With Nebraska sporting two top-12 wrestlers at 149 and 157 pounds, it provided the perfect opportunity for Penn State’s Andrew and Dylan Alton, both wrestling in their first match since a month-long suspension for a violation of team rules on Dec. 22.
Dylan Alton’s stunning last second takedown against No. 4 James Green provided Penn State a spark to defeat the No. 12 Cornhuskers, 33-9.
“Dylan knew he had a big match,” head coach Cael Sanderson said. “He did a great job conditioning. Conditioning is something that he’s learning to use to his advantage in those tight matches.”
It wasn’t easy for the brothers to earn their spots back, according to Sanderson. The coaching staff decided on a wrestle-off early last week. Andrew Alton would face James English at 149 while Dylan Alton would face James Vollrath at 157 pounds. Sanderson said both matches were decided by a point, with the Altons ultimately prevailing.
“I’ve just been training the last month,” Dylan Alton said. “Just to make it fair to everyone, there was a wrestle-off just to see where it went from there. I was just doing what I could just to get back in the action.”
When Andrew faced off against No. 12 Jake Sueflohn at 149 pounds Sunday, he started quickly, registering two takedowns in the first period to take a 4-1 lead.
After the first period, the month-long break without a dual meet started to show for Alton as Sueflohn took control of the bout. Eventually, Sueflohn pinned Alton at 5:33 after going ahead 6-5.
“Obviously Andrew wasn’t himself,” Sanderson said. “A lot of it is just making the decision that you’re ready and deciding to be focused. A lot of it is a mental game, just need some time to get back to where he was.”
With the Cornhuskers threatening to cut into the Lions’ lead heading into the intermission, Dylan Alton stepped up to face Green. Green was a familiar opponent for Alton as the two have met three times in the past.
The sophomore, who entered the bout a perfect 8-0 in dual meets and 15-2 on the season, provided a stiff challenge for Alton. Both wrestlers spent the first period trying to figure each other out as neither registered a point.
After Alton escaped to take a 1-0 lead, Green fought back with an escape of his own. With the clock winding down and the prospect of sudden victory, Alton registered a takedown on Green with less than 15 seconds left to win the match, 3-1.
With this win over a top five opponent, Alton said he moved closer to his goal at the end of the season.
“I’m always moving forward and working toward my goal of a national championship,” Alton said.
While the Altons have won their starting spots back, Sanderson said he wants to see commitment from the two of them in the rest of their college career.
“Really, what we’re looking for is a long-term commitment,” Sanderson said Tuesday. “That’s going to take two and a half years before we know whether or not that goes all the way through.”