The Nittany Lions were defeated by the three-time defending national champion Iowa, 22-13, before a capacity crowd of 6,686 who saw the Hawkeyes extend their unbeaten streak to 73 matches.
After losing the first two duals of the match at 125 and 133, Penn State needed freshman Andrew Alton (ranked No. 5) to earn a win in his 141-pound bout against Iowa's Montell Marion.
Alton appeared to be seconds away from securing a first-period pin only to see Marion break free and begin a furious comeback.
Marion, an NCAA finalist in 2010, was wrestling for the first time since being suspended from the team following a drunk driving arrest last May. He rallied for an 11-9 victory, giving the Hawkeyes a 12-0 lead, and they were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
I think some younger guys may have played into the crowd a little bit, said junior Frank Molinaro (No. 5), who won his 149-dual by decision, 10-3. Andrew went for that throw (in the first period) and that may have gotten him tired. He needs something like that to learn from.
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who fell to 0-5 in his career against Iowa, agreed with Molinaro's assessment.
Andrew's just gotta wrestle, Sanderson said. I'm not sure what was wrong tonight. He had his big move there and the refs could've called a fall, but that's not what happened. It looked like he wasn't ready to go.
The early hole proved to be too much for Penn State to overcome, as Iowa would bend but not break the rest of the match. Even with victories in 141, 149, 174 and heavyweight, Penn State could not gain the pins or bonus points required to overcome the double-digit deficit.
They came out and punched us in the face, Molinaro said, They needed to win one of those (first two) matches and they won both of them. That was like taking one of our legs out there. It was definitely an eye-opener for us.
Trailing 15-10 entering the 184 dual, Penn State needed junior Quentin Wright (No. 6) to defeat Iowa's Grant Gambrall (No. 16). With the White Out crowd imploring Wright, Gambrall sent the Nittany Lion faithful to the exits with a workmanlike, 8-3, victory.
Sophomore Ed Ruth (No. 2), who won his 174-dual, 10-3, over Iowa's Ethan Lofthouse (No. 13), said he and his team were extremely disappointed losing in front of Penn State's largest home wrestling crowd in more than 15 years.
I really am surprised by the result, Ruth said. The people were everywhere and it was something you could feed off. I just wanted to give them a good show, but getting down early definitely hurt.
(Our team) felt like they had a little more weight on their shoulders because we were down, Ruth added. The guys in the higher classes were like, 'We have to pick this up.' I think we'll be better prepared for it next time, though. It was definitely a good learning experience.
A visibly frustrated Sanderson preached that the next time his team is presented with a similar type of opportunity, it must seize the moment.
When you look at the tape it looked like Iowa wanted it more, Sanderson said. I'm not sure how that could be possible but that was the case tonight. Nothing teaches you a lesson like losing -- it shoves it right in your face. We have to stay positive, though. We're only inches away from where we need to be in March.
Here is a match recap:
#1 Penn State 13, #8 Iowa 22
January 30, 2011 - Rec Hall - University Park, Pa.
125: #2 Matt McDonough IOWA pinned Nathan Morgan PSU, WBF (4:16) 0-6
133: #10 Tony Ramos IOWA dec. #5 Andrew Long PSU, 3-2 0-9
141: Montell Marion IOWA dec. #5 Andrew Alton PSU, 11-9 0-12
149: #5 Frank Molinaro PSU dec. #15 Mark Ballweg IOWA, 10-3 3-12
157: #3 David Taylor PSU maj. dec. Derek St. John IOWA, 12-4 7-12
165: #14 Aaron Janssen IOWA dec. Jake Kemerer PSU, 6-2 7-15
174: #2 Ed Ruth PSU dec. #13 Ethan Lofthouse IOWA, 10-3 10-15
184: #16 Grant Gambrall IOWA dec. #6 Quentin Wright PSU, 8-3 10-18
197: #14 Luke Lofthouse IOWA maj. dec. Justin Ortega PSU, 17-6 10-22
285: #5 Cameron Wade PSU dec. Blake Raising IOWA, 1-0 13-22
Records: Penn State 13-1 (2-1 Big Ten), Iowa (11-0-1, 4-0 Big Ten)
Up Next for Penn State: at Michigan State, Fri., Feb. 4, 7 p.m.