Led by five falls, including one from senior Bryan Pearsall at 141 pounds, the Nittany Lions cruised in a meet where they allowed just one takedown, while racking up 30 of their own in a dominating final performance that celebrated the final home meet for six seniors.
“They’re the ones that got everything started here, and they’re the ones that bought into the system,” Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said of his six member Penn State senior class.
“That’s obviously huge, to have guys on board, and they did a great job. It’s tough. Senior night is always tough, because it’s a celebration of their career and where they’re at.
“But we’re focused on being the national and Big Ten champions, and there’s a lot of wrestling left to do. It just won’t be at Rec Hall.”
Nico Megaludis kicked off Sunday’s action with an early second period fall against Patrick Skinner at 125 pounds, ultimately the winning points for the Nittany Lions (12-1, 7-1) in a bout they never trailed. Jordan Conaway followed Megaludis with a 19-5 major decision at 133 pounds, setting the stage for Pearsall to ride out of Rec Hall for the final time with a roaring ovation. The senior decked Rob Cigna in 2:01 with a cradle he quickly tightened up in the center of the mat.
“I don’t think it’s sunken in yet 100 percent yet,” Pearsall said of wrestling his final home match.
“I was just looking for an opening, because the goal is to get a fall every match. It would have been nice to get some more mat time, but I saw an opening, and got the fall.”
After Andrew and Dylan Alton rolled through their respective matches at 149 pounds and 157 pounds with a major decision and decision to grow Penn State’s lead to 23-0 at halftime, David Taylor came to the mat at 165-pounds, and surrendered the Nittany Lions’ first takedown to Rider’s No. 20 Ramon Santiago off the opening whistle. But Taylor would recover, and deck the Bronco at 3:48 of the second period, starting a three pin run for the Nittany Lions, as Matt Brown, and Ed Ruth, too, both picked up falls at 174 and 184 pounds, respectively.
“Riders got some good kids in there, and though the score didn’t look very good, they have some good kids,” Sanderson said. “Dylan especially had a tough, physical kid who did a real nice job of getting his hands on Dylan and trying to control the tie-ups. But Dylan did what he needed to do, and hit some nice shots.”
Wright then grappled in his final bout at Rec Hall, earning a 12-4 major decision at 197-pounds, and Penn State finished off the shutout with a 3-0 decision from Jimmy Lawson at heavyweight, with the sophomore accruing 3:46 in riding time against the Broncos’ Greg Velasco.
“It’s not finalized, but we’re working on it, and we’ve been giving Lawson the nod in the last few,” Sanderson said of the heavyweight spot, which has been in flux for most of the season.
“That’s probably a pretty good indicator of what we are doing. We know these guys pretty well, and feel Lawson will be at his best in the big matches, and that goes a long way.”
James English (149 pounds), Andrew Church (174/184 pounds), Nick Fischer (157/165 pounds), and Derek Reber (141 pounds) joined Wright and Pearsall as graduating wrestlers taking part in their last home meet at Rec Hall. English, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, has yet to decide if he will use it.
And while those six were celebrated throughout by a sell-out crowd of 6,532, it was not lost on Sanderson and co. that there is still work to do. Penn State will travel to Piscastaway, N.J. next Sunday to take on Rutgers, before heading into Big Ten and National tournament action in March. But if just for a few minutes after Sunday’s match, there was time to celebrate.
“You’ve got to have a team. They’re the support team, and everyone has a role. You need them and their attitude, and to always be ready to step up and step in,” Sanderson said.
“You got to have team. It isn’t won with 10 guys, it’s won with 30, 30 good guys that are all on board , pushing each other. And 30 guys worth of enthusiasm and working toward a goal, bringing that attitude every day to get these guys ready. You want good people, and good hard workers, and guys that love Penn State and the program.”