Lions use fast start to knock off Illini
By: Patrick McDermott
Collegian Staff Writer
Following Friday's match against Illinois, Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson pursed his lips and clenched his jaws as he described his team's performance as "frustrating."
Listening to Sanderson, one would've never known the No. 13 Nittany Lions had jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the No. 19 Illini en route to a 24-11 win in front of 4,800 fans at Rec Hall.
"We were a little tired, which was a little uncharacteristic for us," Sanderson said. "But it'll pay off in the long run. We're not real happy with our performance."
Despite Sanderson's unhappiness with certain aspects of the match, he was pleased with the quick start Penn State established. Winning the first five weight classes, the Nittany Lions picked up two of the victories from unlikely sources.
After No. 12 Brad Pataky got things rolling with a 7-3 decision over Illinois' John Deneen at 125 pounds, Nittany Lion freshman Bryan Pearsall outlasted Daryl Thomas in a 13-12 shootout at 133. Pearsall, who was visibly winded in the third period, entered the bout with just a 2-14 record and picked up his first dual meet win of his career over the previously 12-9 Thomas.
"I was thinking, 'I need to find a way to win,' " Pearsall said. "I wasn't feeling good in the third, but it wasn't conditioning. Just a mental lapse. It felt like I got a monkey off my back."
At 141, Penn State's Adam Lynch entered the second period down 2-0 to Illinois' No. 11 Ryan Prater, but provided the highlight of the match midway through the period. Lynch caught Prater on his back and held on for the pin, ending the match at 3:56 and sending the near-capacity crowd into a frenzy.
Though Sanderson made note of much of his team being tired, it was Lynch who had the fresh legs in the matchup with Prater.
"He was feeling tired - I knew that he had cut weight," Lynch said of Prater. "I heard coach yell 'oh, he's broke,' and I just kept plugging away and got the pin."
Sanderson said Lynch's performance, which put Penn State up 12-0, was a critical one for Penn State.
"Lynch did a great job against a tough opponent," Sanderson said. "He scrambled hard and got a huge win. For Lynch to get the six [team points awarded for a pin], that's a good job."
The Nittany Lions extended the lead even further in the next three matches. No. 5 Frank Molinaro beat No. 20 Eric Terrazas, 5-1, at 149 and at 157 No. 5 Cyler Sanderson won, 9-4, using a single-leg takedown to blow open his match with Conrad Polz. No. 8 Dan Vallimont used three takedowns and an additional point for riding time to coast past Joe Barczak at 165 pounds.
Illinois finally got on the board at 174 pounds thanks to a technical fall for No. 14 Jordan Blanton over Penn State's Justin Ortega. Blanton racked up eight takedowns and five near-fall points on his way to a 22-7 win in 6:26.
At 184, the Nittany Lions' No. 12 Dave Erwin fell in sudden victory to the Illini's No. 2 John Dergo, 6-4. Dergo knotted the bout at four apiece in the third before ending the match 12 seconds into the extra period on a takedown.
Illinois won its third and final match at 197 when No. 10 Patrick Bond took down Penn State's Clay Steadman, 9-5.
"We needed to see more fight in our defense, but we did fight through [being tired] to a point," Sanderson said.
Penn State's 11th-ranked heavyweight, Cameron Wade, set the final score as he churned out an 8-1 win over Marty Smith with the help of a point for riding time.
Despite winning seven of the 10 bouts on the night, Sanderson made it clear that he wasn't pleased with the way the match shook out. He admitted that he had probably pushed his wrestlers too hard in practice, leading to the lack of stamina against Illinois.
"It was a frustrating night, to say the least," Sanderson said, "but I gotta take responsibility for that. We went out and got the win, though."
Tags: Adam Lynch, Brad Pataky, Bryan Pearsall, Cael Sanderson, Cameron Wade, Clay Steadman, Cyler Sanderson, Dan Vallimont, Frank Molinaro, Justin Ortega