On a night that fans were given Zain Retherford bobbleheads, Penn State’s newest memebers stole the spotlight.
True freshmen Nick Suriano and Mark Hall each recorded bonus-point victories in the Nittany Lions’ 34-7 rout of No. 10 Illinois on Friday night in front of 6,645 fans.
“It’s unfortunate we only get seven minutes,” Hall said of the crowd. “I wish I could wrestle in front of that crowd all day.”
Suriano opened the dual with a 17-6 major decision of Travis Piotrowski.
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The Paramus, N.J. native tallied three takedowns in the first and third periods. He added another takedown, an escape and received a penalty point in the second period.
“I feel like my offense and confidence is increasing every match,” Suriano said. “I’m feelling real good. I’m getting better. I’m training to win gold in March.”
Hall made the most of his Rec Hall debut.
After a low-scoring first period between him and Zac Brunson, Hall went to work. The pair had a scramble late in the period that got called in Brunson’s favor for a takedown. A review changed that, and the period finish 2-1 in Hall’s favor. That’s when it clicked for him.
“I was a little hesitant maybe in the first period getting to my shots,” he said. “You just find different ways to counteract that. I was scoring off his shots. When I got on top, I was just a hammer on top and scoring points from there. After that scramble on the edge of the mat there and wrestling through that, I was like all right I can compete with anyone and everyone in this weight class.”
Hall put together two seven-point second and third periods for the 17-1 technical fall over Brunson, who finished runner-up to Bo Nickal last season in the Big Ten. Both periods Hall recorded a set of four-point near falls and a takedown.
Hall earned the Ridge Riley award for his efforts as Penn State led 24-7 at that point.
“Both great performances, scored a lot of points,” Nittany Lions coach Cael Sanderson said. “Mark’s first match here. He did a nice job. A tough kid (Brunson). The kid was in the Big Ten finals last year, ranked No. 1 part of the year, so it was a good win. Wrestled really well.”
Fans got to see a show before Hall’s match when No. 1 and two-time defending NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez squared off with Vincenzo Joseph at 165 pounds.
Martinez scored the first points of the match with a nice counter takedown. He tacked on an escape to lead 3-1 entering the final period.
Fans roared as Joseph picked up his own escape and trailed 3-2. But Martinez fought off countless Joseph shots and picked up a counter takedown just before the match closed in a 5-2 win. The final win of the night for the Fighting Illini.
“It was a good match,” Sanderson said. “You’ve got to go get that takedown, find a way to get a takedown. Martinez is obviously hard to score on. He’s good at scrambling if you get to his legs. We knew that, Joseph knew that going into the match. The difference was a slide-by, it was nice, but I think Joseph comes away confident that he can win that match but you’ve got to do it.”
Retherford did his part too tallying the lone pin of the dual. He took 4:08 to take care of No. 19 Eric Barone.
Nickal, Jimmy Gulibon and Jason Nolf also contributed bonus points for Penn State.
Gulibon earned a 10-2 major decision at 141 pounds. Nolf had a 26-11 technical fall at 157 pounds with his nose taped up from bleeding several times during the match. Nickal used a 10-point third period for an 18-5 major decision.
Matt McCutcheon and Nick Nevills closed the dual out with decisions. McCutcheon tallied a takedown as the difference-maker in a 3-1 win. Nevills got help from Brooks Black with a stall point and finished off with a 5-0 shutout.
The Nittany Lions shift gears toward Senior Day and Maryland on 2 p.m. Sunday. If they win that dual, they will have finished back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and continue on a 30-match win streak.