The series between Penn State and Lehigh is one of the most historic in college wrestling, with the two programs meeting every year since 1911.
It’s also one of the most lopsided.
Entering Sunday’s dual between the Nittany Lions and Mountain Hawks, the Nittany Lions held a 69-34-3 advantage in the series.
But No. 1 Penn State had also yet to be seriously challenged entering Sunday, and No. 10 Lehigh posed as good a chance as any to give the Nittany Lions fits and contest the dual.
Or at least so it seemed, especially after last season.
Last season when the two sides met, Lehigh held a 19-17 lead with two bouts to go before Anthony Cassar and Nick Nevills both won by decision to give Penn State the win 23-19.
Coach Cael Sanderson was cognizant of this fact and felt the added stakes would raise his team’s performance.
“Even looking back to last year, I thought this was going to be a great match and something we were looking forward to,” Sanderson said. “I’m very confident in our guys; the bigger the match the better they wrestle.”
Lehigh had a chance to bring seven ranked wrestlers to Rec Hall, including four in the top-10 of their respective weight classes, but only three ranked wrestlers — No.7 Jordan Kutler at 174, No. 15 Jake Jakobsen at 197 and No. 6 Jordan Wood at 285 — saw action.
While Lehigh posed a threat to challenge Penn State, it was more of the same as the Nittany Lions cruised to victory on Sunday and moved to 3-0 on the season following a 42-0 rout of the Mountain Hawks to further assert their dominance in the series.
“I think our guys wrestled well. They were finishing the period with some hustle and trying to finish matches on top and with takedowns,” Sanderson said. “I know they had several guys out of the lineup but I think I our guys still wrestled well.”
The most anticipated matchup that didn’t happen was No. 8 Scott Parker of Lehigh taking on Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, who’s currently unranked.
Bravo-Young cruised to victory in his first two dual meets, winning by fall and major decision, and has yet to face a major test.
But an injured Parker has yet to wrestle for Lehigh and so Bravo-Young took on Brandon Paetzell instead and once again picked up bonus points en route to a 13-5 major decision win.
In the three ranked bouts that did occur, Penn State went 3-0 and picked up bonus points in two of the three bouts.
The dual started at 197 with No. 1 Bo Nickal taking on No. 15 Jakobsen, and Nickal once again looked settled in to his new weight class as he cruised to a 19-4 tech fall on the back of seven takedowns.
The Allen, Texas, native took the first of the three ranked bouts to give Penn State an early 5-0 lead.
From there the Nittany Lions were on autopilot as Anthony Cassar followed up with a 12-3 major decision in the second ranked bout when he took on No. 6 Jordan Wood to extend Penn State’s lead to 9-0.
The third and final ranked bout was also the most competitive.
No. 2 Mark Hall took on No. 7 Jordan Kutler at 174 and Hall was looking to improve upon his performance last season where he beat Kutler 3-2 but only registered one takedown.
This time around, Hall was able to control the pace more and dictate the result, downing Kutler 6-2 with two takedowns.
“I think Kutler is a really tough wrestler. He has great positioning and great fundamentals,” Sanderson said. “They wrestled a couple of times last year and it seemed like it was a one takedown match so I was glad to see Mark get two. Kutler is one of the best guys in the country.”
Ultimately with the win, it’s the third time Penn State has shut out the Mountain Hawks in the series, and the win was the most lopsided of the three shutouts.
It’s also the most dominant performance of the season, but despite that the Nittany Lions weren’t really tested in a dual for the third straight week.
But Sanderson insists he isn’t worried and doesn’t put much stock in that.
“They’re tested every day in practice wrestling with one another. So it doesn’t concern me at all,” Sanderson said. “If today was the first day of the national tournament, we’re ready go regardless of who our opponents are.”