Sunday’s match was decided long before Jon Gingrich hit the mat, but he still managed the get the crowd at Rec Hall on its feet and louder than it was all day.
Gingrich, who was given the starting job in the heavyweight class over No. 16 Jimmy Lawson in a “wrestle-off” prior to Penn State’s contest with Michigan State, ended the day’s action by defeating No. 4 Michael McClure in a third period filled with action. His 5-3 win preserved a shutout for the Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), as they beat the Spartans (4-6, 0-3 Big Ten) convincingly, 41-0.
“That was just an awesome opportunity for him to go out there…he just took it to him,” senior James English said. “That was an awesome match, exciting. Not your typical heavyweight match.”
As the final score might imply, not every bout was as closely contested as Gingrich’s upset. Although the Lions went into intermission without a pin, they dominated nearly every matchup until that point.
Two of the first four bouts were decided by major decision, and the first three Lions to wrestle accumulated more than two minutes in riding time by the end of their matches. Nico Megaludis opened the day’s action for the Lions at 125 pounds and beat Brenan Lyon, 19-6, nearly scoring a technical fall.
Megaludis said it was frustrating to get that close but to only win by a major decision.
“That’s what he wanted, not to get tech’ed, and he did it,” he said.
The only other matchup besides Gingrich’s that featured any drama was James Vollrath’s 6-4, 157-pound victory against No. 19 David Cheza. Vollrath, starting in place of the suspended Dylan Alton, scored an escape and a takedown in the third period to take the lead and win.
After the intermission, the Lions expanded on their 17-0 lead with their highly-ranked upper-weight classes. No. 2 David Taylor (165) and No. 1 Ed Ruth (184) both pinned their opponents at the 1:37 mark of the first period, while No. 3 Matt Brown (174) scored a technical fall between their bouts.
No. 3 Quentin Wright (197) also took the penultimate bout of the day by major decision, jumping ahead right from the opening whistle with three takedowns and a near-fall in the first stanza.
“I think, as the season progresses, you just start to see the Quentin that can be a national champion,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “The technique that he was hitting out there today, that’s the stuff that’s going to win the national championship for him.”
The high scoring clinched a win for the Lions and put Gingrich in a spot very similar to the one he was in during his last dual-meet start, which came in a 52-0 win against Indiana on Dec. 9. In that match, Gingrich had to take on No. 8 Adam Chalfant, the last obstacle between the Lions and a shutout. In another close call, Gingrich won by a 6-5 decision.
Although he said the shutout was on his mind in the match against the Hoosiers, Gingrich said that the challenge barely crossed his mind this time around. He also said that he did not mind squaring off with an opponent ranked as highly as McClure.
“I kind of like it; it’s more of a challenge,” Gingrich said. “As Coach Cael says, you have to have ‘game-ness.’ ”
After working to a 1-1 draw, Gingrich took McClure down with just less than one minute remaining in the match. He then scored two more near-fall points and fended off McClure the rest of the way for the win.
English, along with seemingly everyone packed into Rec Hall, enjoyed the fireworks the two provided in the final frame.
“I’m not one to get excited too often, or anything,” English said. “But I was on my feet, practically on the mat, telling the ref to count the back points. It was an awesome match.”