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Jan. 13, 2014
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After spending the first two months of the 2013-14 wrestling season watching from the sidelines, the anticipation that twin brothers Andrew and Dylan Alton felt to get back to competition could not have been higher heading into Sunday's meet against Purdue.
Following off-season shoulder surgeries, the brothers were forced to spend of first half of the season rehabbing while watching their teammates compete, something that was not easy for the highly competitive pair to stomach.
"It's hard because you want to get on the mat as soon as possible and you're watching your friends (wrestle)," said Dylan Alton. "This is the last year I'll get to wrestle with Ed (Ruth) and David (Taylor) and that's a great experience."
While sitting out for so long may not have been easy, the duo's patience paid off, as both Altons scored victories in the Nittany Lions dominant 34-3 win over Purdue.
Andrew, who entered Sunday as the seventh ranked wrestler at the 149-pound weight, outlasted junior Brandon Nelsen by a score of 7-6 while Dylan, ranked fifth at 157, defeated junior Dustin Schultz 6-1.
"I plan on getting better every match," said Dylan Alton. "Getting out there and competing again in Rec Hall felt pretty good and was fun."
With Penn State leading 8-3 after the afternoon's first three matches, Andrew took the mat against Nelsen and showed little rust in the opening minutes, scoring two quick takedowns to take a 4-1 lead after the first period.
Although Nelsen would manage to battle back and tie the score at 6-6 in the third period, Alton accumulated 1:26 of riding time to pull out the narrow victory.
"I was a little nervous but I felt good I just need to be more mentally prepared," said Andrew Alton. "I just need a little more urgency in the third period to score points."
Dylan followed up his brother's win with a hot start of his own, taking Schultz down to the mat and riding the Boilermaker for over a minute in the first period.
From that point on, the Mill Hall, Pa. native displayed tremendous defense, refusing to allow Schultz to score a take down en route to a 6-1 win.
A sell out crowd of 6,369 was overjoyed to see the Nittany Lions finally be able to have their lineup back at full strength, as was head coach Cael Sanderson.
"It was good to see the Altons back in there," said Sanderson. "It's part of the process for them but we had to get them out there to see what they could do."
Sanderson admitted that it was unrealistic to expect either of the Altons to look as sharp as they have in the past, with both of them having just returned to competition.
Despite the rust, Sanderson felt encouraged by both of the brother's performances, and believes that the pair is on the right track.
"There's confidence that comes with getting back to competing and having to face the unknown," said Sanderson. "They faced two kids that both wrestled hard."
Not only was Sanderson pleased to have Andrew and Dylan back in the lineup, the duo's teammates were equally thrilled to see both grapplers back in action.
For senior All-American Ed Ruth, watching two of his most talented teammates unable to wrestle was not easy, and he was glad to see both of them compete again.
"I spend a lot of time with these guys and I'm thrilled to have them back," said Ruth. "They're great wrestlers and I enjoy watching both of them."
Though the Nittany won nine of ten bouts and easily handled the Boilermakers in general, Sanderson knows that there is plenty of work to do moving forward.
Even when going against their lower ranked opponents, the two-time NWCA coach of year wants to make sure his team keeps their focus sharp at all times.
"We saw some good things and our consistent guys stayed consistent," said Sanderson. "We don't judge performance based on score we judge it on performance and we have to find a way to be at our best regardless."