Finding themselves in an unfamiliar setting, trailing a dangerous team on the road in a hostile arena, Penn State wrestlers needed their superstars to step up.
David Taylor, Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright didn’t disappoint.
After losing three of the first five matches — two by falls — No. 3 Penn State rebounded at the halfway point.
No. 2 Taylor pinned Mark Martin at 165 pounds, No. 1 Ruth locked up C.J. Magrum in a cradle for another pin at 174, No. 3 Wright majored Kenny Courts at 197 and Penn State cruised to a 29-18 win Sunday afternoon at St. John Arena.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a hard dual,” Penn State associate head coach Cody Sanderson told the Penn State Sports Network. “This is a tough team. They have some of the best guys in the country in that lineup. So we knew from the beginning it was going to be tough.”
After No. 2 Nico Megaludis kicked things off with a 9-1 major decision over No. 12 Nikko Triggas at 125 pounds, the Buckeyes took a sizable lead as their big guns hammered their Penn State counterparts.
Top-ranked Logan Stieber pinned Jordan Conaway in 2:41 and No. 2 Hunter Stieber followed with a 1:25 flattening of Derek Reber at 141 pounds. Then, No. 19 Cam Tessari edged No. 7 Andrew Alton 3-1 at 149 pounds to give Ohio State a 15-4 lead.
No. 5 Dylan Alton interrupted the Buckeyes’ momentum with a 4-3 decision against No. 19 Josh Demas. The match ended in controversy as the Ohio State coaching staff thought Demas should’ve been awarded a takedown at the end on a counter. But Demas wasn’t given the takedown as time had expired.
Taylor wasted little time closing the gap on the Buckeyes.
After Taylor gave up the opening takedown he worked his way back, turning Martin to his back midway through the period when he finally got the pin at 2:55.
But Ohio State increased its team lead when No. 7 Nick Heflin squeaked by an ultra-aggressive Matt Brown at 174. Brown, ranked No. 5, continuously shot in on Heflin, pushing the pace across the mat, but Heflin used a counter takedown with three seconds left to post a 3-2 win.
“That was a frustrating match. My unofficial tally as I was watching was 15 shots to three shots,” Sanderson said. “That’s lopsided as far as one guy actually trying to score points but their guy was waiting. He wanted to get a run-around and Matt left his feet. He can’t leave his feet in those positions with short time.”
In the 174-pound bout, Ruth put Penn State ahead for good. He took Magrum down and quickly rolled him up with a farside cradle to secure the fall at 1:51. Wright followed at 197 pounds with three takedowns, two escapes and 1:36 in riding time against Courts to earn Penn State another bonus point.
Jimmy Lawson wrestled in place of No. 17 Jon Gingrich again. Gingrich has been sick and the bout gave the Penn State coaching staff another opportunity to evaluate Lawson against a highly-ranked opponent in No. 12 Peter Capone. But Lawson didn’t get that chance as Capone was injured early and defaulted to give Lawson the win.
“This kind of match against a ranked opponent is the match that we learn the most,” Sanderson said. “Of course, a guy gets hurt and it’s very frustrating for both teams. You never want to see injuries, especially this time of year, because guys don’t have a lot of time to recover.”
Notes: Ruth won the Ernie Lucas award given to the most outstanding wrestler in a road dual. ... Penn State finished with 11 takedowns to Ohio State’s four. ... Wright and Ruth remained unbeaten on the season. ... Taylor and Ruth each have 32 career pins, good for a tie for fifth on the Nittany Lions’ all-time list. ... An announced 6,061 fans watched the dual. ... Pearsall missed his second consecutive match with an injury. ... Sanderson said he thinks Pearsall will be ready to wrestle again when Penn State hosts Rider in the final Rec Hall match of the season on Sunday.