The seconds seemed to tick off the clock in slow motion for freshman Nate Morgan, clinging to a 6-4 lead late in the third period of his match against Logan Arlis of Illinois.
Members of the Penn State wrestling team stood on their tiptoes to gain a better view of the mat, hoping to will Morgan on to the victory.
When the clock hit zero, more than 5,000 fans in Rec Hall jumped to their feet serenading Morgan with cheers as he had just earned the first win of his collegiate career, and helped Penn State to a 23-13 conference win.
“He did a great job,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “He is figuring things out as he goes along, and you know he is going to give you his best.”
The 125-pound weight class has been a question mark for the Lions much of the second half of the season. Morgan’s victory was the first in the 125-pound weight class in more than a month for Penn State.
Redshirt freshman Ed Ruth, who earned a pin in his match to improve his record to 27-1 on the season, said he could not have been happier with Morgan’s effort.
“I’ve never been that happy for a wrestler before,” Ruth said. “I got to witness his first win at home.”
Earlier in the week, Ruth had praised Morgan, saying despite the fact Morgan had not won a match he fought for every point for the team. Ruth added he knew Morgan would turn his fortunes around.
“I love watching him wrestle,” Ruth said. “He is one of our true freshman, we had two guys drop out of the lineup and he just come up and fills the spot.”
It seemed clear Morgan was able to thrive off the electricity of the crowd. After completing a huge reversal toward the end of the third period, all of Rec Hall jumped to give Morgan a standing ovation.
With a win under his belt, Morgan will look to build on his success when Penn State travels to No. 5 Minnesota on Sunday. Sanderson has repeatedly said the team is saving senior Brad Pataky, an All-American, for the Big Ten tournament and nationals.
If Sanderson continues to sit Pataky, Morgan will face the nations No. 5 ranked 125-pounder Zach Sanders.