Penn State wrestling fans spent more time waiting for autographs from David Taylor and Ed Ruth than they did actually watching the two Nittany Lion seniors wrestle their final matches inside Rec Hall on Sunday.
A line nearly 500 fans long snaked around the outer corridors of the old venue following Penn State’s 43-3 win over Clarion. They were all waiting to reach a table where Taylor and Ruth — who led Penn State with pins of their respective opponents in 11 and 64 seconds — sat to sign any piece of memorabilia brought forth.
They’ll have chances to watch Taylor and Ruth again. But not here. Not in Rec Hall where Penn State concluded its regular season after recognizing its seniors and pounding Clarion with bonus points in six of nine wins including four-straight falls from 165 to 197 pounds.
“I think we should be getting four pins in a row,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “At the Big Ten tournament we need four pins in a row. At the national tournament we’re going to need four pins in a row. So I like that.”
The No. 2 Nittany Lions (15-1, 7-1) have grown used to getting them from Taylor and Ruth. The two Penn State stars didn’t disappoint in their Rec Hall finales — unless fans were expecting to see them wrestle full, seven-minute matches.
Taylor started the pinfest at 165 pounds when he caught Clarion’s Michael Pavasko shooting and wrenched him over to his back in just 11 seconds.
It was the second-fastest pin in program history after Dylan Alton’s eight-second fall against Hofstra’s Dalton Ahern last season.
“I haven’t been that excited to wrestle in a long time to be honest with you,” Taylor, who was cautioned for an early start, said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was five years old. I’ve wrestled a lot of big matches and sometimes you don’t always get super excited for every match. This time of year is what I love more than anything. I think just feeling the postseason coming and it being my last match, I just had so many emotions. And so fast, before I knew it the match was over.”
Taylor spoke with former Penn State standout Frank Molinaro in the days leading up to his match. The two talked about Molinaro’s final bout two years ago when he responded to the Rec Hall crowd by taking a lap around the bottom row of seats and high fiving every fan.
Like they did for Molinaro and Quentin Wright last season, nearly all of the 6,483 fans in attendance gave Taylor a nearly minute-long standing ovation as he ran off the mat. The Penn State senior returned briefly from the hallway leading to the team’s locker room to give a quick bow.
Ruth wasn’t far away — he was right behind the team’s bench taping up his shoelaces — when he looked up to see Taylor pinning Pavasko off the whistle.
“When I saw him do that I was like, ‘That’s going to be hard to beat,’” Ruth said. “I looked up and both of the guy’s heels were pointed toward the ceiling. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ ... As soon as the whistle blew the guy’s flying across the mat and David’s pouncing on top of him and he’s getting back points.”
Ruth followed with an equally dominant showing at 184 pounds.
He needed just over 30 seconds to lock up a nearside cradle on Dustin Conti. It took Ruth a few tries, but with a few slight adjustments was able to fasten Conti’s shoulders to the mat in 1:04.
Ruth got the same fan appreciation as Taylor. One fan in attendance particularly meant a lot to Ruth.
“My (older) brother has not been to one of my home matches and this was the first one he came to and it was my senior night,” Ruth said. “That really made me happy.”
At 174, Matt Brown picked up a fall against Ryan Darch in 2:50. Morgan McIntosh capped Penn State’s team scoring by flattening Daniel Sutherland in 3:10 at 197 pounds.
Before the intermission, Nico Megaludis and Jimmy Gulibon got Penn State off to a quick start by setting lightning-quick paces.
Megaludis hit seven takedowns and added two tilts in the first five minutes against Hunter Jones to start with a 21-5 technical fall at 125 pounds. Gulibon followed with an early takedown against Victor LiPari before tilting LiPari four times for a 17-0 technical fall in 2:58.
Penn State’s Zain Retherford beat Tyler Bedelyon 8-4 at 141 before James English returned to the lineup to raucous cheers. English, a sixth-year senior who beat Zack Beitz and Andrew Alton in wrestle-off matches for the right to start, beat Justin Arthur 7-2 at 149.
English’s win put Penn State up 16-0 and Penn State’s Dylan Alton added a 12-6 win over Austin Matthews at 157.
Other than heavyweight Jimmy Lawson, who returned from a five-dual absence and lost to Evan Daley 7-6, Penn State earned more takedowns in every match. The Nittany Lions finished with 24 to Clarion’s four.
“I couldn’t have asked for this day to go any other way,” Ruth said. “A lot of the guys they went out there and just completely dominated. It made me happy to see my teammates do that. And it’s just a good feeling to have everybody on the same page like that.”
Notes: Taylor and Ruth shared the Ridge Riley Award for most outstanding wrestlers in a home dual. ... Senior James Vollrath was also honored before the match. ... Juniors Cameron Kelly, Nate Morgan, Kyle Moran and Seth Beitz were honored as well since they are graduating and have decided not to return to the team for their final year of eligibility. ... Fans were given paper faces on sticks of the eight wrestlers who were honored before the match.