UNIVERSITY PARK — Ed Ruth’s been a Penn State wrestler much longer than he’s been a father.
But on Sunday, in his second-to-last match ever inside Rec Hall, Ruth wasn’t thinking about his dominant Nittany Lion career soon coming to a close. He wasn’t contemplating what would happen should he not take care of business against the wrestler across from him — Oklahoma State freshman Nolan Boyd.
No, Ruth stepped on the mat with his team trailing the Cowboys with one, clear thought.
“I was thinking about my daughter,” Ruth said. “It makes me happy.”
And visions of his daughter Jade — who will turn two in May — were all Ruth needed to propel him to a bonus-point win over Boyd and spark No. 2 Penn State’s come-from-behind win against No. 5 Oklahoma State on Sunday.
Ruth locked Boyd into a cradle and pinned him in 5:41 and the Nittany Lions (14-1) battled back from an early deficit to beat the Cowboys (8-5) 23-12.
“That was huge,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “That was in a way kind of sealing the dual because we were confident in (Morgan) McIntosh and confident in (Jon Gingrich) also but to get those bonus points, we were down by three points going into Ed’s match. That was a big deal.”
No. 3 McIntosh and Gingrich did their parts, too. At 197, McIntosh officially sealed the dual with a 16-2 major decision over Kyle Crutchmer and Gingrich added a 14-5 major decision over Ethan Driver at heavyweight to cap the afternoon’s action.
No. 2 Nico Megaludis (125), No. 2 Zain Retherford (141) and No. 1 David Taylor (165) all picked up decision wins for Penn State.
The Cowboys earned victories at 133, 141 and 149 pounds, and got a win in the dual’s most anticipated bout — a rematch of last season’s 174-pound NCAA championship between No. 2 Chris Perry and Penn State’s No. 4 Matt Brown.
Just like in last season’s NCAA final, Perry and Brown battled into overtime. This time around, it took much longer to decide.
After Perry got the opening takedown following a scramble on the edge, Brown picked up two escapes and got a point when Perry was called for stalling a second time in the second period.
Brown put together a sturdy ride to begin the third period before Perry escaped to tie the bout 3-3. Neither wrestler could score in two sudden victory periods. Perry finally notched the winning escape — and stymied Brown’s offense in a fourth tiebreaker period to post a 4-3 win.
“I think obviously he’s got to figure out how to get off the bottom,” Sanderson said. “Perry’s very, very tough when he throws the head-arm and gets a leg in. That’s an area he’s getting beat in. But I’m optimistic about Matt’s chances. The match was pretty clear as to what happened.”
Brown was not made available to reporters after the match. Perry entered the media room and sat down before Smith told him to leave before the press conference began.
“I don’t think we had by far our better match,” Smith said. “Really just didn’t seem that alert, Chris didn’t. He seemed to get set in a mode out there that this was going to be tough and it was going to take a one-point win. Maybe I’m looking at it wrong but he didn’t have his match by any means.”
And despite watching his wrestlers winning three of the first five bouts, it wasn’t the start Smith wanted.
No. 4 Jon Morrison beat Penn State’s No. 16 Jimmy Gulibon 2-0 at 133 and Pa. native No. 9 Josh Kindig edged Penn State’s No. 17 Zack Beitz 5-3 at 149. No. 3 Alex Dieringer put Oklahoma State up 9-3 with a 6-4 win over No. 6 Dylan Alton at 157.
Smith had a feeling it wouldn’t be enough as two of the Cowboys’ upper weights were not available.
No. 16-ranked 197-pounder Blake Rosholt did not travel with Oklahoma State and No. 16-ranked heavyweight Austin Marsden was also out with an injury.
“We needed four (wins in the first five matches) as we moved forward,” Smith said. “Knowing our lineup. Knowing our heavyweight’s out. We needed the fourth win somewhere in there. But in the end I don’t think those other two (losses in the first five matches) we really did enough to give us any hope there.”
At 125, Megaludis responded to a lackluster start in which he fell behind to No. 13 Eddie Klimara 5-1. The Penn State junior notched three second-period takedowns en route to an 11-7 win.
“I had five minutes left and I wanted to take it to him,” Megaludis said. “Make him pay.”
Retherford pulled Penn State even after Gulibon’s loss with a 2-0 win over No. 19 Anthony Collica at 141.
After Alton’s loss, No. 1 David Taylor resumed the dual after intermission against former NCAA runner-up No. 5 Tyler Caldwell at 165. While Taylor won 5-2, Caldwell made it difficult.
Taylor got the first takedown and added another in the second period. But Caldwell rode Taylor out to end the match and keep the former Hodge Trophy winner from earning any bonus points.
Sanderson insisted Taylor is healthy.
“I think we need to rest him up a little bit and get him ready for the end of the season here just so he has more pop,” Sanderson said. “That’s an easy thing to do. That’s likely the kid he’ll see in the national finals assuming they both make it and they both wrestle well. That’s a tough opponent. David doesn’t have to get ridden if he chooses not to.”
Notes: Penn State won the takedown battle 20-7. ... Ruth earned the Ridge Riley Award as the most outstanding wrestler in a home dual. ... 6,571 fans filled Rec Hall. ... Dieringer on the atmosphere: “I loved it. Just a packed house. ... That’s one of my favorite things about wrestling is the atmosphere and the competition, how big the sport is becoming, especially here. They’ve been selling out every dual almost so they’re doing good for wrestling.”
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.