Is it possible to be disappointed after a lopsided victory?
The Penn State wrestling team finished off its opening weekend with a 36-6 win over Bucknell on Sunday, but the performances were far from the usual domination Happy Valley is accustomed to.
The 6,535 fans in attendance were also quieter than usual. And the atmosphere inside Rec Hall wasn’t filled with excitement like it was during Thursday’s win over Army West Point. That change wasn’t lost on Nittany Lions coach Cael Sanderson.
“I think that was kind of obvious,” Sanderson said. “You are talking the first weekend of the year. We just got to improve. Bucknell is a tough team. The energy was a little bit low for whatever reason, but our job is to still do our job. For the most part, I think our guys did, but the effort wasn’t great in a couple of matches also.”
Sanderson didn’t point to any matches specifically. However, the team as a whole seemed to be affected by what was going on around them.
Yes, Penn State won eight of the 10 bouts, but they weren’t in thrilling fashion. And, yes, most of the wins came with bonus points and the Nittany Lions won the takedown margin, 49-4 — but something was still off.
Vincenzo Joseph (165 pounds) and Mark Hall (174) went back-to-back with technical falls, but they came late in the matches. (Joseph finished up in 6:30, as Hall’s time was 6:50.) Heavyweight Nick Nevills also finished with an 11-4 decision — one which he admitted he got lost in.
He collected the first takedown and looked to finish the bout off early with an arm lever of Eric Chakonis. Chakonis rolled through for a reversal and Nevills escaped for the final point of the first period. For the rest of the match, Nevills looked to use that arm lever and pin Chakonis but was never able to do it.
“It’s just really frustrating that I wasn’t able to get that,” Nevills said of the pin. “At the same time, I just straight up forgot the score in my match. I don’t really know what was going on. I had a real rookie mistake, but I thought with that last-second takedown it was a major, but I did the points wrong in my head.”
Even defending Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford was more reactive in his 149-pound bout, shaking his head in frustration at one point. However, he regained his composure and worked Seth Hogue to his back for a fall in 4:14.
“Sometimes people try to get you riled up for whatever reason; maybe he was looking to score,” Retherford said of Hogue’s aggressive start. “All I can control is my attitude, and taking a step back and doing that mid-match.”
That “something off” extended to other Nittany Lions, too. Bo Nickal was up 11-3 after two periods and seemed well on his way to a tech fall at 184 pounds. But the flow of the match slowed down in the third period, and Nickal settled for a 16-6 major decision.
Devin Schnupp lost his second straight match at 125 pounds, this time to Jakob Campbell 3-1, and Anthony Cassar couldn’t re-create his magic from Thursday night as the Bison’s Garrett Hoffman had the first takedown with 1:17 remaining in the first period of the 197-pound match. Cassar lost 11-8.
Other results included Corey Kenner using four takedowns to secure his 12-4 major decision over David Campbell at 133 pounds, and Jered Cortez followed with a 10-4 win at 141. Jason Nolf (157) also finished with a fall of his own in 3:33.
“We are happy with the team we have,” Sanderson said. “We’ll see how things develop if there are any changes. There are still opportunities for guys to earn spots. We have some open tournaments coming up.”
Verkleeren leads charge of Nittany Lions in open tourneys
Not only did Penn State have a dual on Sunday, but 15 other wrestlers took the mat at the Binghamton Bearcat Open and the East Stroudsburg Open.
Jarod Verkleeren captured the 149-pound title in the Bearcat Open, in which the Nittany Lions had 13 competitors. Wrestling unattached, Verkleeren had two technical falls during his 5-0 day in his first tournament as a collegian. Nick Lee (141) was the only other Penn Stater to reach the podium in third place.
Shakur Rasheed finished fourth at 197 pounds as Devon Van Cura (184) and Dominic Giannangeli (133) both were fifth at their respective weight classes. Other competing in the Bearcat Open included Bo Pipher (149 pounds), Luke Gardner (149), Mason Lindenmuth (133), James Hoeg (197), Mason Manville (165), Richie McClanahan (149), Scott Obendorfer (141) and Joey Blumer (141).
Scott Stossel (133 pounds) and Benjamin Tuohey (157) competed in the East Stroudsburg Open but were not able to place in the event.