By Ryan Hickey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Off the mat distractions can derail even the best
teams and wrestlers. Hosting the much anticipated dual meet against the third-ranked
Ohio State Buckeyes in a sold out Bryce Jordan Center could have provided
enough fanfare for the Nittany Lions to get caught up in.
Penn State stayed focused and more importantly tough, as they earned a hard
fought 24-14 victory. With another win against a very tough opponent, head
coach Cael Sanderson was pleased with the effort from his team.
"I think overall, we wrestled well. That's a tough team and a tough team to
score points on," said head coach Cael Sanderson. "Every win was big. Bo
[Nickal]'s win was big. Matt [McCutcheon]'s win was big. We needed bonus points
from Zain [Retherford] and also Nolf and they went out there and got that done.
We needed bonus points from McIntosh and he got that done."
The biggest difference in the Nittany Lions keeping their record unblemished
was not only wrestling hard for the full seven minutes, but wrestling an
aggressive style as well.
"Every one of our guys are wrestling through and using every second, so I am
happy with the way they are wrestling and when you are wrestling and taking
more shots, you get better faster," said Sanderson. "It's just the way it
works. If you take 20 shots a match, you are going to get a lot better than if
you take two. If you do that every day and do that in practice every day, it
will change the way you compete."
With so many tough matches throughout the night, the aggressive style that the
Nittany Lions wrestled with proved to be a big factor in pulling out some of
the wins. For Bo Nickal, who used a big third period that included two
takedowns and four near fall points, his mindset never waivered from the
"Well I don't think that how our coaches coach us to wrestle and how we like to
wrestle as a team has anything to do with being passive," said Nickal. "Going
through my head, I was just thinking like wrestle and keep doing how I do
everyday in the practice room and stuff. I don't think that any of us like to
keep it close or back up and do anything like that so, we just wrestle how we
The match that Sanderson believes was one of the biggest was the second bout of
the dual, as Jordan Conaway's win pulled the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes even at
three team points apiece.
"That was a big match obviously if you are looking at the match by match," said
Sanderson. "If we don't win that match, it gets a lot tougher to win the dual.
[Conaway] did a great job and all of our guys wrestled hard. They move forward
and they try and score points. They do it because they love it and want to be
the best that they can be."
The match did not start in Conaway's favor, as the senior faced an early 4-0
deficit. Not panicking, Conaway was able to keep wrestling and turn the
momentum in his favor.
"That was huge because those four points were real early and it looked like
Jordan was going to have a hard time getting off the bottom, so things weren't
looking real good," said Sanderson. "DiJulius is real tricky obviously and very
good at what he does, but Jordan is a fighter and he's going to keep wrestling
the whole time."
Playing a big factor in Conaway's eventual 8-4 decision as well as other
matches was the conditioning of the Nittany Lions. Buckeye wrestlers were visibly
tired at the end of matches, which is something Sanderson and the team pride
"We are confident in our conditioning," said Sanderson. "We think these guys
can wrestle, keep wrestling and score points and I think that's more of an attitude
and conditioning comes along with that attitude because you have to wrestle
like that in practice every day. Conditioning will always be a factor for us."
Matt McCutcheon, who returned for the first time since being injured at
Illinois two weeks ago, had extra motivation for this match. Last season, McCutcheon
fell to Kenny Courts at Nationals in sudden victory fashion. Riding out Courts
for most of the match, the sophomore was able to revenge his loss and made his
postgame interview that much sweeter.
"It means a lot. Last year, I thought about that match for a long time and this
one was important to me, so coming back, it was pretty important to get back,"
said McCutcheon. You have your team going out there scoring points, it makes
you want to go out there and score points, so it was pretty important to get
back for this match."
Wrestling for the second time this season across the street at the Bryce Jordan
Center, the atmosphere was as electric as any of the wrestlers have seen
before. Packing in the sold out arena with 15,983 fans, Sanderson believes that
is a testament to the wrestling style his team wrestles with, which makes it
exciting to watch and keeps the fans coming back.
"I think our guys are doing a good job of really wrestling aggressively, so
they are fun to watch," said Sanderson. "They are good kids and humble kids.
Win or lose, they are going to be the same. They want to win, but they are
going to fight to win."
Not only are the fans loud and passionate, the supporters are knowledgeable and
have a real sense of what is going on. McCutcheon believes that the Nittany
Lion supporters are the best fans in the country, which makes wrestling at Penn
State so special. McCutcheon cites how the fans appreciate the effort level and
even if the results don't go in their favor, the crowd is still supportive. Sanderson
also recognizes the passion and support that surrounds his team, as getting
stuck in traffic trying to get to the match made him realize the swarms of
people that came out to support his squad.
"Pennsylvania wrestling is huge at all levels, at the youth level, at the high
school level and at the collegiate level," said Sanderson. "The fans know what
they are looking at and they love good wrestling. I think we want to make Pa.