Jan. 31, 2011

By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There's something special about Big Ten duals in Rec Hall. For big matches like these fans pack the stands with rally towels, WE ARE t-shirts and digital cameras charged and ready. Two referees gather around the middle of the floor as all the lights around the gym go down and only the Nittany Lion emblem on the middle of the blue and white mat is illuminated.

Sunday's dual between the top-seeded Nittany Lions and the No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes was one of the most anticipated Big Ten wrestling matches of the 2010-`11 season. Penn State entered the dual with a program-best record start to their season at 13-0, and the Hawkeyes came to Rec Hall on an unbeaten streak of 72-consecutive dual wins.

However, only one of the two teams could keep their winning status alive. With a final score of 22-13, Iowa spoiled the No. 1 Nittany Lions undefeated season and in turn earned its 73rd consecutive dual win.

In front of a sold out crowd of 6,686 in Rec Hall, the Hawkeyes started things off early as they captured wins in the opening three bouts of the dual. Reigning national champion Hawkeye Matt McDonough made a statement at the very start of the dual as he pinned Nittany Lion Nate Morgan at 125, who was making his 2010-`11 season debut on the mats. No. 2 McDonough delivered six takedowns, five of which Morgan was able to escape from to make the score 13-5 before McDonough turned Morgan on his back and forced his lower body upright to win by fall.

Iowa picked up its first six dual points in less than five minutes of wrestling, but Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said that he didn't think the loss did enough damage to count the Nittany Lions out completely.

"I think they expected that," said Sanderson. "You know when you have a defending national champion there [McDonough] I know as a team we were hoping that Nate wouldn't get pinned obviously but McDonough's a tough kid and he's going to pin a guy. I don't think that was a huge surprise."



What came next, however, was not expected. The Nittany Lions only won four of the nine bouts that followed the opening match-up. What's more is that three ranked Penn State wrestlers were upset by lower-ranked Hawkeyes. At 133, No. 5 Nittany Lion Andrew Long fell to No. 10 Hawkeye Tony Ramos in a 3-2 decision. One bout later, Iowa's All-American Montell Marion upset Penn State's No. 5 Andrew Alton at 141 in an 11-9 decision. After just three bouts, the Nittany Lions found themselves behind the Hawkeyes in a dual score of 12-0.

Before the two teams headed to intermission, Penn State answered back with two hard fought wins from Frank Molinaro at 149 and David Taylor at 157. Molinaro notched four takedowns in his match against Iowa's Mark Ballweg to win by decision with a score of 10-3 while Taylor rendered four takedowns and a reversal of his own over Hawkeye No. 14 Derek St. John to earn a major with a score of 12-4.

With a dual score of 12-7 in favor of Iowa going into the break, the Nittany Lions knew that their heavier weights were going to be the deciding factor in the match. However, Penn State came up short winning only two of the next five bouts. While No. 2 Ed Ruth secured a victory at 174 over Iowa's Ethen Lofthouse with a 10-3 decision and No. 5 Nittany Lion Cameron Wade inched past Hawkeye Blake Raising with a score of 1-0, Penn State wrestlers Jake Kemerer, Quentin Wright and Justin Ortega were not so fortunate.

Sanderson said that his team was going to have to really wrestle their best after the intermission if they were going to come out on top, but the fire that they needed never came.

"I knew we were in trouble and that we needed a little magic or something," said Sanderson. "We needed something to happen, but you know we didn't create any magic and that's what we needed. We needed something at 184 obviously. Quentin's an All-American and we needed him to go out there and give us his best effort."

The Penn State head coach said that he knew Sunday's match was not going to be as easy of a win as everyone expected it to be.

"We knew Iowa was good," said Sanderson. "I mean especially in a dual meet they're solid from top to bottom. They're good kids. A lot of those kids have a history of wrestling each other and even if we were ranked ahead of them, their history they were still back and forth so I mean that's a good, good team."

"They're just tough kids you know," said Sanderson. "It's tough to turn a good wrestler. You've got to be creative, you've got to be mean and they're obviously well-coached. They know what they're doing. They come in here and they're ready for each individual."

Although coach Sanderson and his top-ranked Nittany Lion were indeed upset by the No. 8 Hawkeyes, he said that this does not mean that anyone should count his team out in the grand scheme of things. Sanderson said that this match will be used more as a motivation to be better, work harder and get back to business.

"It's just a great learning tool for us," said Sanderson. "Nothing teaches you a lesson more than losing because it just shoves everything right in your face so now we'll see how we respond."

Continue reading "Hawkeyes Hand the Nittany Lions Their First Loss of the Season"