Ever since he was heavily recruited to wrestle for Army nearly five years ago, Matt Brown has always had a fondness for the United States armed services.
On Saturday, Brown — a member of Penn State’s Army ROTC program — showed his appreciation wearing a Penn State singlet with an army-inspired design on Military Appreciation Day inside Rec Hall. Debuting their new blue, white and gray cyber-camouflage singlets, the No. 1 Nittany Lions beat Lock Haven 42-3 to stay unbeaten heading into winter break and January’s Southern Scuffle tournament.
After a sluggish start at the lower weights, Brown helped secure Penn State’s rout by pinning Lock Haven’s Zach Heffner in just 1:56 at 174 pounds.
Prior to his bout, Brown got a pep talk from Lt. Colonel Robert Kennedy, one of his Cadre leaders in Penn State’s Army ROTC program.
“He’s a big wrestling fan,” Brown said. “It was great to show our support.”
Brown looked like a man on fire after Penn State got a sluggish start against a feisty Bald Eagle team.
While Penn State won four of the first five bouts, Nittany Lion wrestlers were warned three time for stalling and surrendered six takedowns — a striking difference from last week when Penn State didn’t give up a takedown until the final bout of the afternoon against Indiana.
“They pushed us around at a few weights. That’s not something that we like to see,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “They had a little more attitude, a little more attitude and fight. So you’ve really got to give them credit, coming into our house and pushing us around.”
Lock Haven’s Bobby Rehm faced off with No. 2 Nico Megaludis in the afternoon’s first bout. The 125-pound match took an unexpected turn early as Rehm earned the first takedown against Megaludis — two points Megaludis rarely gives up first.
The Penn State sophomore would recover, however. Megaludis escaped and notched his own takedown to take a 3-2 lead into the second period. Megaludis wore Rehm down and pinned him 4:10 into the bout to give Penn State a 6-0 lead.
Jordan Conaway pushed Matt Bryer around the mat at 133 pounds to earn a 13-3 major decision before it got tougher for the Nittany Lions.
Nittany Lion senior Bryan Pearsall lost to Dan Neff 9-4 at 141 before Mac Maldarelli gave No. 5 Andrew Alton his toughest match all season at 149 pounds. Maldarelli took Alton down in the first period and fought his way out of Alton’s control three times before establishing a strong ride for the duration of the third period. Although Alton gave up 1:08 of riding time to Maldarelli, Alton’s three takedowns and two nearfall points were enough to give him a 10-6 win.
At 157 pounds, No. 5 Dylan Alton was held to five points by former Penn Stater Jake Kemerer. Alton was warned for stalling late but held on for the 5-2 win.
After four veterans were honored at intermission, the most dangerous portion of Penn State’s lineup went to work.
Following four rapid-fire takedowns in the first period and three nearfall points to begin the second, No. 2 David Taylor pinned Aaron McKinney in 3:39 at 165. Brown worked at an even faster pace.
Brown, ranked third at 174 pounds, finished his second takedown of the first period against Heffner and let the Lock Haven sophomore get to his feet. Brown then underhooked Heffner and covered the diameter of the mat with a few long strides to drive Heffner to his back for the fall.
No. 1 Ed Ruth needed just 4:55 to finish four takedowns and add eight nearfall points combined with an escape to post a 17-2 technical fall.
Sanderson, who usually motivates his wrestlers with a one-liner or quick remark before each bout, had an easy message for No. 3 Quentin Wright who was on deck.
“He told me, ‘Go after it. Get tired out there,’” Wright said.
Wright headlocked Lock Haven’s Phil Sprenkle off the opening whistle and whipped the Bald Eagle freshman to his back. Sprenkle scrambled off his back to prevent what could’ve been the quickest fall of Wright’s collegiate career. Eventually, Wright secured a pin with 50 seconds remaining. The win gave Penn State a 39-3 lead.
“Those guys, they’re competitors and nobody likes to see their team getting pushed around out there,” Sanderson said. “So I think they came out to right the wrongs. And we’re pretty good in those upper five weights too.”
No. 15 Jimmy Lawson won his first dual-meet match in Rec Hall with a 5-1 win over Harry Turner at 285 to finish the dual.
NOTES: Neff’s win over Pearsall was the first dual-meet individual win for Lock Haven in three years against the Nittany Lions. Penn State beat Lock Haven 50-0 last season and 48-0 in 2010-11. ... Penn State auctioned off one of the camo singlets signed by the entire team with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project. ... Brown won the Ridge Riley Award given to the most outstanding wrestler in a home dual. ... Penn State held a moment of silence for the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting prior to the dual. ... Penn State finished with 27 takedowns to Lock Haven’s six. ... An announced 6,292 fans attended the match. ... Penn State is idle until the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga on Jan. 1-2. Penn State is expected to enter 20 wrestlers in the individual tournament.