On Friday night, the Penn State wrestling team pulled off a feat it’s been waiting 24 years to do — beat Minnesota at Rec Hall.
Even head coach Cael Sanderson, who says he doesn’t spend time counting wins and dwelling on losses, was impressed by that stat after the Nittany Lions’ 35-8 win.
“Minnesota’s a solid team and they’ve wrestled great, especially against us in those duals,” Sanderson said.
But this time, the dual belonged to the No. 1 Nittany Lions, who extended their winning streak to 41 straight dual victories. Penn State, which sported its white singlets, had the match clinched by the halfway point, tallying a 27-4 takedown advantage before a White Out crowd of 6,588.
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True freshman Nick Lee put the exclamation point on the dual with a commanding 13-3 major decision over All-American and two-time NCAA qualifier Tommy Thorn in the final bout of the night.
The 141-pounder used his trademark high-scoring offense to tally three takedowns before nearly pinning the Golden Gopher at the end of third period.
“I think Nick wrestled really well,” Sanderson said. “Tommy’s tough, he has a lot of experience so, yeah, Nick had a great match, he wrestled well and he finished his shots.”
Jason Nolf kicked off the action Friday night in a battle of ranked wrestlers against Minnesota’s No. 18 Jake Short. Top-ranked Nolf got off to a fast start, scoring three takedowns in the first period. He then added four more and 2:47 in riding time to finish the match 18-5, just short of a technical fall.
Sophomore Vincenzo Joseph followed in the second-most anticipated match of the evening, against No. 7 Nick Wanzek at 165 pounds. The reigning national champ pushed the action early in the match, hitting numerous high singles, but was unable to convert until he hit a low double-leg takedown with 10 seconds left in the period. That takedown and an escape were enough to give Joseph the 3-1 win.
Mark Hall kept things rolling at 174 with a 10-3 decision over Christopher Pfarr, before Bo Nickal and Shakur Rasheed added a pair of pins to the mix.
Nickal, sporting pizza-patterned socks, got his 12th pin of the season by way of a throw at the 5:31 mark. Rasheed’s 11th fall, which came as no surprise with a cross-face cradle, handed the Nittany Lions a 22-0 lead at the break.
“I think everyone can see his has a pretty good cross-face cradle but that doesn’t keep him from hitting them,” Nickal said, referring to Rasheed. “I think I’d keep hitting them, too if no one’s going to stop them.”
Heavyweight Nick Nevills came away with 2-0 win thanks to 1:33 in riding time.
Freshman Devin Schnupp was able to keep off his back against Minnesota’s national finalist Ethan Lizak. Schnupp got in on the first shot but was unable to finish as the No. 6 Lizak countered with a takedown of his own and quickly took control. Schnupp got turned to give up a total of 10 nearfall points but ultimately was able to stave off the pin, giving up the technical fall with just 37 seconds left in the match.
The crowd was on its feet, waving white poms-poms to applaud the 1-13 wrestler’s effort.
“I think one thing that’s great about our fans is that they appreciate effort, even if you lose a match if you put a great effort in there they’re going to cheer for you, and I think Devin put a great effort in there,” Sanderson said. “Most people in the planet would have would have gotten pinned.”
Following the only victories on the night for Minnesota, Lee came to the mat for his dual-ending bout.
Zain Retherford extended his winning streak to 83 straight with a forfeit from the Golden Gophers.
“It was tough,” Minnesota coach Brandon Eggum said about the dual. “You got to give respect to these guys. Penn State has a great team and a lot of great wrestlers. We knew coming in here, with a great crowd and a good environment, it is never easy to wrestle in that.”