UNIVERSITY PARK — Before he even stepped on the mat, reigning NCAA 174-pound champion Ed Ruth was greeted by a familiar chorus inside Rec Hall.
He’s back. Bigger, better and still smiling.
Top-ranked Ruth, now wrestling at 184 pounds for the two-time defending champion Nittany Lions, put on a clinic against true freshman Wes Phipps at the team’s intrasquad dual on Thursday. Phipps, making his Rec Hall debut, tried to turn an early single-leg shot into a stunning lead but instead only tripped Ruth up.
Ruth recovered quickly, flashed a smile and nod of approval toward his younger opponent then went on an offensive tear, notching three takedowns, a reversal and six nearfall points in a 22-4 technical fall win to help lead the White team over Blue, 25-18, on a night where returning All-Americans Nico Megaludis, Dylan Alton, David Taylor and Quentin Wright were held out of action as they prepare for Saturday’s NWCA All-Star Classic.
“I’ve been waiting for that all summer,” Ruth said. “It feels good to just come back, getting back to the whole crowd and everything.”
Sophomore Andrew Alton was also held out and will miss at least a week Cael Sanderson said after suffering an ankle injury in an early practice.
“I think our guys wrestled well,” Sanderson said. “Technically speaking, they’re doing a lot of good things out there. To have four guys, four All-Americans out of your lineup and still have an entertaining match, I think that’s a pretty good thing.”
The Blue squad built an early lead with decisions from Jordan Conaway and Nate Morgan, both at 133 pounds, and decisions from returning 141-pound starter Bryan Pearsall and reserve Derek Reber, who also wrestled at 141.
Conaway, a redshirt freshman who won a PIAA title at New Oxford High School, used an early takedown, a second-period escape and another takedown to beat Martellotti, who made the most starts at 133 last season, 5-1.
Afterward, Sanderson said Conaway will start at 133 and hinted that Pearsall, now in his senior season, was the favorite to lock down the 141-pound spot. Pearsall beat freshman Zack Beitz 4-2.
“Pearsall knows how to win matches and win in the third period,” Sanderson said.
Senior James English handed sophomore Seth Beitz a 5-1 loss at 149 to cut Blue’s lead to 12-10. Afterward, sophomore and No. 5 Matt Brown stepped onto the mat to a loud ovation.
Brown, who was used at multiple weights to great effect last season, gave Blue it’s final win of the night when he pinned redshirt freshman James Frascella at 174 pounds. Frascella provoked Brown’s aggressive style with a takedown of his own on the edge of the mat midway through the first period. Brown responded by dragging Frascella to the mat and pinning him seconds later.
“I don’t think I’m approaching it any differently,” Brown said of his expanding role as a starter. “I’m more excited because I know I’ll be wrestling on a regular basis.”
Freshman Jimmy Gulibon earned the night’s first bonus points when he majored Cameron Kelly 13-5 in the evening’s second bout at 133.
“It was pretty exciting, but I was pretty nervous coming into the very start of the match,” Gulibon, a highly coveted recruit out of Derry Area High, said. “As the match progressed I felt a lot better, I was feeling pretty good and it was pretty sweet.”
Gulibon, who will redshirt Sanderson said, joined sophomore transfer Jimmy Lawson who also made his highly anticipated Rec Hall debut.
Lawson, who spent last fall playing defensive tackle for the Monmouth football team and is a three-time New Jersey state wrestling champion, edged sophomore Jon Gingrich 3-2 in the night’s final bout at heavyweight. Gingrich couldn’t finish a double-leg shot as time expired and Lawson held on to push their head-to-head record to 1-1.
Gingrich won an earlier wrestle-off on a clinched hands call in practice.
“I think they went after it a lot more today, which is what we want to see,” Sanderson said. “They both had chances to win. They both got in on nice shots.”
Andrew Church, wrestling in a white singlet, beat Brandon Phillips 4-0 at 174 pounds while Morgan McIntosh added another bonus-point win for White with a 20-8 major decision over Scott Syrek. McIntosh will also redshirt this season.