It’s safe to say that Penn State wrestling fans — having seen their team win seven of the past eight national championships and three Hodge trophies in the past five years — might be a bit spoiled.
They’ve witnessed Nittany Lion wrestlers score bonus-point after bonus-point victories, and more times than not, the duals have been out of reach by the intermission. They really aren’t accustomed to their favorite team having to wrestle for a win.
Sunday’s 25-6 victory over Nebraska — the 52nd straight, Penn State recorded just one bonus-point victory, but showed grit in winning eight of the 10 bouts. Five of those matches saw Nittany Lion wrestlers win by no more than two points.
“If we don’t win those close matches, it could be a very close score,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “I think you always have to think you can do better. Otherwise, you’re probably going to move backward. Nebraska has a very strong team. They are probably going to give other teams fits moving forward.”
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True freshman Roman Bravo-Young looked like the wrestler fans fell in love with from his very first dual. He was springy and fast, rattling off three first-period takedowns on fellow true freshman Jevon Parrish to lead 6-2.
Bravo-Young didn’t settle after that period. He recorded six more takedowns in the match. Four of those came in the third period for a 20-7 major decision win — the lone bonus-point victory for Penn State.
Nick Lee faced off with a familiar foe in Chad Red at 141 pounds. The last time the two met, Red topped Lee in the Indiana state high school finals, 6-4. This time around it was Lee earning the close win.
Much like that high school final in 2016, Lee recorded the match’s first takedown. He got some help from Red by way of stalling points. Tied 3-3 with 1:12 left in the match, Lee took the lead thanks to a second stall point. An escape with 37 seconds remaining was the point he needed to avenge that loss in a 5-4 win.
Brady Berge used two takedowns, but gave up a late reversal to Jordan Shearer at 149 pounds. However, Berge had enough scored before that for a 6-4 win.
“It’s good to see our guys win close matches. It’s good preparation for them to be in battles like that,” Sanderson said.
Jason Nolf took part in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup against Tyler Berger at 157 pounds. It was the fourth time the pair squared off, with Nolf dominating the first three — a technical fall and two major decisions.
Nolf, who was critical of his performance after the match, recorded four takedowns on Berger. However, the way Berger had wrestled Nolf in the past stuck in his head. Yes, Nolf won 10-4 and looked just as dominant than ever, but he was disappointed.
“I’m not upset with how hard I wrestled and my effort,” Nolf said. “I just had a little bit of different mindset. Subconsciously, I was focused on keeping my hands down and avoiding him from darting in (on my legs). He’s taken me down a couple of times because of that. I think I can open up a little bit more offense and still keep my hands low, so that’s what I’ll focus on.”
Nolf’s victory gave the Nittany Lions a 13-3 lead at the break as fans were treated to another great matchup out of the break.
Vincenzo Joseph made his return to the lineup after missing Penn State’s previous two duals. He took on Isaiah White, who almost derailed Joseph from winning his NCAA Championship last year.
Joseph won Sunday’s matchup by two points like that quarterfinals match last year. However, this time it was in regulation.
Joseph didn’t score until the third period as the entire second period he was in charge of keeping White from escaping. He did, and had two minutes of riding time in his favor.
“If they are not doing anything on bottom, it’s not that difficult,” said Joseph when asked to explain the difficulty of riding an opponent out. “I mean sometimes you just have to mat return a few times and break them down a few times. A guy that wants to get out and is going to work hard to get out for two minutes straight, it’s really hard.”
Joseph used that riding-time point and an escape in the third period for a 2-0 victory.
Mark Hall survived a hard-charging Mikey Labriola, who is a Pennsylvania native, at 174 pounds with a 5-3 win. Labriola was able to score the first takedown on Hall this year in a dual.
Shakur Rasheed was out of the lineup as he was “banged up” according to Penn State Sports Network’s Jeff Byers. Mason Manville filled in for Rasheed at 184 pounds, bumping up two weight classes.
Manville weighed in at 168 pounds and took on No. 5 Taylor Venz. Venz quickly took Manville down, but the Nittany Lion held his own and escaped to trail 2-1 after one period.
Venz led 3-1 to start the third period. Manville was in on numerous shot attempts but just couldn’t finish. In the end, Manville surrendered just a 6-1 defeat, which his coach applauded for the effort.
“I though Manville did a great job. He’s a guy we want to get experience,” Sanderson said. “There’s a great chance he’ll be a guy that’s in our lineup in the future. For Mason to go up two weights and battle, it’s good for him. It’s good for his confidence and great experience for him.”
Bo Nickal gave up an uncharacteristic late third-period takedown to Eric Schultz in their 197-pound match. Nickal won 8-6, but it was that takedown that made the score so close.
Anthony Cassar closed the dual out by earning a 10-4 win over David Jensen, who held a 45-pound advantage. Cassar recorded four takedowns — three alone in the third period. He could have recorded a fifth if there were five more seconds left on the clock.
“That is a strong team there,” Sanderson said of Nebraska. “We’ll focus on the positives. I think we can do better, but we can’t change what happened now. We’ll just try to figure things out and keep moving forward.”
No. 1 Penn State 25, No. 9 Nebraska 6
Sunday at Rec Hall
125: No. 13 Zeke Moisey, Neb., dec. Devin Schnupp, 6-1
133: No. 13 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, major dec. Jevon Parrish, 20-7
141: No. 6 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 19 Chad Red, 5-4
149: No. 10 Brady Berge, PSU, dec. Jordan Shearer, 6-4
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, PSU, dec. No. 2 Tyler Berger, 10-4
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, dec. No. 6 Isaiah White, 2-0
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, PSU, dec. No. 9 Mikey Labriola, 5-3
184: No. 5 Taylor Venz, Neb., dec. Mason Manville, 6-1
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, dec. No. 11 Eric Schultz, 8-6
285: No. 4 Anthony Cassar, PSU, dec. No. 14 David Jensen, 10-4
Takedowns: Nebraska 7, Penn State 24
Records: Nebraska 8-3, 2-2 Big Ten; Penn State 7-0, 3-0 Big Ten