Wrestling is as much of an individual sport as it is a team sport.
In all of Penn State’s duals over the past year, individuals had standout performances but the result was the same: a Nittany Lion victory.
On Sunday, it took a team effort for No. 2 Penn State to top No. 11 Lehigh 30-10 in front of 15,424 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“I think overall we wrestled pretty good,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “That’s a top-10 dual team for sure. They are going to beat some good teams this year. They are tough all the way up and down the lineup.”
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The match started at the usual 125-pound spot, featuring Penn State’s Nick Suriano against No. 4 Darian Cruz.
It was the true freshman’s first experience wrestling in the BJC.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I love this arena. It is unbelievable. This is the kind of atmosphere I train for. Beating a ranked guy, doesn’t matter. Getting out to wrestle in this environment is wonderful.”
Suriano and Cruz were scoreless through the first period, but Suriano hit another gear in the next period.
He got an escape for the lead with 1:18 remaining and added an escape with 50 seconds to go. After that takedown, he worked on a bow and arrow and turned Cruz to his back on his way to a 7-0 win.
“I was watching that before I got warmed up,” Zain Retherford said. “Watching him hit a bow and arrow got me fired up.”
Retherford helped swing things back into the Nittany Lions’ favor.
Following two straight losses after Suriano’s win, the junior came to the mat with his team trailing 7-3.
He went to the scoreboard early with a takedown 48 seconds into the 149-pound match. Retherford added another takedown and four near-fall points to lead 8-1 after one period. He then worked on the Mountain Hawks’ Laike Gardner in the second period for the pin in 3:55, giving Penn State a 9-7 lead — one it wouldn’t lose the rest of the day.
“We have a lot of guys that compete hard and lead by example,” Retherford said. “It’s a lot of fun to wrestle for this team.”
Bo Nickal continued his hot streak this season with his seventh win.
Nickal’s victory was exactly like other his other wins this season — a pin.
Nickal tallied three takedowns before catching Kyle Gentile and sticking him to the mat in 2:35 in the 184-pound match. Nickal’s victory clinched the dual for Penn State as it led 23-10.
“I’m just having fun,” Nickal said. “I’m taking it one match at a time. I love wrestling so every time I get out there I compete with gratitude.”
Jason Nolf (157, 26-9 technical fall), Vincenzo Joseph (165, 10-5 decision), Matt McCutcheon (197, 12-2 major decision) and Nick Nevills (285, 8-4 decision) all had wins for the Nittany Lions.
“A great atmosphere,” Sanderson said. “We’re very thankful that many people showed up. We figured most of them would still be in Indiana. We’re glad a few of them made their way back and (that) people that chose to come out and support us.”
Notes: Sanderson was asked if there were concerns about attendance with the match being early on a Sunday, especially after the football team won the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night. “Obviously, we’ll take that,” he said. “We are Penn Staters. We are one team. If our football is in the Big Ten Championship, we will take that every year, no pressure coach (James) Franklin.” … Shakur Rasheed made his Penn State dual debut, suffering a 6-3 loss to Ryan Preisch at 174 pounds.