The Lions opened their Big Ten dual schedule against Ohio State, and while many expected the 141-pound clash to be of interest, it was the 197-pound expected bout between Penn State's No. 3 Morgan McIntosh and the Buckeye's No. 5 Nick Heflin that most anticipated. The latter never happened, but the former certainly filled in fine in its place.
Penn State true freshman and eighth-ranked Zain Retherford upset Ohio State's No. 1 Logan Stieber 4-2 in sudden victory to electrify the venerable building en route to a 31-6 State stomping of the visitors. The Lions improved to 6-0 this season, while the Buckeyes fell to 4-1.
Man of the Match: Easily, it is Retherford. The Benton, Pa., product came to University Park known as a bull on top, even if riding time means nothing in high school. It meant plenty Sunday.
Retherford handed Stieber, a two-time national championship, his first loss since falling to former Oklahoma State standout Jordan Oliver in Feb. 2012. For his efforts, the State grappler was named the Ridge Riley Award winner.
"He just did a great of staying calm and just kept wrestling through all the positions," PSU coach Cael Sanderson said. "He was relaxed and ready to go, and that's exciting to see that because that's what the great wrestlers have.
"They're calm and relaxed, but ready and confident and not worried about who they're wrestling. They are going to do the best they can and plan on winning, that's what Zain did."
Close Second: Andrew Alton was not yet ready to go at 149 pounds for State, meaning either James English or Zack Beitz would get the nod to battle Ohio State's No. 19 Ian Paddock.
Beitz was the man Sunday, and after allowing Paddock to escape to start the second, he took the Buckeye down with a counter shot to take a 2-1 lead, and later added a reversal before fending off a late flurry of Paddock shots to win by decision, 5-3.
"It was definitely exciting to see a teammate take down a No. 1 ranked guy," Beitz said of following Retherford's triumph. "It was encouraging to go out there and know that. It made it fun.
"Nothing out of the ordinary really," he added when asked about his preparation. "Just going hard in practice, keep the pace high, hit your stuff and go hard."
Match of the Meet: We'll circle back to Retherford for this nod, a fitting context as the freshman turned in and drove through Stieber to snare the deciding takedown in sudden victory. Of course, there was more to it than that.
The Buckeye opened the scoring with a high single he finished to take a 2-1 lead in the second, where he chose to start the period down. Retherford threw legs in, as he so often does, and mounted a ride for the ages. In full, he rode Stieber for the entire period, erasing all of Stieber's riding time then adding to his own to enter the third with 1:07, enough to clinch overtime if he needed to. A video review at the request of Ohio State coach Tom Ryan upheld a call on the mat that Retherford did not clasp his hands during the ride, and after a scoreless third, the match did indeed go to sudden victory tied at 2-2.
"I'm pretty confident with legs. I always ride legs; that's what I'm known for on top," Retherford said. "I don't throw them in unless I feel pretty confident that I can ride. The crowd helped a lot I think today and it worked out for the best.
"Maybe a little bit," he added when asked if he thought the ride had a psychological affect on Stieber. "But he obviously came out hard in the third period. He's a tough wrestler himself."
It took Retherford just 20 seconds to gain control of one on Stieber's ankles, and 10 seconds later, he had completed the takedown. Sanderson said he wasn't sure if it was the loudest he's ever heard Rec Hall, but that the championship banners above the mat were moving as the noise grew said all that needed to be said.
Business as Usual: With Ed Ruth back in action after a one month suspension, State's second half rolled along as usual. David Taylor kicked it off with a 20-5 technical fall over Joe Grandominico at 165 pounds before Matt Brown majored Mark Martin by a final of 16-4.
Ruth then took the mat for the first time this season at Rec Hall (he was out due to a suspension after being charged with DUI), and proceeded to batter old practice mate and Harrisburg native Kenny Courts 14-3 at 184. Later, Jimmy Lawson continued his push to solidify himself as a heavyweight title contender by scoring a major of his own, 15-4, over OSU's Nick Tavanello.
The only loss State suffered after intermission came at 197, where Wes Phipps dropped a 3-1 decision to Heflin while filling in for McIntosh. Sanderson said afterward that McIntosh, who is dealing with an elbow issue, could have wrestled if State needed him.
"Phipps got another great opportunity to go compete, and he was right there in that match," Sanderson said. "Comes down to a takedown in the third period; when you're wrestling a bigger guy you have to put some things together and try to trick them.
"His opponent is pretty savvy, really tough with scoring those takedowns. Phipps is getting some great experience and that's exactly what he needs."
• 6,380 packed into Rec Hall for the noon meet, marking the 14th straight home sell-out.
• Both Taylor and Ruth secured over five minutes of riding time. Taylor rode for 5:37, while Ruth controlled Courts for 5:09.
• Penn State won the takedown battle, amassing 34 to Ohio State's three.
• With three third-period takedowns, Lawson now leads the team in third-period takedowns with 11.
• Penn State returns to the mat Dec. 21 when it travels to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to take on Iowa at 9 p.m. The dual is slated to be televised on the Big Ten Network.