Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson is of the belief that a team has to feel good in order look good, and he was pretty certain on Sunday that his top-ranked Nittany Lions were 0-for-2 in that regard.
The fact that Sanderson was contrite after a 24-13 victory over No. 10 Wisconsin shows how high the bar is set within the wrestling program. Penn State won six of 10 matches, their lowest total this season, with four of them earning bonus points, also the lowest total of the season.
“I don’t think we wrestled great, I don’t think that’s a secret,” Sanderson said. “We didn’t wrestle with a lot of fire. Usually that comes from feeling great and that’s my job to make sure these guys feel good on match day.
“Also, I think Wisconsin did a great job. (Coach Chris) Bono had them ready to go and they seized the moment there in a couple of those matches, taking them at the end. We can learn and move forward.”
Nick Lee at 141 lost his first match of the season and Brady Berge at 149 lost only his second, as the Badgers won three of the first five matches and owned a 10-9 lead at the break.
“It’s up to the individuals. They have to choose to be ready to go but It’s my job to make sure I’m not overtraining them the week of a match when we have travel and not overrunning them,” Sanderson said.
“We’ll figure it out. We’re not afraid to lose a match. If these guys lose a match, it’s gotta hurt; it should hurt, right? We have to learn from it and you’re not always gonna feel great. I think adversity’s great preparation. I think our guys responded.”
Penn State won its 51st consecutive match, this one about 40 hours after winning eight of 10 bouts against Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, on Friday. The Lions are 51-9 in individual dual-meet victories and have earned bonus points in 41 bouts. Yet, this one had a subdued feeling to it.
High bar … meet reality.
“I don’t like not wrestling well … at all,” Sanderson said. “There’s going to be matches where we don’t wrestle well. And I don’t even want to say we didn’t wrestle well because I think Coach Bono had his guys ready to go. It’s not taking anything away from them. They battled and it was a great match.
“Our fans are used to something different but it was just a reality check. Nothing’s given. You’ve got to earn it today. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or last year. It is what it is.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mark Hall gets the nod for this match for giving Penn State its first lead of the day (14-13) with a 24-5 technical fall over Patrick Spray, who was subbing for injured Ryan Christensen, ranked 10th at 174. Hall tried to pin Spray, ringing up three four-point nearfalls, but had to settle for the tech. “I think he was looking for a pin because at the time, I think we were behind. I think he was looking for six points instead of five. Mark’s a team player and we love him for it,” Sanderson said.
TURNING POINT: Jason Nolf’s win over Wisconsin sub Devin Bahr wasn’t by fall and it didn’t give Penn State a lead, but his 11-takedown effort did provide a spark that effectively carried through the remaining five bouts, four of which were Penn State victories.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Nick Lee (16-1) losing 12-10 in two overtimes to Tristan Moran…his first loss of the season at 141. Moran’s been around and was 15-5 but Lee’s only challenge thus far this season was against Real Woods of Stanford in the Southern Scuffle finals. Lee did most of the shooting but Moran was able to effectively counter with strong whizzers and tying up Lee’s legs. Moran’s second-overtime takedown, in just nine seconds, was by that method.
“He just kept shooting and he kept getting hit, Tristan was scooting around the corner on him and he was just kind of freezing in there,” Sanderson said about Lee. “I think just a couple of adjustments and he should be finishing those shots a little bit better. That comes back to, in my mind, is him not being ready to go and that’s on me. Nick’s always going to give his best effort and he’s a great kid, works his tail off and wrestles as hard as he can. That was my coaching error.”
SECOND BIGGEST SURPRISE: Brady Berge (13-2) dropping an 8-7 decision to Cole Martin at 149. Berge owned a 6-3 lead after the opening three minutes but scored only an escape after that while yielding two takedowns, the clincher for Martin coming with 28 seconds left.
“We need to maybe figure that out a little bit,” Sanderson said. “He wrestled at the Scuffle and he weighed in two days in a row and he felt good. When you travel to Chicago and back, maybe that’s something that I didn’t factor in in getting these guys ready. It’s something I need to think more about, I think.”
WHAT WE LEARNED: Penn State can be off its game a bit and still win six of 10 and win by 11 points against a team that was in shape and didn’t back down, despite a few guys with a strategy of hanging back and hanging on and tying up. It’s a safe bet that if Sanderson says he’s going to rethink some things that he’ll do just that, and that next Sunday’s performance against Nebraska will be infinitely sharper.
THEY SAID IT: “Cenzo wants to wrestle. When he feels well, he’ll wrestle. We don’t like not having our guys in the lineup, but we’re not going to put them in a position where they’re — I don’t want to say in danger — where they can be at their best. That’s not always true, either, because a lot of our guys weren’t at their best but they still wrestled today. It is what it is. We’ll fight another day.”–Cael Sanderson on Vincenzo Joseph, who did not wrestle on Friday for Sunday for undisclosed reasons.
–“I thought we could win a lot of matches. I think we could get a couple more. They have guys that have been there, you know what I mean? I don’t have guys who have been there yet. They have guys who are national champs and they’ve got guys who have been there and they have a little bit of that aura around their program. We’re building that and once we get that and start holding everybody accountable and our kids are holding everybody accountable, we’re gonna be a program that’s hopefully where Penn State is.”–Wisconsin coach Chris Bono.
— “I think they had a good strategy coming out. They were hand-fighting hard and trying to slow us down and trying to tie us up. Definitely I think their strategy to slow us down was a good one. At the end of the day, every single guy on our team is gonna go out there and wrestle hard and have a positive attitude and that’s all the coaches ask for and that’s what we’re going to do.”–Bo Nickal after his 14-4 victory over Beau Breske on Sunday.
NOTES: Joseph has missed three dual meets this season – Bucknell, Northwestern and Wisconsin; he’s scheduled to face No. 2 Tyler Berger of Nebraska next Sunday. Joseph’s face was on the match ticket on Sunday, and 6,589 people used a ticket to sell out Rec Hall once again. … Mason Manville replaced Joseph in the lineup and lost 6-1 to third-ranked Evan Wick at 165 pounds. … Penn State won the takedown battle against the Badgers, 39-8.
PENN STATE 24, WISCONSIN 13
125: Connor Brown, W maj dec Devin Schnupp 18-9.
133: Roman Bravo-Young, PS maj dec Jens Lantz 12-4.
141: Tristan Moran, W dec Nick Lee 12-10 2OT.
149: Cole Martin, W dec Brady Berge 8-7.
157: Jason Nolf, PS tech fall Devin Bahr 6:37 (25-10).
165: Evan Wick, W dec Mason Manville 6-1.
174: Mark Hall, PS tech fall Patrick Spray 6:13 (24-5).
184: Shakur Rasheed, PS dec Mason Reinhardt 5-0.
197: Bo Nickal, PS maj dec Beau Breske 14-4.
285: Anthony Cassar, PS dec Trent Hillger 11-5.