Arizona State quickly realized why the home of Penn State wrestling is considered one of the most hostile environments in all of collegiate sports.
Wrestling in Rec Hall for the first time in the history of the program, the No. 9 Sun Devils fell to No. 1 Penn State 41-3 as the Nittany Lions moved to 4-0 and won their 49th straight dual.
“It’s hard wrestling in Rec Hall for anyone,” Mark Hall said following the match.”The crowd helps.”
Headlined by one of the most anticipated matches of the season, between No. 1 Zahid Valencia of Arizona State and second-ranked Hall at 174 pounds, the night began with the potential of five ranked bouts before the marquee matchup.
After four of those matches, Valencia and Hall met with Hall looking to avenge his 8-2 loss to Valencia in last season’s NCAA Championship.
While the first period was aggressive, with the official having to stop the match to calm both wrestlers down, the first frame of action ended scoreless.
An escape to begin the second put Hall up 1-0 before a flurry of attacks found Hall finish the second period with a 3-0 advantage.
Two minutes away from revenge, Hall dominated the third period, finishing with 2:41 in riding time to knock Valencia off 4-0.
“I just had the vision before the match even started,” Hall said. “I had a lot of confidence.”
The Nittany Lions only loss of the night came in the opening match, at 125 pounds, where the Sun Devils opted not to wrestle No. 7 Ryan Millhof, and instead sent freshman Brandon Courtney to the mat to wrestle Penn State’s Devin Schnupp.
Courtney still took care of business for Arizona State, however, beating Schnupp by a decisive margin, even larger than what the 13-7 score projects.
With Penn State down 3-0 after the first bout, Millhof made his way to the mat in the next bout, however, creating an undefeated matchup with Nittany Lion Roman Bravo-Young at 133 pounds.
Bravo-Young dominated, handing Millhof a 14-1 loss for his first of the season and giving Penn State its first lead of the night, 4-3.
“I thought Roman wrestled really well,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “He wrestled smart against a tough opponent with a lot of experience.”
From that point on, the Nittany Lions never looked back.
First it was a pin from No. 4 Nick Lee over Cory Crooks in 2:18 to push the Penn State lead to 10-3.
Then it was time for the ranked matchups.
No. 12 Brady Berge, in his Rec Hall debut, knocked off No. 11 Josh Maruca 5-4 to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to 13-3.
“That was his first time in Rec Hall and Maruca’s a quality opponent,” Sanderson said. “Berge did a great job and winning that match was a big boost for him and should be a big step for him. I think he’s a top-10 guy.”
While it wasn’t the assembly line of pins Penn State fans are beginning to get used to, No. 1 Jason Nolf cruised to an 18-5 major decision victory over No. 16 Christian Pagdilao before, also top ranked, Vincenzo Joseph did much of the same, earning his own major decision victory with an 11-2 win over No. 5 Josh Shields.
There’s also history between, Joseph and Shields, both of whom are from the Pittsburgh area and have faced off against each other before, something that Joseph embraces.
“It”s fun to compete against those guys and see where we’ve each grown,” Joseph said. “I should’ve attempted more shots throughout the match. I think I wrestled well, but there are areas I could’ve done better.”
After Hall avenged his last loss, the Nittany Lions found themselves up 24-3 with just three bouts to go, looking to hold a team to three points or less in each match so far this season.
“I’m really happy for [Hall],” Sanderson said. “We’re looking forward to the next match.”
That margin continued to grow, as No. 4 Shakur Rasheed won by tech fall, 15-0, before top-ranked Bo Nickal used just 35 seconds of the first period to register his fourth pin of the year.
Things ended with Anthony Cassar taking on Brady Daniel and Cassar continued to impress at his new weight and picked up a fall at the 5:18 mark to close things out and seal the 41-3 victory