Injuries caused some questions for Penn State’s lineup heading into Sunday.
It is safe to say those questions were answered in the No. 1 Nittany Lions’ 36-7 win over No. 15 Wisconsin inside the Bryce Jordan Center in front of a crowd of 12,862.
“We did have three new guys in the lineup,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “I thought they did a good job. Overall, we wrestled pretty well. I think we wanted to score more points in some of those matches and be a little more aggressive.”
Those three guys were Kade Moss at 141, Geno Morelli at 165 and Devon Van Cura at heavyweight. Even though they went 1-2 on the day, they were, according to Sanderson, about 1.2 seconds away from 2-1.
The Nittany Lions lead 10-0 thanks to Nico Megaludis’ 11-3 major decision and a forfeit win for Jordan Conaway. It was then Moss’ turn to come up, filling in for an injured Jimmy Gulibon.
Moss fought off two good shots from the Badgers’ Luke Rowh in the first period. In the second he chose bottom position and escaped to take the 1-0 lead. Later in the period, Moss got into a scramble with Rowh and came out with a takedown for a 3-0 lead heading to the third. Moss rode Rowh for most of the period until Rowh escaped with 40 seconds left in the match but the damage was done.
“Kade did a nice job. He wrestled smart,” Sanderson said. “Kade is a solid wrestler and we feel good putting him out there.”
Morelli, meanwhile, followed back-to-back pins from Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf. Retherford, who was named the Ridge Riley Award winner, earned his win in 2:56 after cranking on Ryan Lubeck’s head for a while with a deep power-half nelson. Nolf used six takedowns and two reversals to build a 16-5 lead before planting the Badgers’ T.J. Ruschell on his back in six minutes. Those wins put Penn State ahead 25-0 heading to the break.
“That gets a little hairy in there when you got Zain and Nolf back-to-back,” Sanderson said. “I don’t know if that was a big momentum changer but we hope that will be. Those are two guys that you know are really going to represent what we want Penn State wrestling to be.”
Morelli was making his first Nittany Lion start of his career after earning the starting nod by winning the Nittany Lion Open last Sunday. It was fitting as he wrestled against Penn State for the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 when the Nittany Lions set a then NCAA attendance record.
Morelli faced off with David Taylor in that match and ended up squaring off with Wisconsin’s No. 2 Isaac Jordan. The pair went scoreless in the first period with Jordan choosing down to start the second. Jordan reversed Morelli but Morelli didn’t stay down long as he escaped. The pair went to the third period with Jordan up 2-1.
Morelli started down to open the third and escaped to tie it up. He took control of the match with a takedown with just 28 seconds to go. Jordan escaped with 12 seconds left. Jordan scored a takedown with little time to spare to earn the 5-4 win.
“Geno was right there with Isaac Jordan,” Sanderson said. “It gives him an idea of where he is at. I know he is frustrated and he should be but it should also be a confidence boost for him.”
Jordan’s win broke Penn State’s shutout at 25-3. The only other Badger win came at heavyweight. Brock Horwath won by a major decision over Van Cura 10-0.
Bo Nickal, Matt McCutcheon and Morgan McIntosh followed Morelli’s match and pushed the Nittany Lions’ lead to 36-3. Nickal and McCutcheon, who was returning from back spasms, earned major decisions. Nickal won 16-2 with McCutcheon giving up just one point in his 14-1 victory. McIntosh also gave up just one point in his 7-1 win.
Notes: The dual started at 1:25 p.m. but that match was delayed due to a concussion timeout. Megaludis shot in on Wisconsin’s Johnny Jimenez and Jimenez sprawled smacking his chin of the top of Megaludis’ head. The match got halted and a trainer checked on Jimenez. Jimenez exited the mat with the trainer as part of a concussion protocol. “I don’t really know a heck of a lot about that rule,” Sanderson said. “Today is the first time I remember seeing it. I was just glad he came back. That took a lot of guts and courage and we appreciate that.” … Penn State held a 23-3 advantage in takedowns. … Retherford’s pin was his fourth of the year as Nolf captured his sixth.