton, remaining No. 12 in this week's InterMat rankings, having improved to 8-6 on the year.

Gulibon highlighted his matchup with a gritty come-from-behind performance, which featured four takedowns in the third period to secure the win.

"I was happy," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I could've kissed him when he was coming off -  he probably wouldn't have liked that. That was a big match in the dual meet. That was one that they [Iowa] probably felt like they needed to get to win the dual. I think that's a great match for him to get and to get it in a big matchup like that and to score three or four takedowns in the third period to win, it's good to see and we're very proud of him." 

Gulibon says he had such a strong third period because he knew he had to go all in. 

"I felt good," Gulibon said. "I started off a little slow, didn't finish a shot or two, but then kept wrestling. I knew I was down and I knew I had to score some points, so I just kept wrestling and just started shooting. I didn't think about the score and just kept going." 

This year though, it's the keep it simple mentality that's been driving the fifth-year senior All-American.

"I've had a couple rough matches here and there, a couple good matches here and there," Gulibon said. "I mean overall just keep wrestling and keep fighting. That's really it." 

Looking ahead to the weekend, Gulibon and the Nittany Lions head to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers at 8 p.m.  Friday, Jan. 27 before returning home to host Northwestern at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29 at Rec Hall. Gulibon will be tested yet again, set to face Wisconsin's No. 15 ranked Cole Martin.

Off the mat, Gulibon enjoys his time off and has a few lazy days, just like the rest of us. Gulibon is one of many Nittany Lion wrestlers who spent a bit of their free time gaming.

"I like to do nothing a lot, and I like to play video games," Gulibon said. "I also like working out and that's just about it."

Hall Competes in Carver-Hawkeye
In other Nittany Lion news, true freshman Mark Hall got the start at 174 pounds in last Friday night's Big Ten outing at Iowa. Although a surprise for Nittany Lion fans, Hall took his time making the decision surrounded by the support of his family, teammates and coaches. 

"I knew Wednesday night," Hall said. "It was kind of my decision. I was kind of thinking about it for a while, but coach Cael [Sanderson], my teammates, and my parents were pretty adamant about letting it be something that I wanted to do if I wanted to do it and they were really open. No one was going to be really upset if I didn't and no one was going to be really upset if I did."

Hall was likely set to be designated as a redshirt freshman, posting an 18-1 record wrestling unattached this season with impressive tournament victories, capturing the title at the Binghamton Open and the Southern Scuffle, picking up Scuffle Outstanding Wrestler honors.

"Mark's a team player," Sanderson said. "He saw that he thinks he can help the team, but it was also a tough decision. A tough decision for him and I'm excited that we have Mark Hall in our lineup now. I'm excited about the next month and a half and getting him ready for nationals. I think you'll see him make a big jump between now and then. There's a difference when you're redshirting and not." 

In high school, Hall went 277-4, putting together one of the most prolific high school careers, including a record six Minnesota state championships.

"It's hard for me to be just sitting and watching when I know I can be competing with these guys," Hall said. "I just think the more I was with the team and the more I was just seeing how things ran I just wanted to be a part of that. I think actually wrestling and getting in the Carver-Hawkeye environment, there's nothing better than wrestling somewhere like that, besides here of course."

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 

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Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


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With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

Joseph Finding Home in Rec Hall

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph has made an immediate impact in his first year wrestling for the Nittany Lions. With a 10-1 record on the year, Joseph has earned a No. 4 ranking in the InterMat individual rankings at 165 pounds.

Joseph's noticeably impressive contributions for the Nittany Lions this year though, are just what Cael Sanderson says he has always expected.

"When we recruited him we were expecting him to be a guy that was competing as a freshman," Sanderson said. "He was doing very well in high school and comes from a great club. He has trained with a lot of the kids that we have from that part of the state and they all spoke very highly of him. I think he's where we thought he would be, the important stuff is still ahead though so it's just a matter of staying focused and continuing to progress and that's our plan for him." 

In just a few short months Joseph put together wins in each of his last nine consecutive outings, improving steadily with each win, including three against another ranked opponent in the span.  

 "I think he's just improving overall," Sanderson said. "All positions, his finishes, his shots, his tie-ups, his snaps, he's getting better on top - he's not a guy that probably tried to wrestle on top a lot, but in college it makes a big difference in close matches. He's looking better, I think his confidence is continuing to improve, but he's wrestling real well. He's scoring from a number of different attacks, his defense is solid, so we're happy where Vincenzo is at."

