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Feb. 20, 2012
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The same way that it started just over three months in Rec Hall, the Penn State wrestling team's regular season came to a close on Sunday afternoon. In true Nittany Lion fashion, the ending dual was nothing short of exciting.
Second-ranked Penn State downed ninth-ranked Pittsburgh in front of yet another sold out crowd on its senior day by a score of 33-6. The Lions remained dominant, as they have for the majority of their season, scoring more than 30 dual points for the 10th time this season. Head coach Cael Sanderson said that he was especially satisfied with his team's attitude so close to the postseason.
"Especially two weeks from the Big Ten, your eyes are on the end and then you have a match before that so it's important to stay focused," said Sanderson. "That's a tough team there. Every weight class there is pretty tough and they came out wrestling hard."
Penn State put on a show for the 6,755 spectators that filled Rec Hall, and the entertainment that started with the first bout of the day carried through to the final contest.
The Lions took eight of the 10 bouts on the afternoon with three decisions, three major decisions and two pins. The faithful fans that came to watch the final competition of the season rose to their feet a total of seven times in standing ovation, but one of those was for a particularly last-second excitement.
With the dual score tied at three apiece, junior Lion Bryan Pearsall took the mat in the third bout of the day to face fellow 141-pounder Travis Shaffer. The bout started like any another, two wrestlers standing face-to-face and shaking hands, but ended with Shaffer on his back.
Pearsall had struggled in front of Rec Hall crowds heading into Sunday's match with four losses in all four appearances of his appearances at home duals. At the start of his match against Shaffer, it looked like the outcome would be a similar one.
The freshman Panther jumped to an early 4-0 lead in the first period with a takedown and two back points, and continued to control the battle throughout the second period as he tacked on another takedown. Trailing 6-0 at the start of the third period, it was Pearsall who struck next. The Nittany Lion delivered his first takedown of the bout within the first minute of the final period, and picked up a stalling point short after to cut Shaffer's lead to 6-3. Desperate for any kind of points he could get, Pearsall countered a late shot by Shaffer and locked him up in a cradle with just :08 to go and with only three seconds left, got the pin.
And the crowd went wild.
Sanderson made two fists and put his arms in the air as he walked back to his team's bench while associate head coach Cody Sanderson sported the same look paired with some jumping up and down with a big grin on his face.
After the match, Sanderson said that he was just as surprised as the rest of the crowd.
"Bryan needed that match and I'm really happy that he was able to turn it around the way that he did," said Sanderson. "It looked like he was getting his butt kicked and in the end he was able to come out on top and that's really an indicator that he's a worker and a fighter and I think everyone on this team, as we've seen at some point this season, they're all capable of the same."
Pearsall attributed his fighting performance to the way that his coaches have taught him to "wrestle hard and then wrestle even harder" no matter what period of the match it may be.
"It was nice to be able to show our fans and everyone that comes out to watch Penn State wrestling what I could do and what I have been able to do so far this season, this time just in Rec Hall," said Pearsall.
The final dual win gives Penn State an overall record of 13-1 for the 2011-'12 season and is the last competition that the team will see until the first week of March when it heads to the Big Ten Championships at Purdue.