On Sunday, college wrestling fans got what they wanted with No.2 Penn State and No. 1 Oklahoma State squaring off — especially with the Nittany Lions dominating another top-5 opponent.
However, the win came with a price.
True freshman Nick Suriano rolled his ankle in the dual’s opening 125-pound bout. He was leading 3-2 at the time.
The injury was so severe that Suriano was unable to finish the match and had to injury default to Nick Piccininni.
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Penn State had to rally from a 13-point deficit but came out on top over the Cowboys 27-13 to win the National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series title for the second straight year. It marked the second straight undefeated or untied season, which hadn’t happened since the Nittany Lions went three seasons without a loss from 1950-1953.
“I think it’s awesome for our team,” junior Matt McCutcheon told the Penn State Sports Radio Network. “They’re excited about it. They (knew) that we had to come back and show some resilience and get tough when situations were hard on us. I’m proud of the team.”
After Suriano’s default, Oklahoma State kept things rolling.
No. 3 Kaid Brock earned a 17-6 major decision over George Carpenter. It was a huge match for Carpenter as he was able to keep some extra bonus points off the board for the Nittany Lions.
At 141 pounds, No. 10 Jimmy Gulibon looked to have pinned No. 1 Dean Heil three different times but was never awarded it. Instead, Heil edged Gulibon 3-2. Oklahoma State held a commanding 13-0 lead. That was the most Penn State had ever trailed by this season.
Penn State wrestlers slowly began to chip away at the deficit. They finished off the dual by sweeping the final seven bouts and scoring bonus points in three of the matches.
Zain Retherford never tallied a takedown in his 2-1 win over No. 2 Anthony Collica.
The big momentum swing came with No. 1 Jason Nolf at 157 pounds. Nolf rattled off 10 takedowns to earn a 24-9 technical fall over No. 6 Joe Smith. Six of Nolf’s total takedowns came in the third period.
The Nittany Lions trailed 13-8 at the break.
No. 4 Vincenzo Joseph used four takedowns in a 12-4 major decision over No. 8 Chandler Rogers at 165 pounds, and Penn State was then within one. Mark Hall beat Kyle Crutchmer for the second time this season 3-2 and the Nittany Lions led for the first time, 15-13.
No. 2 Bo Nickal earned his third win over a top-5 opponent in dominant fashion. Nickal was caught in a scramble with No. 4 Nolan Boyd. He was able to lock Boyd up in a cradle, rock him over and pin him in 38 seconds. Nickal has now beaten No. 3 T.J. Dudley of Nebraska (10-5) and pinned No. 5 Sammy Brooks of Iowa in 38 seconds.
McCutcheon wore down No. 8 Preston Weigel and tallied two third-period takedowns for a 4-3 win. Nick Nevills finished off the dual with a 10-5 win.
“I looked over at Nevills after all that happened,” McCutcheon said. “He looked at me, smiled and gave me a fist pound. I looked down at Mark (Hall) and he was ready to go. The other guys were in the back getting ready. That is part of our team where, when somebody has an off-day or something goes wrong that’s not suppose to happen, we are there to pick each other up.
“I think that’s what makes this team special. No one got down. If you’re talking to our guys, they’re like, ‘Now we go, it’s our turn to score points and go out there and win.’ ”