UNIVERSITY PARK — Just when you think you’ve seen it all from the No. 1 Penn State wrestling team, it debuts something new. On Friday night in a 37-10 rout of Michigan State, the Nittany Lions introduced several novelties.
There was Bo Nickal’s blue hair and another “secret move” from Jason Nolf and a variety of trips and takedowns that clearly entertained another sold-out Rec Hall crowd of 6,643.
In the end, the Nittany Lions collected three pins, a disqualification, two major decisions, a technical fall and a 34-8 edge in takedowns to dismantle the Spartans. Penn State, which improved to 12-0, 8-0 in the Big Ten, used its 12th different lineup of the year.
“I think our guys wrestled well and I think this is a team that’s gonna keep wrestling better as we progress to the national tournament,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We need to get our best lineup in place as we head into the Big Ten tournament and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Nolf recorded his 57th career pin, isolating his opponent’s arm straight out from his torso and then dropping into a tight headlock that ended the match at the 3:50 mark. Nickal needed considerably less time to lock up a crossface cradle and score a fall in :35, the 55th pin of his career. Nolf and Nickal are 1-2 on Penn State’s all-time pins list.
“They’re two of the most creative guys in the country,” Michigan State coach Roger Chandler said.
“The biggest thing is they overwhelm their opponents. They have a lot of tools and they have a lot of weapons to score with. It’s a tall task to try to scout all of that stuff out and adjust for it. Credit to them, they’ve put together a strong arsenal of weapons and they utilize it every match.”
Sanderson, too, was effusive in his praise of Nolf.
“What you can expect is that he’s gonna score points in a lot of different ways. I don’t know if we’ve seen that (his setup before the headlock) before, maybe that was a first. But I think there’s been a lot of firsts with Jason so that’s not anything surprising, I guess. Fun to watch. As fun as anyone’s ever been in the history of college wrestling.”
Vincenzo Joseph (165 pounds) also used a crossface cradle to pin his opponent, in 3:48. It was Joseph’s 11th pin of the season.
At 174, Mark Hall was leading 10-1 heading into the third period when his opponent was called for stalling four times for putting in legs on Hall and not returning him to the mat and was disqualified at the 6:14 mark.
Nick Lee scored eight takedowns in a 19-7 major decision at 141 and Anthony Cassar also recorded eight takedowns in a 21-6 technical fall at 285.
“I think I’m getting to my offense pretty well. Last year that was something I was lacking,” Cassar said. “This year I just feel a little more natural and have that power and that pop and I’m getting to my shots, so I keep doing that.”
The Lions inserted three backups into the lineup. At 133, Scott Stossel subbed in for Roman Bravo-Young, who missed the match for personal reasons, according to Jeff Byers of the Penn State Sports Network. Stossel lost, 4-1. Mason Manville took Shakur Rasheed’s place at 184 and held No. 15 Cameron Caffey to a 6-4 decision. Jarod Verkleeren once again subbed in for Brady Berge at 149. Verkleeren scored a 12-3 major decision.
“That’s something that we’ve got to evaluate as a staff. He’s (Berge) preparing to wrestle and hopefully we’ll see him on Sunday,” Sanderson said. “But Verkleeren is wrestling really well and his confidence is growing in each match. We have two quality options there.”
Penn State showed an intensity and enthusiasm that Michigan State was powerless to counter, which led to the Nittany Lions’ 57th consecutive dual meet win.
“I think we’ve been fearless. I think our team’s done a great job,” Nolf said. “I think we’ve had some matches where we didn’t compete to the highest ability, but I think we always give 100 percent effort and attitude and wrestle fearless. We did a great job of that again tonight.”
125–No. 7 Rayvon Foley, MSU, maj. dec. Devin Schnupp, 14-5. 133–Anthony Tutolo, MSU, dec. Scott Stossel, 4-1. 141–No. 2 Nick Lee, PSU, maj. Dec. Austin Eicher, 19-8. 149–Jarod Verkleeren, PSU, maj. Dec. Jaden Enriquez, 12-3. 157–No. 1 Jason Nolf, PSU, pinned Jake Tucker, 3:50. 165–No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, pinned Austin Hiles, 3:48. 174–No. 1 Mark Hall, PSU, won by disqualification over Drew Hughes, 6:14. 184–No. 15 Cameron Caffey, MSU, dec. Mason Manville, 6-4. 197–No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, pinned Brad Wilton, :35. 285–No. 3 Anthony Cassar, PSU, won by tech. fall over Chase Beard, 21-6 (6:46).
Ridge Riley Award winner: Anthony Cassar. Attendance: 6,643. Takedowns: Michigan State 8; Penn State 34. Records: Michigan State (9-7, 3-5 Big Ten); Penn State (12-0, 8-0).
Next match: Penn State at Illinois, 2 p.m. Sunday.