Through the first half of the season, Penn State was in Happy Valley only three times.
The Nittany Lions opened with Lock Haven, hosted the Nittany Lion Open on Dec. 6 and held their first Big Ten dual against Wisconsin on Dec. 13. The rest of time was spent traveling to Virginia, California and New Jersey, home for Christmas break and then to the Southern Scuffle in Tennessee.
Penn State opened the second half of the season traveling to Indiana. With all that travel, a team is expected to be a little sluggish at some point.
It seemed to affect the No. 1 Nittany Lions in their 34-8 win over No. 20 Indiana on Sunday afternoon inside University Gymnasium.
“Yeah that might be a part of it,” Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh said to the Penn State Sports Network. “We have been traveling a lot. Some guys might be a little bit worn out but for me at least that’s one of the funnest parts of being on this team is traveling.”
McIntosh continued his domination by earning a fall of Jake Masengale in the first period of their 197-pound match. With the win, McIntosh needs just two more to earn 100 for his career with the Nittany Lions.
The match started at 157 pounds with Jason Nolf earning a 21-8 major decision. In all, Nolf recorded nine takedowns in the match and now has 54 on the year to just one from his opponents.
Shakur Rasheed, coming off an upset pin of Purdue’s Chad Welch, picked up an 11-2 major decision and pushed Penn State’s lead to 8-0. Then, something happened for the first time this season.
No. 1 Bo Nickal suffered an upset loss to No. 11 Nate Jackson. Nickal opened with the first takedown but Jackson got a reversal to tie the match up. The pair went to their feet locked up with one another. Nickal attempted to throw Jackson but Jackson caught him and put him on his back. Jackson scored four near-fall points to lead 6-2 after the first period.
In the second, Nickal escaped for the only point of the period. Up 6-3, Jackson chose to start neural in the final period. Nickal tried his best to rally but came up short 7-6 and the Hoosiers were on the board. However, they lost a team point after the match and trailed 8-2.
“We could all tell he was hurting,” McIntosh said. “It doesn’t feel good to take that first loss of the season. I told him right after, ‘You know that’s never going to happen again.’ I know that it will just make him a better wrestler. It will give him some fire to go wrestle harder and learn from whatever mistakes he does make.”
Devon Van Cura saw just his second start in a dual for the Nittany Lions. Van Cura filled in for an injured Matt McCutcheon at 184 pounds and made the most of the start. Van Cura trailed 3-2 midway through the third period and his opponent, Matt Irick, suffered an ankle injury giving Van Cura a choice out of injury time.
He escaped to tie the match up and used a late takedown to score a 5-3 win and he gave Penn State an 11-2 lead. For his efforts, Van Cura was named the Ernie Lucas Award winner.
McIntosh’s pin pushed the Nittany Lions’ lead to 17-3.
Indiana picked up its only other victory at heavyweight when Garret Goldman pinned Jan Johnson in 5:35. It would be the closest the Hooisers were for the rest of the match at 17-9.
Nico Megaludis earned a 6-2 decision over Elijah Oliver. Megaludis’ match was temporarily stopped due to NCAA’s concussion protocol. He shot in on Oliver and Oliver sprawled and smacked his chin off the top of Megaludis’ head. It was similar to Megaludis’ match with Wisconsin’s Johnny Jimenez.
Jordan Conaway followed with a 14-3 major decision at 133 pounds. Jimmy Gulibon made a return to the Nittany Lions’ lineup at 141 pounds and looked like his old self. He came out and dominated the match with four takedowns and earned an 11-3 major decision.
Zain Retherford closed out the match with a fall in the first period. It took him only 2:43 to pin Indiana’s Luke Blanton to earn his 50th career victory for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State will host Nebraska on Jan. 15 inside Rec Hall for its first home dual meet in more than a month.
“I’m excited,” McIntosh said. “I’m excited to get back and get into the groove of things. Being back in Rec Hall is nothing like that. I know everybody is excited to have more home duals.”