Penn State’s up-and-coming wrestling program has generated quite a buzz in the sport this year, but Iowa silenced the Nittany Lions and a sellout crowd Sunday at Rec Hall in State College, Pa.
The eighth-ranked Hawkeyes won six matches and swept three pivotal toss-up bouts to stun Cael Sanderson’s top-ranked Nittany Lions 22-13.
“It was a big event for us,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said in a video interview on Flowrestling.com. “We try to get up for big events. You come into an enemy arena, and it’s a good show for everybody. They’re the No. 1 team in America. Good for us.”
The Hawkeyes (11-0-1, 4-0 Big Ten) extended their unbeaten streak in duals to 73 and pushed their conference winning streak to 28. It was Iowa’s first victory against a No. 1 team since the Hawkeyes beat Iowa State 20-13 on Dec. 9, 2007, when Sanderson coached the Cyclones.
“It’s a big opportunity, and you either seize the moment and take advantage of it or you don’t — we didn’t,” Sanderson said. “If you look at the tape, you can see they wanted it a little more than we did. I’m not sure how that could be possible. But that was the case tonight.”
Iowa came out on top at 133, 141 and 184 — matches that appeared as tossups on paper.
“They won all the close ones, that’s the difference,” Sanderson said. “We’re going to have a hard time winning that dual when we lose (133) and ’41 right there in a row. Really, the loss isn’t that big of a deal. We hate losing. We weren’t at our best tonight. It’ll be good for us in the long run, but right now, it stinks.”
The Hawkeyes won the first three matches, building a 12-0 lead behind wins from Matt McDonough, Tony Ramos and Montell Marion.
McDonough, the defending NCAA champion at 125, pinned freshman Nathan Morgan.
Ramos scored a second-period takedown on his way to a 3-2 win against fifth-ranked Andrew Long, the NCAA runner-up at 125 last year at Iowa State.
“They had a pretty good game plan (at 133),” Sanderson said. “I think they tried to let us wear ourselves down — I think that was pretty obvious that’s what they were trying to do — and then sneak a takedown in there, and that’s what happened.
Marion won his season debut with the Hawkeyes in dramatic fashion, rallying with three takedowns in the third period to win an 11-9 decision at 141 against fifth-ranked freshman Andrew Alton.
Alton whipped Marion to his back for five points in the first period and nearly pinned the returning NCAA finalist.
“He stayed out of the dangerous stuff after that,” Brands told Flowrestling.com. “The guy’s dangerous, and (Marion) felt it.”
But the talented Penn State freshman couldn’t hold up after the first-period flurry.
“I’m not sure what was wrong tonight,” Sanderson said. “(Alton) had his big move, and if the ref’s there, he could’ve called a fall and it’s a great night. But that’s not what happened.”
Brands shuffled his lineup to make room for Marion, who returned from a suspension. Sophomore Mark Ballweg moved up to 149 pounds and dropped a 10-3 decision against All-American Frank Molinaro.
Penn State (13-1, 2-1) got back into the dual when third-ranked David Taylor’s 12-4 major decision at 157 against Derek St. John in a battle of highly touted freshmen.
But Iowa regained control with three wins in a four-match stretch beginning with Aaron Janssen’s 6-2 victory at 165 against Jake Kemerer.
No. 16 Grant Gambrall posted an 8-3 win at 184 against sixth-ranked Quentin Wright and senior Luke Lofthouse locked up the win for the Hawkeyes with a 17-6 major decision at 197 against Justin Ortega.
“Iowa’s a tough team, there’s no doubt about it,” Taylor said. “I think some people were trying to downplay maybe how good they were. But they’re good; there’s no doubt about it. They’re always going to be good.”
125: Matt McDonough (I) pinned Nate Morgan, 4:16
133: Tony Ramos (I) dec. Andrew Long, 3-2
141: Montell Marion (I) dec. Andrew Alton, 11-9
149: Frank Molinaro (PSU) dec. Mark Ballweg, 10-3
157: David Taylor (PSU) maj. dec. Derek St. John, 12-4
165: Aaron Janssen (I) dec. Jake Kemerer, 6-2
174: Ed Ruth (PSU) dec. Ethen Lofthouse, 10-3
184: Grant Gambrall (I) dec. Quentin Wright, 8-3
197: Luke Loftouse (I) maj. dec. Justin Ortega, 17-6
Hwt: Cameron Wade (PSU) dec. Blake Rasing, 1-0