Practice in a room each day that's filled with some of the top wrestlers in the nation, Joseph has picked up a lot.

"We have a lot of guys on our team that have different feels," Joseph said. "So it's a really good variety of people to work with. I wrestle with Jason [Nolf] a lot. He has a lot of cool tricks and things that he does, Bo [Nickal], Shakur [Rasheed] even, and even Mark [Hall] now that he's here and he has a lot of neat things that he does differently too. So it's really good for me to wrestle with all of these guys."

After opening his collegiate career with a win on the road, Joseph began his first career dual meet in Rec Hall with a loss, but that was more than two months ago and he has since come to love the historic home gym.

"So my first experience in Rec Hall wasn't that great," Joseph said. "But then, after that, wrestling there again, I really came to appreciate it. I love wrestling there so far this year. The fans are incredible, the atmosphere is awesome, it's just a really great place to be at."

With Penn State hitting the road this week traveling to Iowa for a Big Ten showdown featuring the second-ranked Nittany Lions and the third-ranked Hawkeyes, Joseph will be tested in a tough environment away from home.

"I think recent history, these dual meets never really fail to entertain, so it's going to be a great match, it's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of passion and fire from their team and from our team. so it's going to draw a great crowd," Sanderson said.

While many wrestlers would be intimidated by an electric atmosphere like Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Joseph says he will feed off of it.

Penn State and Iowa are set to get underway in Iowa City beginning at 9 p.m. ET, with live coverage on the Big Ten Network. 

More from Sanderson below. 

Nickal's 'Secret Move' Helps Penn State Down Rutgers

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions opened the night dropping two of their first three bouts on the mat, but once Penn State reached their fourth bout of the evening, there was no looking back.

Penn State's consistent wrestlers, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal continued their undefeated seasons with bonus point victories leading the Nittany Lions to a 37-6 win against the Scarlet Knights. 

Nick Suriano, who is also undefeated on the season, began the night with a 16-2 major decision over Brandon Paetzell, putting the Nittany Lions ahead 4-0. Penn State dropped its next two bouts by decision, including a close, but tough loss for No. 12 Jimmy Gulibon who lost to the sixth-ranked wrestler at 141 pounds, Anthony Ashnault.

"We were happy [Gulibon] fought the whole time," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He got a little overaggressive in the first period and got countered in a couple positions. Ashnault is a tough kid, but we'll take the over aggressiveness any day over the opposite so I think Jimmy's attitude is good and he's going to keep plugging away."

With the heart of Penn State's lineup upcoming, Sanderson says he wasn't too worried when his team trailed 6-4.

"Well when you have Zain coming up that's a confidence booster," Sanderson said. "We lost a couple matches early, but sometimes it just depends on where the matchups are. I think Rutgers is a good team, they have some good wrestlers that were just in the same weight as some of our guys that are really good." 

Penn State tallied six bonus point victories, including two pins from Retherford and Nickal, and three technical falls from Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Nick Nevills.

Joseph, who won 19-3 has quietly risen to the No. 4 ranked wrestler at 165 pounds. Joseph is 10-1 this season.

"I think he's just improving overall," Sanderson said. "I think all positions, his finishes, his shots, his tie-ups, his snaps, he's getting better on top. He's not a guy that probably tried to wrestle on top a lot, but in college it makes a big difference in close matches. He's looking better and I think his confidence is continuing to improve. He's wrestling real well, he's scoring with a number of attacks, his defense is solid, so we're happy where Vincenzo is at."

With Penn State ahead 23-6, No. 2 Nickal faced No. 14 Nicholas Gravina. Gravina came out aggressive and physical, but that didn't seem to phase Nickal. 

"I think [Nickal] kept his composure," Sanderson said. "He took his points when they were there. He probably could have fired off a couple shots earlier, but sometimes you kind of feel them out a little bit, I guess, and score when the time is right."

With an impressive move, Nickal was able to spin to a sitting up positing from bottom, then turn in with a cradle and lift Gravina up and slam him down, finishing the move off with a pin moments later.

"I had his leg and then I just kind of sat," Nickal said. "Then I picked him up and then I threw him down." 

Nickal called it his "secret move" and said he developed it with Retherford, along with with the help of YouTube, and has been working on it for about a year-and-a-half.

Sanderson also enjoyed the spectacular move just as move as the sold out Rec Hall crowd did.

