Penn State Declaws Panthers in BJC Dual

On the strength of five straight victories to close the dual, the Nittany Lions downed Pitt 28-9 Sunday in front of an NCAA record 15,996 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center.

It's been this way for some time, where Penn State could struggle early and hammer late to roll along to another win. If Sunday's dual with No. 23 Pittsburgh wasn't at the Bryce Jordan Center, it simply would have been another day of overcoming adversity for the No. 2 Lions. But this one was a bit different.

Penn State overcame a 9-9 tie after the first five weight classes by steamrolling in the latter five with a pin, major, and three decisions to topple the Panthers 28-9 in front of an NCAA record 15,996 at the Jordan Center.

Who stood out and who surprised us? We break it all down below.

Fall of the Match: Leading late, James English seemed in perfect position to secure a victory in the 149-pound bout with Mike Racciato. But the Panther had other ideas, countering a low single takedown from English with a reversal of his own, before planting English on his back to score a fall with eight seconds to wrestle.

This would fit into the scramble of the match argument, too, as Racciato kept his hips up, which allowed him to fall on top of English, whose downfall started with a shot that was certainly open but perhaps one that didn't need to be taken so late in the match.

"I know I was just kind of like sitting with one of my hips up, and he just gave me pressure and I scooted out and flipped him on his back," Racciato said. "I don't really know exactly what happened."

Pitt head coach Jason Peters didn't think it was a special move that put his wrestler into position, but rather an ability to wrestle until the final whistle.

"I don't know if there was any specific move, I just think Mikey does a really good job of wrestling whistle to whistle, and giving himself a chance to win," Peters said. "When he's scrambling he's real dangerous. Penn State's guy took a shot, and he got his hips up and came out on top. It put some spark in us and it was good."

Close Second: If Racciato's fall at the 6:52 mark was the best of the day, Penn State's David Taylor provided a close second to deck Geno Morelli in the 165-pound bout.

The Lion had already staked out to a dominating 4-2 lead with plenty of riding time, but put the momentum back in Penn State's favor coming out of the break by catching and planting Morelli at the 3:09 mark. It gave State a 15-9 lead, and Pitt never got closer.

"The guy shot in, and I got a couple of tricks in there, and I put him on his back, and the ref called a pretty fast pin," Taylor said. "Maybe a little too fast, but I'm not really complaining about it.

"I was in pretty good position, I liked where I was, but my biggest thing is I'm the best when I'm in flurries and creating action, and good things happened today and good things usually happen when I'm in those flurries, so that's a positive."

Taylor said he was aware that his team needed a spark.

"We needed it today," he explained. "We needed to get back in the match. Some crazy stuff happened there in that first few matches, but we have a pretty solid team from top to bottom, and it's going to take more than a little adversity to beat us. Every bonus point matters."

Man of the Match: It's true that Taylor was the Ridge-Riley Award winner, but we'll tip our cap to 184-pounder Wes Phipps, who clinched the dual for the Lions with a 13-3 major over Pitt's Aaron Rothwell.

It was surprising not to see Panther's No. 6 Max Thomusseit take the mat, but a Friday night injury forced him out. Phipps was dominant throughout, scoring five takedowns while grabbing a 4:29 riding time advantage.

Sunday's dual may be the final for Phipps this year, as two-time defending NCAA champ Ed Ruth is likely to return for State's upcoming dual next Sunday with Ohio State. If so, the redshirt freshman finished on a high note, fully aware of the situation.

"Ruth will be coming back here pretty soon, so it was kind of my last little hoorah. So I just wanted to go out there, it was a big stage, and have fun," Phipps said. "The coaches said go out there and score points. I just won a match in Boston the same way, kind of getting some takedowns and tried to replicate it."

As most of the Lions were, he was thrilled by the opportunity to wrestle on a raised platform at the BJC, which is similar to the NCAA finals.

"I thought it was sweet," he said. "It's a lot like NCAAs with the big stage raised up, and it makes a pretty sweet sound whenever you pick a guy up and slam them down on it."

Crowd Pleasers: Though the eye-balled attendance probably didn't equate, and while Iowa will likely regain it in two weekends when Penn State travels to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Penn State did set an NCAA all-time dual meet attendance record Sunday by packing 15,996 into the Bryce Jordan Center.

Some had worried the atmosphere wouldn't compare to the intimacy of Rec Hall, but by our eyes and ears, everything worked out just fine. That's not to mention a fantastic national anthem from a 12-year-old State College native who may have stole the day.

"I think that's very exciting," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said of wrestling at the BJC. :.We were hoping, and they were working behind the scenes to make it possible, but that's a great deal for our program. I just hoped we wrestled an exciting enough style that made it worth everybody's time.

"They were just trying to figure out how they could get more people in the building, because the tickets were sold out Monday. So they had to use staff and different people to make it a possibility. I'm sure the record will get beat in two weeks, so we'll have to break it (again) sometime."

Quotable/Notable: Asked if his team is wrestling the way he'd like it to, Sanderson said: "We can wrestle a little better, just more focused in what we're trying to do. Not trying to just win matches, but trying to dominate more. That's my concern right now. But you've got to build off of something, and I think our guys will get better as the season goes along. That's something we feel our teams do, and this team won't be an exception to that.

"More standing around than we'd like to see. Even if you're moving but just standing around, you might as well just stand there. You have to have a purpose in what you're doing each second of the match. That's something we need to work on as a program, but I think our guys, winning is not really the best measuring stick. It's more performance and how you use it every second of the match."


• Sanderson said Tuesday that Jimmy Gulibon would wrestle both bouts this weekend for Penn State at 133-pounds, but Sunday the Lions sent Jordan Conaway to center circle instead. Sanderson said Gulibon, who lost 1-0 Friday at Boston, was not feeling well, which led to the change. Conaway lost 5-2 to Pittsburgh's No. 17 Sheldon Mack less than 24-hours after winning the Thunder Wolves Open in New York, where he was also tabbed the most outstanding wrestler.

• Morgan McIntosh wrestled with a sleeve or tape over his right elbow in a 4-3 tiebreaker victory over Nick Bonaccorsi at 197-pounds. But he said it's nothing to be concerned about. The redshir sophomore said it was precautionary after he hyper extended his elbow prior to the Rider dual which started the season.

• Zain Retherford mounted quite the ride in a 3-2 victory over Edgar Bright at 141-pounds. The true freshman came to University Park with a fine riding style already in place, but showed it Sunday by riding Bright for the entire third period, which handed him 1:49 in riding time and thus a point to earn the victory.

• Penn State returns to action next Sunday when Ohio State comes to Rec Hall for a noon dual slated to be televised by the BTN. It marks the Lions' final home dual of the 2013 portion of their schedule.

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