At his team’s weekly session with the media on Tuesday, coach Cael Sanderson and his wrestlers downplayed the fact that Penn State hadn’t wrestled competitively since Dec. 11.
On Friday night inside Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, the No. 2 Nittany Lions dominated the No. 13 Golden Gophers in a 33-6 win.
“It was a long layoff from competition,” assistant coach Casey Cunningham told the Penn State Sports Network. “I know everybody’s been talking about, ‘Oh, you’ve been off for so many days.’ We haven’t been off. We’ve been training. If you think about the guys they are training with every day in the room, they were ready to go. It was a good match tonight.”
It marked the first time since 1998 Penn State beat Minnesota in a dual. It was also the first win for Sanderson against the Golden Gophers at the helm of the Nittany Lions.
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The teams drew for a weight to open the dual and it didn’t favor Minnesota — it began at 149 pounds.
“Normally, we like to start at 25,” Cunningham said. “They wanted to draw. You draw Zain to start us off and then Nolf to follow that.”
Zain Retherford didn’t miss a beat, rolling up his ninth pin of the season. He tallied four takedowns before turning Carson Broslma over in 2:28.
Jason Nolf continued the pin parade. He led 14-4 after the first period thanks to five takedowns. He turned No. 9 Jake Short over in 3:44 and the Nittany Lions held an early 12-0 lead.
“Nolf is wrestling with a lot of confidence,” Cunningham said. “He just thinks he is supposed to dominate everybody and he has.”
Vincenzo Joseph, Geno Morelli and Bo Nickal kept the Golden Gophers off the board for the first half of the dual. Joseph earned a 7-4 win over No. 14 Nick Wanzek. Morelli cruised to a 5-2 win over Chris Pfarr. Nickal took care of Bobby Stevenson with a pin in 2:36 for a 24-0 lead for the Nittany Lions.
Matt McCutcheon opened the second half with a 3-2 setback to No. 2 Brett Pfarr. McCutcheon was in on several takedown attemps but just couldn’t finish. He proved he can compete with the best at the 197-pound weight class.
“I think before this match he believed he was there,” Cunningham said. “He’s been hoping to wrestle some of these type of guys. He wants to wrestle these guys. He feels strong and isn’t cutting weight so he can wrestle hard.”
Nick Nevills and Nick Suriano pushed Penn State’s lead. Nevills used a strong ride to control No. 8 Michael Kroells in a 4-0 lead. Suriano built a 6-2 lead through two periods with three first-period takedowns. No. 6 Ethan Lizak used a strong ride in the second period, but Suriano did enough for the 8-6 decision. Suriano also gave up the first takedown of his collegiate career.
George Carpenter filled in for an injured Jered Cortez at 133. He lost 2-1 to No. 16 Mitch McKee but never quit. McKee got an early first-period takedown and rode Carpenter out for the rest of the period. McKee opened the second period with 2:33 in riding time and on bottom. However, Carpenter gave McKee a taste of his own medicine with a full period ride out and cutting McKee’s riding time to 33 seconds. In the third, Carpenter took top and worked to turn McKee. In the meantime, Carpenter swung the riding time into his favor and finished the match with 1:27 in riding time for his lone point.
Jimmy Gulibon closed out the match with a 6-3 win over No. 9 Tommy Thorn. Gulibon gave up the first takedown of the match but responded to lead 3-2 after one period. Thorn escaped in the third period to get within 4-3, but Gulibon hit a much needed takedown for the win.
“We know how good Jimmy is and can be,” Cunningham said. “We expect those kind of performances. We don’t always see it but he is very capable and talented.”