It was a peculiar comeback, one in which Penn State’s Andrew Alton rode an exercise bike longer than he actually wrestled on Sunday.
Alton needed just 52 seconds to lock in a half-Nelson and twist Indiana’s Geno Capezio to his back for Penn State’s fourth straight pin in its 52-0 romp over Indiana at Rec Hall. Afterward, with his adrenaline still pumping, Alton headed back to the team’s practice facility to get in a workout.
“I went a whole match on the bike and shadow wrestling after my match,” said Alton, who missed the first month of the season with an ankle injury.
The No. 1 Nittany Lions (2-0, 1-0) may as well have been wrestling shadows.
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With the lopsided win, Penn State posted its largest margin of victory against a Big Ten opponent and second-largest margin of victory over any team, surpassed only by a 54-0 shutout of Millersville in 1983. Indiana (5-3, 0-1) scored just 25 bout points, with 21 of those coming on escapes, and managed only one takedown to Penn State’s 28.
That takedown didn’t come until the final bout, when the nation’s eighth-ranked heavyweight Adam Chalfant shot in on Penn State’s Jon Gingrich in the first period of their bout at 285 pounds. But Gingrich battled back from a 3-0 deficit with an escape and two takedowns in the final two minutes to post a 6-5 win.
Gingrich got the match-winning takedown with 56 seconds remaining and was able to fend off Chalfant as time expired to secure Penn State’s fifth shutout in three seasons.
Although Penn State had clinched the team win merely 25 minutes into the dual, the majority of the 6,152 fans in attendance stuck around to watch Gingrich’s bout. They erupted when the Bald Eagle Area High School product finished off his final takedown to secure his first career dual meet win inside Rec Hall.
“It’s pretty awesome. That’s something I’ve never felt before,” Gingrich said. “When I got my hand raised, I felt like I could run through a brick wall. I was so high on energy and enthusiasm.”
The Hoosiers didn’t show much of either quality while Penn State played the role of brick wall perfectly.
Indiana sophomore Joe Duca ran into Penn State’s third-ranked 125-pounder Nico Megaludis, who notched seven takedowns before mercifully locking in armbars and running Duca over to his back for a pin in 4:38. Then Jordan Conaway got his first dual-meet pin in a blue and white singlet when he fastened Indiana freshman Quin Murphy to the mat in 4:43.
At 141 pounds, Penn State senior Bryan Pearsall kept the pinfest going. Pearsall needed 4:32 to cradle Eric Roach to give Penn State an 18-0 lead before Alton showed Capezio the Rec Hall lighting fixtures at 149.
“The matches started off good,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Our guys did a nice job, especially in those lower weights — Nico, Conaway and Pearsall — really pursuing and continuing to score and getting those falls when they were there.”
Combined, Penn State’s first three wrestlers tallied 11 takedowns and five nearfall points.
Dylan Alton added an 11-6 win over Tyler Walsh at 157 before David Taylor stepped on the mat at 165 in the only match that pitted ranked opponents against one another. Initially, Taylor — ranked No. 2 at 165 — and No. 18 Ryan LeBlanc felt one another out, each fending off exploratory shots in a scoreless first period.
But Taylor settled in in the second. The Penn State junior chose down to begin the period, quickly escaped and secured a double-leg takedown. Taylor added another takedown, three nearfall points and 1:24 in riding time to seal a 9-0 major decision.
“I think David knows where he is at,” Sanderson said. “He’s just got to wrestle with the energy and enthusiasm that has gotten him to this point and made him who he is.”
No. 3 Matt Brown turned a 14-3 lead into a fall in 6:40 when he cradled Indiana’s Cheney Dale at 174. Top-ranked 184-pounder Ed Ruth followed with a cradle of his own against Luke Sheridan to push Penn State’s lead to 43-0.
Indiana forfeited the 197-pound bout to No. 3 Quentin Wright before Gingrich beat Chalfant.
Penn State listed both Gingrich and sophomore No. 15 Jimmy Lawson on its depth chart leading up to the dual. Sanderson said he would continue to evaluate the weight class in order to select a starter later this season.
“It just keeps it going,” Sanderson said of the impact Gingrich’s win over a highly-ranked opponent could have on the position battle. “Ultimately, we’ve got to have the guy that can score the points at the Big Ten and National Championship and I think both guys have shown they’re capable of it. They’ve been pretty even as far as outside competition. ... The (Southern) Scuffle will be big.”
Notes: Penn State honored former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Lloyd Huck, who passed away Tuesday, by setting a Penn State singlet and headgear on a chair matside before the dual. ... Gingrich won the Ridge Riley Award given to the team’s most outstanding wrestler in a home dual. ... Life-sized cardboard cutouts of Penn State’s returning All-Americans, Megaludis, Dylan Alton, Taylor, Ruth and Wright greeted fans at the entrance and along the concourses before the match. ... Penn State wrestlers will wear armed forces-themed singlets when Lock Haven comes to Rec Hall on Dec. 15.