Jered Cortez — who started his collegiate career in Illinois and was mentored by Illini great Jessie Delgado — has been criticized by some as not living up to his potential since transferring to Penn State.
The 141-pounder quieted those critics Sunday.
The unranked Cortez upset the Hoosiers’ lone-ranked wrestler in No. 12 Cole Weaver in a 6-5 decision. After the Nittany Lions’ 44-3 win over Indiana to open the Big Ten part of their season, the junior then paid homage to his former role model.
“I’m going to take a page out of his book,” Cortez said, referring to Delgado. “This is to the people that do criticize me. If you don’t like the way I wrestle, quit watching me. For those that do (criticize me), I pray for you because it’s wasted energy.”
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Cortez and Weaver traded escapes and takedowns in the first period and it was 3-3 to start the second frame. Weaver took the lead with an early escape. Late in the second period, Cortez responded with a nifty shrug-by — and Weaver escaped. It was tied again to start the third period.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the score. I was just wrestling,” Cortez said. “I was just letting it go. I felt him pressure in and that first takedown I hit was off that same situation. I felt him pressure in, and I’m good there so I took advantage and scored.”
To start the third period, Cortez was on the bottom. He struggled from that position against Lehigh’s Luke Karam his last match out, but it was a different this time.
Weaver kept a solid ride for more than 35 seconds, but that was it as Cortez escaped. Cortez went on to fend off several Weaver shot attempts and earned the 6-5 victory. Even if he didn’t win by a large margin, Cortez said he’s not going to listen to his critics anytime soon.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity (to wrestle) because without it I don’t get to do what I love and show my talents,” Cortez said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and believing in myself.”
Corey Keener preceded Cortez’s match at 133 pounds and made an emphatic return to the Penn State lineup with an 11-3 major decision. Keener’s victory started a stretch of nine straight wins for Nittany Lion wrestlers.
Vincenzo Joseph also returned to the lineup at 165 pounds but didn’t get a chance to wrestle as he received a forfeit at 165 pounds.
“It felt good to have those guys back,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Obviously, they are both tough kids. It’s nice having a healthy team, ready to roll.”
Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf followed up Cortez’s match with back-to-back pins. Retherford had a 14-3 lead before sticking Davey Tunon on his back in 3:42. Nolf hit a cement mixer, a move Mark Hall is known for, on Jake Danishek and it was over in 1:30 as the Nittany Lions led 19-3 at the break.
“I actually worked with Mark twice,” Nolf said of the move. “I just tried to hit it and it worked. I don’t hit it too much, but it’s just technique. When I learn the technique, I can hit it.”
Hall meanwhile racked up 17 points in 4:56 for a technical fall of Devin Shatzka at 174 pounds. Bo Nickal followed with the third pin of the match at 42 seconds.
At 197 pounds, Anthony Cassar kept things rolling with a 16-5 major decision. The match was finished off with Nick Nevills earning an 11-1 major decision.
Devin Schnupp was the only Nittany Lion to drop his bout, a 7-2 decision to Elijah Oliver.
“I think overall, the guys wrestled well,” Sanderson said. “I think up and down the lineup the guys are improving, and that’s what we are looking for.”