"I enjoyed it just like you guys did," Sanderson said. "That's wrestling." 

To close out the night, Nick Nevills improved to 11-0, and is one of five undefeated Nittany Lions along with Suriano, Retherford, Nolf and Nickal. Nevills used nine takedowns with four near-fall points to win by technical fall.

"It's a lot more enjoyable to go out there and get takedowns rather than having some of the closer matches that I've had," Nevills said. "The coaches have just been stressing going out and being more offensive and getting the takedowns that I'm capable of getting. It was a nice match to go out there and open up more and to get going and to just listen to the coaches telling me to let the guy go and keep going out and getting after the guy. It was fun. If that's what I have to do it's not bad taking a tech fall for the team."

As he noted earlier this week, Nevills aims to keep the fans in their seats until the very end of each dual meet.

 "The ultimate goal is to win and to dominate," Nevills said. "Not just try to slide by 3-to-1, but try to do it in a way that keeps people in the stands because there are always people that are trying to hurry out to their car and trying to get out when the heavyweight is the last match."

 Penn State has now won its last 24 dual meets dating back to the end of the 2014-15 season. The Nittany Lions next travel to Carver Hawkeye Arena to take on Iowa at 9 p.m. ET Friday, Jan. 20.

Nevills Keying In On 2016-17 Goals

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Nick Nevills did not exactly get the start to his career he would have liked, but the sophomore now is back on track. Nevills, who was out with two injuries, experienced the first setback during his redshirt season in 2014-15, before another one kept him sidelined for most of last year. 

"It was hard to have to go from wrestling everyday with everyone to not being able to even be in the room for a while," Nevills said. "It was really tough, but just knowing what I wanted and just trying to stay as clear on my goals and the things I want to do while I'm here at Penn State and after Penn State, what I want to accomplish, and never lose sight of my goals." 

Having overcome the injuries with an offseason to recover, Nevills has not lost sight of those goals in the slightest, as it would take a lot to keep him out of the lineup.

"I'll wrestle until my body falls apart if I have to - which would be painful," Nevills said. "I can't see myself stop wrestling, especially anytime soon, it would take an asteroid falling out of the sky to hit me to stop me from trying to come back." 

So far Nevills is off to a meteoric start this year, with a 10-0 record, including a 6-0 mark in dual meets with four pins and one technical fall. Just this past weekend Nevills topped a pair of Top 15 opponents, defeating eighth-ranked Michael Kroells from Minnesota before pinning Nebraska's No. 15 Collin Jensen. 

The road to becoming one of five unbeaten Nittany Lions this year hasn't been an easy task though.

"Its gone okay so far," Nevills said. "I've wrestled a couple top-ranked people and have gotten some wins. This past weekend was just nice to get back into it after that long break. It was a decent weekend but I feel like I can wrestle better and I think I have wrestled better in the past, which is a good thing that I don't feel like I wrestled my best and still got it done. I think the season so far has gone pretty well for me and I've really enjoyed it so far." 

Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson likes what he has seen so far from Nevills this year.

"I think he's getting better every match," Sanderson said. "I think his confidence is improving. I think he has won some matches by being tough on top and he has won some matches by his confidence on the bottom. He knew what he was doing on Sunday when he let the guy cradle him, which is not usually a good game plan, but then he kind of broke through - that's something you see him do in here all the time." 

Before Penn State's Big Ten opening duals last week, the Nittany Lions had nearly a month off from competition after not being able to make it to the Reno Tournament of Champions due to weather. That didn't stop Nevills from staying focused. 

"I went home and wrestled with my high school team and my brother, who is here, was back with me, wrestling at my high school and my youngest brother is very, very big, about 6 feet 4 and a half inches," Nevills said. "He wrestles and he is pretty good so I had two good partners there and my coaches back home." 

While Nevills has his goals clearly in sight, like a true competitor, he still sees areas for improvement.

"My ultimate goal is to win, and to go out there and not just try to sneak by with wins," Nevills said. "I want to go out there and see how good I can get each time I wrestle, to try to be my best every time and I think if I do that then I'll win. There are some good guys in our weight class that I still haven't wrestled yet, and I'm looking forward to wrestling and just really getting to see really how good I can get. I don't feel like I'm anywhere near that point yet."

Penn State's Big Ten schedule hits Rec Hall for the firs time this weekend, when the Nittany Lions host Rutgers Friday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. with live coverage slated for BTN. 

More from Sanderson on the weekend matchup below.   

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