Wes Phipps wasn’t sure he’d even get a chance to wrestle in a dual meet this season let alone hone his craft in front of more than 15,500 people.
When the redshirt freshman found out he’d get the chance to do so, he wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip through his fingers. So, the 184-pounder chose Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You’ve Gotta Have a Fiddle In the Band)” as a walk-out song, jogged through throngs of Penn State fans and up onto a raised platform at the Bryce Jordan Center where he won his first home dual bout and clinched No. 1 Penn State’s 28-9 win over No. 11 Pittsburgh in front of a reported 15,996 fans on Sunday.
Soon, Phipps will be back to playing second fiddle at his weight class for the Nittany Lions (5-0, 0-0) as senior star Ed Ruth is eligible to return from his month-long suspension for the team’s Dec. 15 dual against Ohio State. For now, Phipps will savor his second-straight win — Sunday’s 13-3 win over Pittsburgh’s Aaron Rothwell — where bonus points came into play.
“Ruth will be coming back here pretty soon so it was kind of my last little hurrah,” Phipps said. “So I just wanted to go out there, it was a big stage, and have fun and the coaches said just go out there and score points. I just won a match in Boston (on Friday) the same way, trying to get some takedowns and replicated it.”
Phipps was slowed by a broken left hand early in the season but showed no signs of the injury despite having his left hand taped against Rothwell. His five takedowns were the most from any Nittany Lion on an afternoon that saw Penn State wrestlers win eight of 10 bouts before the largest reported crowd ever to fill the Bryce Jordan Center.
No. 1 David Taylor picked up a fall over Geno Morelli in 3:09 at 165 pounds to pick up Penn State’s only other bonus-point win. But even though Taylor got the massive crowd going when he caught Morelli on his back in an early second-period scramble, it was Phipps who put on a show of his own two bouts later.
Pittsburgh did not weigh-in usual starter, No. 6 Max Thomusseit and instead sent Rothwell to the raised mat. Phipps, who found out a day before he would not be wrestling the No. 6-ranked 184-pounder in the country, took out his aggression on Rothwell. Phipps picked the Pittsburgh grappler up and ran him to the mat four times to bring fans to their feet.
“I thought it was sweet,” Phipps said of the atmosphere. “It’s a lot like NCAAs with the big (raised) stage. It makes a pretty sweet sound when you pick a guy up and slam him down.”
No. 3 Nico Megaludis, No. 11 Zain Retherford, James Vollrath, No. 3 Matt Brown, No. 4 Morgan McIntosh and No. 10 Jimmy Lawson all added decision wins for Penn State.
Megaludis, from Murrysville, pushed his collegiate record against Pittsburgh’s No. 9 Anthony Zanetta to 2-1 with a 4-1 win in the opening bout at 125 pounds.
“I think Nico did a nice job. Zanetta’s very tough, very tactical,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “A win in that match was a good thing. I think Nico did a nice job of controlling the match. Which is not easy to do against that kid.”
Jordan Conaway followed for Penn State at 133 and pushed No. 17 Shelton Mack into the third period where Mack got the bout-clinching takedown with 27 seconds left. Mack’s 5-2 win tied the dual 3-3.
Retherford remained unbeaten at 141 despite being taken down early by Pittsburgh’s Edgar Bright. Retherford rode out Bright and earned the riding time point to post a 3-2 win.
Pittsburgh’s Mike Racciato took advantage of a late scramble and pinned James English with just eight seconds left in their bout at 149. Vollrath pulled the Nittany Lions even with a 7-2 decision over Cole Sheptock at 157.
Brown added a 9-3 win against No. 9 Tyler Wilps at 174 and McIntosh outlasted Nick Bonaccorsi through six periods and escaped to a 4-3 win at 197.
“I loved it. I thought it was pretty awesome,” McIntosh said of the team’s first dual inside the BJC since 2005. “Coaches were telling us before it’s good practice for the NCAA finals and I think it’s cool for the fans to see with the spotlight on you.”
Lawson beat P.J. Tasser 3-1 to close out the dual.
Notes: Sanderson originally planned to send Jimmy Gulibon to the mat at 133 but Gulibon “wasn’t feeling well,” Sanderson said. ... Penn State improved to 3-3 overall in the Bryce Jordan Center. ... Taylor earned the Ridge Riley Award for most outstanding wrestling in a home dual. ... Taylor’s pin ended a 19-match pinless streak for Penn State. ... Retherford gave up his first takedown of his career. ... Iowa previously held the attendance record (15,955). ... Penn State announced the tickets sold but there were some empty seats.