Nittany Lions put on a show
By: Guy Cipriano
Centre Daily Times
UNIVERSITY PARK — The pep band blasted music as Cyler Sanderson sprinted off the mat.
Penn State’s other wrestlers sprung from their seats. The public address announcer summoned fans for a push-up contest. A dance team prepared to perform.
The scene during Sunday’s intermission against Michigan showed why wrestling meets at Rec Hall are creating a buzz again.
An explosive start, which included Sanderson’s first-period pin of Dave Johnson at 157 pounds, helped the Nittany Lions engage 4,511 fans during a 29-10 thumping of Michigan.
The victory was Penn State’s second straight lopsided home triumph. The Nittany Lions hammered Northwestern 37-10 on Friday.
Ardent fans envisioned 10 weekends like this when Penn State lured Cael Sanderson away from Iowa State last spring. But are Big Ten routs coming sooner than expected?
The Nittany Lions (12-5-1, 4-2 Big Ten), after all, are distancing themselves from some opponents despite arguably the conference’s best group of redshirts in Quentin Wright, David Taylor, Ed Ruth and Jake Kemerer. The talented quartet, who watch dual meets from the bleachers, might occupy every weight from 157 to 184 season.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Cael Sanderson said. “But our guys are wrestling well. Our veterans are going out there and scoring bonus points and you have to do that. I’m happy with the progression they have made. I’m proud of the attitude.
“We’re running out of dual meets. We’re almost in the postseason. This is the time to be excited. This is the time to wrestle well.”
Penn State earned bonus points in 11 of 14 victories this past weekend. The total includes two pins from Cyler Sanderson and Cameron Wade.
After a dazzling funk roll early in Sunday’s bout, Cyler locked a cradle and finished Johnson in 2:46. Wade ended the meet by overpowering Ben Apland with a half-nelson for a second- period fall.
“Everybody is showing a lot of great stuff and showing that they can score from a lot of different positions,” Cyler Sanderson said. “It’s a good time to play around with some stuff. If you can hit out in a match, then go for it.”
The pins created a funny post-match situation as Cyler started jogging toward his parents, Steve and Debbie, who live in Utah, to receive the Ridge Riley Award Winner. But Cyler halted his trot when he heard Wade received the honor. The seven wrestlers who won Friday also prevailed Sunday, meaning officials had plenty of Ridge Riley candidates.
“Everybody is buying into the program and fighting hard as you can see,” said Cyler, who transferred from Iowa State after his older brother’s hiring. “Even the matches we lost, guys were pushing the pace. It’s great to end on a high note before Big Tens and NCAAs.”
The first five bouts illustrated stark differences between Penn State and Michigan (4-12, 0-5), which won last year’s meet 31-6. Referee Gary Kessel hit three of Michigan’s first four wrestlers with stall warnings and the first five Nittany Lions combined for seven first-period takedowns.
Penn State’s only loss before intermission came at 133, where Zac Stevens defeated Bryan Pearsall 13- 9, but Pearsall trimmed the lead to 9-8 in the third period.
Pearsall’s third-period effort incited multiple roars. His acts of inspiration included shoving Stevens off the mat, diving for the legs at restarts, running to the circle before and after whistles and losing a shoe trying to leave Stevens’ grasp in the waning seconds.
Adam Lynch, who defeated Mark Weber 9-5 at 141, thought Pearsall was winning from the sounds he heard while warming up under the stands.
“He was down and I knew he was coming back,” said Lynch, who won his fourth straight bout to improve to 10-9. “Pearsall went after him. I could hear the crowd screaming.”
Brad Pataky provided instant energy for the second straight meet, dismantling Sean Boyle 13-0 at 125. Pataky scored eight points, including five on tilts, during the third period. Pataky started Friday’s match with a second-period technical fall.
“The energy that everybody is bringing to these matches makes it really exciting, not only for us, but for everybody else,” Pataky said.
Frank Molinaro added to the lead by majoring Mark Boyer 25-11 at 149. Molinaro had eight takedowns, induced two stall warnings and accumulated 3:55 of riding time for his second major of the weekend.
“Those first five there was a lot of energy,” Cael Sanderson said. “Our guys went out there and were scoring a lot of points. The intensity was great, even in the one we lost.”
Dan Vallimont followed the intermission by edging Aaron Hynes 8-7 at 165 while David Erwin defeated Hunter Collins 12-9 at 184.
Ninth-ranked Anthony Biondo gave Michigan its lone bonus points by majoring Dave Crowell 15-5 at 197. Justin Zeerip defeated Justin Ortega 7-4 at 174 for the Wolverines’ other win.
“I would like to think it was one of our best weekends,” Pataky said. “We had some other exciting weekends, but this was really exciting.”
Tags: Adam Lynch, Brad Pataky, Bryan Pearsall, Cael Sanderson, Cameron Wade, Cyler Sanderson, Dan Vallimont, David Erwin, David Taylor, Ed Ruth, Frank Molinaro, Jake Kemerer, Justin Ortega, Quentin Wright