The stakes were high and the buzzing was loud heading into the much-anticipated matchup between No. 2 Penn State and No. 7 Nebraska last Friday night.
The Lions’ recent lineup changes were still fresh and many thought with Nebraska’s talented lineup, which includes nine ranked wrestlers, it was the perfect recipe for an upset. A record-breaking Nebraska crowd put Penn State up to the ultimate test, but the Lions were able to prevail with a few bonus-point wins and an upset to seal the deal.
It kicked off with a toss-up match between two unranked lightweights. Penn State needed to start off with a win, especially against Nebraska’s sole unranked wrestler. Brandon Meredith held the match to 1-1 until the end of regulation and it went into sudden victory. NU’s Alex Thomsen used body control early in sudden victory to score a takedown and end the match.
No. 3 RBY came up big with a major decision at 133 over No. 13 Ridge Lovett to put Penn State ahead in the team score 4-3. No. 2 Nick Lee extended that lead with another major over No. 8 Chad Red.
Nebraska halted Penn State’s momentum at 149, where we’ve seen unranked Jarod Verkleeren come up big against ranked opponents in the past. No. 14 Collin Purinton held the lead after two 3-1. Verkleeran narrowed in on his lead with an escape in the third and desperate for a takedown for the upset, tried to counter a Purinton shot. The scramble ended in a devastating fall in favor of the Huskers and gave them a 9-8 lead.
Bo Pipher ran out of gas at 157 against No. 11 Peyton Robb, but was able to hold the damage to a decision and extended the Husker lead 12-8 headed into the break.
No. 1 Vincezo Joseph came out with a look of determination on his face. He knew what he had to do. Previously, he’s matched up pretty evenly and had close scores with No. 6 Isaiah White, but not Friday. Joseph exposed White and proved his own stamina maintaining control for most of the match and scoring late in the third for a 5-1 victory.
No. 1 Mark Hall took to the mat with a similar look. He met No. 6 Mikey Labriola and went right to work with a takedown, but NU threw the challenge brick and it was reversed (although both announcers agreed there wasn’t just one but two instances where Hall could’ve been given the takedown). Hall remained calm and collected and went right back to work. He had a 6-1 lead late in the third and was cutting Labriola loose in pursuit of bonus points. Hall took a low shot, scrambled and came up with the takedown. Then we worked in on a cradle and got the pin with just 8 seconds left in the bout. Penn State took back the lead 17-12.
No. 6 Aaron Brooks and No. 19 Shakur Rasheed both dropped their bouts in decision losses, seeming to lack the finish factor at the end of individual periods. So, the final showdown at heavyweight would decide the winner with the team score at 18-17 Nebraska.
Unranked newcomer Seth Nevills looked to follow his brother’s footsteps and make a name for himself in the weight class as he took on No. 15 Christian Lance. Both wrestlers seemed to match up in talent, but Lance had the experience as a senior and Nevills only a freshman. The two battled evenly for the first and ended 0-0. Nevills controlled Lance for the entire second period, clinching riding time. Nevills escaped to a 1-0 lead early in the third and fought off two solid shots from Lance and was able to notch a takedown late to end the match 4-0 and lead the Lions to victory.
Penn State is in for another test next week, in fact, its biggest test of the season as they head to Iowa City to face the No. 1 Hawkeyes. The match starts at 9pm on Friday night and will be televised on BTN. Iowa has a total of eight ranked wrestlers, all falling in the top ten of each of their weight classes. The Lions head home to Rec Hall to meet Maryland on Sunday at 2pm.
BOUT BY BOUT:
125: NU Alex Thomsen dec. PSU Brandon Meredith, 3-1 (SV)
133: PSU No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young maj. dec. NU No. 13 Ridge Lovett, 11-3
141: PSU No. 2 Nick Lee maj. dec. NU No. 8 Chad Red Jr., 9-1
149: NU No. 14 Collin Purinton pinned PSU Jarod Verkleeren, WBF (5:50)
157: NU No. 11 Peyton Robb dec. PSU Bo Pipher, 5-3
165: PSU No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph dec. NU No. 5 Isaiah White, 5-1
174: PSU No. 1 Mark Hall pinned NU No. 6 Mikey Labriola, WBF (6:52)
184: NU No. 8 Taylor Venz dec. PSU No. 6 Aaron Brooks, 9-5
197: NU No. 8 Eric Schultz dec. PSU No. 19 Shakur Rasheed, 3-1
285: PSU Seth Nevills dec. NU No. 15 Christian Lance NU, 4-0