CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Talk about a bounce-back performance.
Two days after the No. 1 Penn State wrestling team suffered its first dual-meet loss in 20 matches, the Nittany Lions rebounded to hammer No. 6 Illinois 37-0 on Sunday inside Huff Hall. It was the third time this season Penn State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) shut out a Big Ten foe after previous blankings of Indiana and Michigan State.
A 22-16 loss in Penn States thrilling dual with the No. 3 Hawkeyes only inspired the Nittany Lions as they came out and dominated the Fighting Illini, earning bonus points in three of 10 bouts.
No. 2-ranked Nico Megaludis found himself down early to No. 5 Jesse Delgado at 125 pounds but Megaludis would battle back in the third period to get Penn State started. Delgado earned the opening takedown and with a second-period escape led Megaludis 3-0 heading into the third period. Megaludis kept coming and after escaping to start the third forced Delgado to give up another point for stalling.
With 15 seconds left, Megaludis caught Delgado on his back for a fall in 6:45.
Jordan Conaway, a redshirt freshman, followed with an 8-6 upset of No. 8 Daryl Thomas at 133 pounds. Conaway, who was pinned by Iowas No. 2 Tony Ramos in a crushing loss for Penn State on Friday, had not been scored against in the third period all season. He built a 5-1 lead against Thomas before the Fighting Illini battled back with five third-period points, but Conaway held on for his second win over a ranked opponent this season.
I dont think I was wrestling my pace or my match against Ramos, Conaway told the Penn State Sports Network. Im confident. Ill just keep working on the things I need to. That match (against Thomas) I started reverting a little bit to how I was wrestling in the Iowa match and it started to be a close match. Ive got to focus the whole time and stay in good position.
Conaway said he was even more fired up for his bout after watching Megaludis come from behind against Delgado.
Senior Bryan Pearsall kept Penn States run going with an escape and strong ride out in the third period of his bout against Steven Rodrigues at 141. Pearsall won 2-0 and yielded the mat for Andrew Alton who sported a new look with a shaved head.
Illinois Caleb Ervin gave Alton a tough match, pushing it the distance but Altons two takedowns and third-period reversal were enough for a 6-3 win.
No. 5 Dylan Alton followed and turned in an impressive third period after a slow start to his bout at 157 against Matt Nora. Alton quickly popped up from the bottom to start the final period and hit four takedowns in rapid succession to post a 14-6 major decision.
Penn State got a bit of a scare at 165 pounds when No. 2 David Taylor found himself on his back against No. 8 Conrad Polz late. Taylor led 13-2 when a scramble ensued and Polz came out on top. He was awarded five points and had Taylor on his back as time expired. Taylor won 13-7, his first non-bonus point win of the season.
No. 4 Matt Brown broke his two-match losing skid with a gritty 6-4 decision over two-time All-American No. 8 Jordan Blanton at 174 pounds.
At 184 pounds, No. 1 Ed Ruth remained undefeated as he wasted little time rolling No. 20 Tony Dallago into a cradle for a fall in 47 seconds.
No. 3 Quentin Wright followed and kept Penn States shutout going with a 4-2 win over No. 13 Mario Gonzalez at 197. Jimmy Lawson returned to dual-meet action in place of No. 17 Jon Gingrich at heavyweight. In his first dual-meet bout since Dec. 15, Lawson sealed Penn States shutout with a 9-4 decision over Chris Lopez.
Notes: Penn State won the takedown battle 20-4. Conaway and Megaludis shared the Ernie Lucas Award, given to the most outstanding wrestler in a road dual. Penn State will return to action on the road against Pittsburgh on Friday. No. 3-ranked 141-pounder B.J. Futrell and heavyweight Pat Walker were held out of the dual by Illinois with injuries. 1,247 watched the dual in Huff Hall. ... Illinois dropped to 6-4 and 2-4 in the conference.