No. 1 Ed Ruth was tested early on when Nebraska’s No. 8 Josh Ihnen took him down for the first points of their 184-pound match.
The early deficit gave Ruth extra motivation, and he said he saw nothing but red before prevailing with an 18-3 technical fall.
“It’s kind of an ego thing,” Ruth said about giving up the early points. “Guys, our egos are so fragile, and just like a bubble, touch it [and] it pops and you just want to freak out.”
Much like Ruth’s match, the Nittany Lions (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) were challenged en route to a 33-9 victory against the Cornhuskers (9-4, 3-3 Big Ten) on Sunday.
The dual featured three other bouts in which both wrestlers were ranked and each squad won two of those bouts.
No. 3 Matt Brown battled back from a 9-4 deficit to No. 4 Robert Kokesh of Nebraska late in the third period, but came up short and ultimately fell 10-7.
No. 3 Andrew Alton of Penn State, who made his first start since his suspension for a violation of team rules, jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but began to fade before No. 12 Jake Sueflohn eventually pinned him at the 5:33 mark.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said Andrew was not himself in the bout. Sanderson also said he thinks Andrew needs some time to get back to where he wants to be, but Sanderson does not know how long it will take.
Unlike Andrew, No. 6 Dylan Alton, who was also suspended for the same violations, made his return with a victory. Dylan knocked off No. 4 James Green with a late takedown before halftime to put the Lions up 16-6.
“He shot and I reshot,” Dylan said. “[I] got my angle that I wanted and it was all from there, just go behind, keep at the legs.”
Senior Bryan Pearsall also had a close bout and ultimately upset No. 19 Ridge Kiley by a 2-0 decision.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Conaway, who is unranked, remained unbeaten in Big Ten competition as he scored three takedowns in the third period to put away Shawn Nagel, 14-5.
Conaway, who has been strong in the third period of his recent duals by wearing his opponents down, said he saw Nagel fading.
“He started opening up a little and taking shots,” Conaway said. “I was able to score off his shots, so I mean, he was fading, but I think he was just trying to get a quick score and taking some bad shots and I was scoring off of them.”
The Lions’ match against the Cornhuskers was the final tune-up before the team travels to Iowa City, Iowa, to take on the Hawkeyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The match between the No. 1 Lions and No. 4 Hawkeyes on Feb. 1 has been highly anticipated all season in large part to the challenge associated with wrestling in the hostile environment Carver-Hawkeye Arena brings. But, Sanderson is excited about the challenge.
“You just don’t get many opportunities in your wrestling career [to wrestle at Carver-Hawkeye],” Sanderson said. “I love Carver-Hawkeye…we want to get in there and do what we can do.”