It will take some time to rebuild another 20-dual winning streak, but Penn State laid down the foundation for such a run during the weekend.
The No. 1 Nittany Lions (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) continued to rebound from their loss to Iowa on Feb. 1, finishing a stretch of four grueling away duals against ranked teams with a pair of wins. They defeated No. 15 Pittsburgh, 31-7, on Friday and No. 6 Ohio State, 29-18, on Sunday.
Both contests appear to be comfortable victories given the scores, but the win against the Buckeyes was in doubt for much of the dual. As in the team’s loss to Iowa, the Lions came from behind using their strong upper-weight classes. The outcome fell into the hands of the heavyweight matchup.
Last time around, heavyweight Jon Gingrich needed a victory to secure the dual. But the Lions held a 23-18 lead heading into their final bout against Ohio State. Jimmy Lawson, starting in his third consecutive dual at heavyweight, only had to avoid a blowout loss to No. 12 Peter Capone to preserve the Lions’ victory.
Lawson was given a break when Capone called for an injury timeout following a takedown. After trying to continue to wrestle through the injury, Capone ultimately took a forfeit, sealing defeat for the Buckeyes.
The Lions dug themselves into an early hole, when they trailed 4-15 after four bouts. The Buckeyes’ hot start was fueled by its strong lower-weight classes, including brothers No. 1 Logan Stieber and No. 2 Hunter Stieber — they won by fall at 133 and 141 pounds, respectively.
A pair of upsets slowed down the Lions’ comeback. No. 19 Cam Tessari took a 3-1 decision against No. 7 Andrew Alton at 149 pounds, and No. 7 Nick Heflin won a close 3-2 decision at 174 pounds against No. 5 Matt Brown.
However, plenty of bonus points propelled the Lions to victory. Along with Lawson’s injury forfeit, No. 2 David Taylor and No. 1 Ed Ruth earned six points with first-period pins.
Friday’s dual came easier for the Lions.
The Panthers’ only wins came at 141 pounds and heavyweight — Travis Shaffer scored a major decision against Derek Reber, wrestling in place of Bryan Pearsall during the weekend, and No. 8 Zac Thomusseit also grabbed a 5-4 win against Lawson.
With the dual locked up for the Lions, the biggest match of the night was between No. 3 Quentin Wright and No. 2 Matt Wilps at 197 pounds.
Earlier in the season, Wilps and Wright wrestled at the NWCA All-Star Classic, held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 3, 2012. With ten seconds to go in regulation, Wilps pinned Wright.
Things were much different the second time around. Wright wasted no time in winning the non-exhibition rematch, pinning Wilps at the 2:43 mark of the first period.
Wright, a senior, and the Lions will wrestle at Rec Hall one last time this season, when they return home to take on Rider on Feb. 17. It will be the team’s next-to-last dual before postseason play begins.