Penn State wrestlers dominate Pitt
Penn State's wrestlers made a quiet entrance Friday night, wandering out to the mat right before the singing of the national anthem.
There was nothing subtle about what the Nittany Lions did after the lights came back on at soldout Fitzgerald Field House. No. 3 Penn State was methodical and overpowering as it rolled to a 31-7 win over No. 15 Pitt in front of an announced crowd of 3,247.
Quentin Wright punctuated Penn State's nonconference victory by recording the only fall of the night, and the Nittany Lions (10-1) have outscored two opponents — both ranked — by a combined score of 69-7 since a six-point loss at Iowa.
“I think we saw a lot of positives,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said after his team won all but two bouts. “The guys are improving as the season goes on.”
Penn State, which visits No. 6 Ohio State on Sunday, didn't just beat Pitt. The winner of two straight national championships also provided a measuring stick for the Panthers (8-5).
“We did some good things,” said Panthers coach Rande Stottlemyer, whose team hosts Lehigh on Friday. “Did we make progress? Yeah. Do we have a long way to go? Yeah.”
Most teams probably feel that way after matching up against Penn State, particularly the back end of its lineup.
David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (184) were dominant in securing major decisions. And Wright's pin ended the most anticipated bout of the evening in the first period.
It came when he caught Pitt's Matt Wilps in a figure-four headlock following a scramble and recorded the unlikely pin. Wilps entered the match No. 2 in the country, while Wright was No. 3.
“He took me down right away,” said Wright, who gave up two points on an early takedown. “I'm not too happy about that.”
The only other wrestler to secure six points for the Nittany Lions wasn't entirely happy either following the match.
Franklin Regional's Nico Megaludis didn't get a chance to wrestle in front of about 150 family members, friends and even youth grapplers from the Murrysville area after Pitt forfeited the 125-pound match because of injuries.
One of the tightest matches came after the forfeit, as Penn State freshman Jordan Conaway scored five unanswered points to beat Pitt junior Shelton Mack, 5-3 in overtime, at 133 pounds.
Conaway scored three points in the third period to force overtime. He spun Mack around in the extra period and notched a takedown for the win.
Travis Shaffer, a Derry graduate, got Pitt on the scoreboard with a major decision at 141 pounds, but the Nittany Lions won six consecutive matches after that.
They also served notice that they are on track as they chase a third national title in as many years, something Ruth referred to as “climbing the staircase.”
“I hate to use the word peak,” Ruth said after improving to 22-0. “I always feel like I can get better.”