It was only a matter of time until Penn State would “Free the Lee.”
After weeks of speculation, Nick Lee finally had his redshirt lifted Friday in No. 1 Penn State’s 25-12 win over No. 8 Michigan in the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was the Nittany Lions’ 37th straight dual victory, one shy of tying the school record for most consecutive dual wins.
Lee didn’t seem to show any signs of being a true freshman during his 141-pound match as he topped the Wolverines’ Sal Profaci, 9-5.
He earned the first takedown of the match 33 seconds in. He tacked on two other takedowns to hold a 6-2 first-period lead.
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He stayed poised in the third period. Following a Profaci takedown and just a 7-5 edge, Lee settled in, hit a sitting switch for a reversal and the final points of the bout.
“I think he was a little bit tight. I know he was a little nervous and excited,” associate head coach Cody Sanderson told the Penn State Sports Network, referring to Lee. “I don’t think that was the best performance we are going to see from him.
“He’s only going to go up from here. He put a lot of points on the board and that’s all we can ask for right away.”
Lee wasn’t the only one making his dual debut this season.
Shakur Rasheed, who was coming off a solid Southern Scuffle, got the starting nod at 197 pounds and stayed red hot. Rasheed had the lone takedown of the bout with with No. 11 Kevin Beazley.
Rasheed locked up a near-side cradle and tallied four near-fall points in the second on the way to a 7-1 victory.
Outside of Rasheed’s and Lee’s bouts, two other matches were highly anticipated — at 165 and 285 pounds.
At 165, it was a rematch of sorts. Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph and Logan Massa squared off in the NCAA semifinals last year in St. Louis with Joseph prevailing by a point. The result was the same on Friday night, this time by a much larger differential. Joseph used his famous inside trip in the third period for a takedown and four near-fall points to win 12-3.
At 285, Michigan’s Adam Coon, who held nearly an 18-pound advantage, did whatever he wanted to during an 8-0 shutout of Nick Nevills. He turned a single-leg takedown into a cradle and picked up two near-fall points in the first period. He used a strong ride in the second period to not allow Nevills out.
Penn State didn’t take the lead in the dual until Zain Retherford pinned Malik Amine at 149 pounds. Retherford kept grinding and eventually broke Amine — as Amine gave up five penalty points. The fall was the 48th pin in Retherford’s career, and he is five behind leaders David Taylor and Josh Moore.
The Nittany Lions’ usual hammers in Jason Nolf, Mark Hall and Bo Nickal didn’t score their usual bonus points — but still earned quality wins.
Nolf gave up two takedowns to No. 5 Alec Pantaleo at 157 pounds but used a solid ride to pick up a point in a 6-4 win. Hall gave up a late takedown but had enough riding time for the needed point for a 6-5 win over No. 6 Myles Amine at 174 pounds. Nickal fought off a late takedown attempt from No. 5 Domenic Abounader for a 5-2 victory at 184 pounds.
Penn State will continue its road trip with a 1 p.m. Sunday match against Michigan State.