No. 15 Pitt wrestlers take shot at No. 3 Penn State
It didn't take long for the Penn State wrestling team to rebound from its first loss of the season.
Less than 48 hours, actually.
And with authority.
Just two days after then-No. 1 Penn State fell, 22-16, at No. 2 Iowa, the Nittany Lions blanked No. 6 Illinois, 37-0, Sunday in Champaign, Ill.
“We rebounded,” said Penn State 125-pounder Nico Megaludis, a Franklin Regional graduate. “I'm not saying (losing's) a good thing, but we build off it, and it seems like we get better.”
Next up for No. 3 Penn State (9-1) is No. 15 Pitt (8-4) at 7 p.m. Friday at Fitzgerald Field House in a match that's been sold out for weeks.
The Panthers are on a two-match winning streak after handling Lock Haven (33-6) and West Virginia (31-9).
“They're stacked. But it's still Pitt and Penn State,” Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer said. “We'll come at them and see what we can hit. Our guys, we're going to swing the bat. We ain't going up there thinking we're losing, I can tell you that. Penn State is loaded, there's no two ways about it. But we've got some pretty good kids as well.”
Pitt brings five wrestlers ranked in the Intermat top 20: Shelton Mack (16th, 133); Tyler Wilps (17th, 165); Max Thomusseit (13th, 184); Matt Wilps (second, 197); and Zac Thomusseit (eighth, heavyweight).
Penn State, the two-time defending NCAA team champion, counters with eight ranked wrestlers: Megaludis (second, 125); Andrew Alton (seventh, 149); Dylan Alton (fifth, 157); David Taylor (second, 165); Matt Brown (fifth, 174); Ed Ruth (first, 184); Quentin Wright (third, 197); and Jon Gingrich (17th, heavyweight).
A rematch between Matt Wilps and Wright should be one of Friday's highlights. In November at the NWCA All-Star Classic exhibition in Washington, Wilps (16-1) pinned Wright (20-0), whom Megaludis called “probably the most dangerous kid in college wrestling.”
“I'll just go in with the same mentality as the all-star meet,” Matt Wilps said. “He's a risk-taker. When he goes out there, he'll throw big moves. He's probably fazed, but he's a top-level guy so he knows how to handle it. I'm sure it will be a good match.”
Megaludis is no stranger to tough matches on the highest stage. As a freshman, he advanced to the NCAA championships, where he lost in the final, 4-1, to Iowa's Matt McDonough. He fell to McDonough again, 2-1 (TB), last weekend before 15,000 fans at Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
To say the crowd at Iowa was boisterous would be an understatement. Megaludis expects a similar atmosphere Friday, although there should be some Penn State fans because his parents bought at least 50 tickets.
“I actually like it. It's basically saying I'm a threat to them,” he said. “They're trying to say stuff to you, and I take it as a compliment. I'm threatening them, that's pretty much what I can tell by it.”
Along with a trip to No. 2 Oklahoma State, the match with Penn State has long been considered one of Pitt's highlights this season.
“As soon as it was on our schedule, we were excited for it,” Tyler Wilps said. “We just know it's going to be a great match. They're a good team; we have good guys. The Fitzgerald Field House is going to be packed, so it's going to be exciting.”