Nittany Lions dominate Badgers to end dual season
By: Guy Cipriano
Centre Daily Times
UNIVERSITY PARK — The talented freshmen can’t appreciate everything about Friday night.
Ditto for the majority of Penn State’s a coaches, a group that blew in from Iowa State less than two years ago.
The veterans who participated in a post-meet workout inside Rec Hall’s main gym after an ugly loss to Wisconsin on Feb. 1, 2009 are in a different position.
They know the 17-1-1 dual meet mark the Nittany Lions secured with Friday’s 30-12 victory over the Badgers is a big deal.
“Something magical has happened,” sixth-year senior 125-pounder Brad Pataky said. “It’s hard to explain. It’s one big emotion.” Magical?
It’s fine to use Pataky’s word. The last time the Badgers entered Rec Hall they won seven bouts and compiled 24 takedowns. This time, a more talented Wisconsin team won just two bouts and compiled five takedowns.
Penn State’s 2008-09 dual meet season ended with an 8-12-2 record. The Nittany Lions’ 2010-11 record represents their best since finishing 22-0-1 in 1992-93.
“We have come a long way,” junior 149-pounder Frank Molinaro said.
Asked about his team’s dual meet season, coach Cael Sanderson didn’t stray from wrestling jargon. Sanderson insists dual meet results are not high on his priority list, although his grim expressions and solemn words after Penn State’s only loss — a 22-13 setback to Iowa last month — suggest they might be more important than he leads the public to believe.
“It’s not something we are too focused on,” he said. “We want to win, but we train for March. But I think this was a fun team. They are entertainers.”
If fun consists of winning four of five matchups involving two ranked wrestlers and winning the first seven bouts before 6,311 fans, then Sanderson’s team closed the regular season strong.
Pataky provided instant entertainment, scoring 10 points in the first two minutes of a 10-5 victory over Tom Kelliher at 125. Pataky couldn’t escape from the bottom, a problem he knows must be corrected before next month’s Big Ten tournament. But for one night, a chance to wrestle at Rec Hall, a place he often doubted he would compete again after suffering a preseason knee injury, meant more than a score or technical issue.
“That’s huge for him to have that opportunity,” Sanderson said. “It doesn’t always work out as you would hope.”
The Nittany Lion who stepped on the mat next knows about plans gone awry.
Sophomore Andrew Long concluded his regular season a half-country away from Iowa, where he spent his entire life before moving to State College last December. Long, who transferred to Penn State after experiencing serious off-the-mat problems at Iowa State, showed why he reached last year’s NCAA finals by defeating third-ranked Tyler Graff 12-5 at 133.
Graff took Long down 22 seconds into the bout. Long dominated the ensuing 6:38 to score his biggest victory as a Nittany Lion. After the bout, Long pumped his fist toward the crowd, a thank-you gesture directed toward fans who once knew little of his ordeal.
“It’s really huge to feel that support,” he said. “They like for us to wrestle hard the whole time and that’s my mentality. To be able to perform for them and to wrestle my best, it’s kind of a win-win for the both of us.”
The next five bouts were a win-win, win-win-win for Penn State.
Andrew Alton pinned Shane McQuade in 3:52 to snap a three-bout losing streak at 141. Third-ranked Frank Molinaro turned 10th-ranked Cole Schmitt for three nearfall points in the third period to earn a 9-1 major at 149. David Taylor produced his 14th technical fall and completed a 31-0 regular season by defeating Kalvin York 18-2 at 157. Jim Vollrath made a case to become Penn State’s postseason starter at 165 by defeating Shawn Perry 7-3. Second-ranked Ed Ruth allowed an early takedown before posting an 8-5 victory over 14th-ranked Ben Jordan at 174.
The lone solace for the Badgers (10-6-1, 1-5-1 Big Ten) came at 184, where second-ranked Travis Rutt pinned 17th-ranked Quentin Wright from the bottom position during the second period. Two years ago as a true freshman, Wright endured a punch in the face to defeat Rutt 4-2. Wisconsin senior Trevor Brandvold followed Rutt’s pin by decking Nick Ruggear in 42 seconds at 197. The meet ended with Penn State’s Cameron Wade defeating Eric Bugenhagen 5-2 in a matchup between top-10 heavyweights.
“Rutt wrestled well,” said Wisconsin coach Barry Davis, whose team was missing NCAA 165-pound champion Andrew Howe because of a hamstring injury. “He stayed after it the whole time. Not at one time was he sitting back. That’s how you are supposed to compete. You compete like that good things happen. Some of our guys didn’t compete that way tonight and it was disappointing.”
Tags: Andrew Alton, Brad Pataky, Cael Sanderson, Cameron Wade, David Taylor, Ed Ruth, Frank Molinaro, Nick Ruggear, Quentin Wright