Penn State Wrestling

Penn State wrestling: Seniors lead way in shutout of Rider in Rec Hall finale

Quentin Wright figured it won’t really hit him or teammate Bryan Pearsall that neither of them will wrestle again in Rec Hall until they’re not allowed to step on the scale at Penn State’s home opener next season.

For now, the minds of both Penn State seniors are elsewhere.

“It’ll hit us later because we’re still in national title mode,” Wright said following Penn State’s 48-0 demolition of Rider on Sunday.

The Nittany Lions put on a performance fans have come to expect from their perennial NCAA Championship contenders with Pearsall and Wright leading the way. Against an overmatched Rider squad, Penn State (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) rang up five pins and three major decisions to blank the Broncos before 6,532 fans on Senior Day.

“They’re the ones that got everything started here,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said of Pearsall and Wright, who were entering their sophomore years when Sanderson took over the program. “They’re the ones that bought into this system and that’s obviously huge. You’ve got to have guys on board and they did a great job.”

Fellow seniors James English, Nick Fischer, Andrew Church and Derek Reber got front row seats to watch their teammates decimate a Broncos lineup that managed just one takedown all afternoon.

No. 2 125-pounder Nico Megaludis kicked off the action, quickly using an armbar to flatten Patrick Skinner in 3:48 for Penn State’s first fall of the afternoon.

Two bouts later, Pearsall made his return to the mat after missing the previous two duals with an injury. With 59 seconds remaining in the first period of his 141-pound bout against Robert Cigna, Pearsall clamped onto one of Cigna’s legs and rolled him into a cradle for a fall.

“Obviously I wanted to get a fall,” Pearsall said. “That’s the goal of every match. It would’ve been nice to get a little bit more mat time out there but I saw an opening and had to take it.”

Earlier in the season, Pearsall saw a chance for his team to give back to a special group of Americans. Pearsall, interning with Ability Athletics, suggested the Nittany Lions wear a military-themed singlet for a regular season dual and then auction it off with the proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Penn State wore blue, white and grey cyber camouflage singlets against Lock Haven. On Sunday against the Broncos, one of the singlets had raised $900.

“That’s money that will be going directly to Penn State’s Wounded Warriors and to a really great cause and I’m sure that they’re really excited about it,” Pearsall said.

Meanwhile, Penn State fans were treated to an exciting slate of bouts that continued after Pearsall’s win.

Andrew and Dylan Alton added wins at 149 and 157 pounds, but had to grind out wins against stingy opponents. Andrew Alton majored Curt Delia 12-4 while Dylan Alton’s two takedowns and second-period escape were enough to earn him a 5-2 decision over Zac Cibula.

No. 20 Ramon Santiago earned Rider its lone takedown of the match when he took No. 2 David Taylor to the mat a minute into their bout at 165. But Taylor recovered quickly, reversed Santiago, then loaded up a half nelson to run Santiago to his back at 3:48.

No. 7-ranked Matt Brown followed with another pin. Brown notched three first-period takedowns, then escaped and took James Brundage down in the second. Leading 8-3, Brown used his own half nelson and finished Brundage off in 4:06.

No. 1 Ed Ruth kept the pin-filled extravaganza going but pulled a different move out of his arsenal to do so. At 184 pounds, Ruth, whose go-to move is the cradle, instead used an armbar to pin freshman Ryan Wolfe in just 2:38.

The three pins in a row sealed Penn State’s win, but fans stuck around to watch hometown favorite Wright in the penultimate match at 197 pounds. Wright, ranked No. 2 in the weight class, tried to turn Donald McNeil to his back for another fall, but McNeil was able to fight off Wright’s pinning attempts. Eventually, Wright outlasted him and with four takedowns, an escape and two points awarded to him after stalling calls, Wright came away with a 12-4 major decision.

He blew kisses to the crowd after the referee raised his hand.

“I’m blessed to have the fan support that I’ve had,” Wright said. “And I’ve been blessed with great teammates and with a great coaching staff and everything’s just been a dream these past four, five years. A lot of ups and downs and all-arounds, but it was a lot of fun.”

No. 12 Jimmy Lawson completed the shutout with a 3-0 win over Greg Velasco at heavyweight.

Notes: Ruth (24-0) and Wright (23-0) remained unbeaten. Penn State won the takedown battle 30-1. Sanderson did not say Lawson had locked up the heavyweight spot over Gingrich but hinted that it is Lawson’s spot to lose. Sanderson said Lawson getting the last four starts is “a pretty good indicator of what we’re doing.” Pearsall and Wright were named co-Ridge Riley Award winners as the most outstanding wrestlers in a home dual. Wright said one of his favorite Rec Hall memories was from last season’s final home dual when Pearsall pinned Pittsburgh’s Travis Shaffer with three seconds left when Shaffer led 6-3. “That was awesome. I think I jumped seven feet in the air,” Wright said.