Penn State Wrestling: Molinaro, Wade Win Final Matches in PSU Careers as Penn State downs Pittsburgh, 33-6
Cameron Wade and Frank Molinaro both started their Penn State wrestling careers at Rec Hall with victories, and both ended their careers in the old wresting hall in the same victorious way that they started, as Wade and Molinaro won two of Penn State's eight bouts in a 33-6 victory against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
"For the most part, we had a lot of fight," coach Cael Sanderson said. "We lost two matches we would have liked to pick up, but overall the team wrestled well, especially two weeks from the Big Tens when your eyes are on the end."
Trailing 4-3 after two bouts, the match shifted in Penn State's favor for good when Bryan Pearsall, trailing 6-0 going into the third period, completed a frantic sequence with less than a minute left that started with a take down and ended with a pin of Pittsburgh's Sheldon Mack at the 6:57 mark.
"I feel like I've had some tough matchups here at Rec Hall, and I've had some of my better matches on the road, so a lot of fans didn't get to see those, Pearsall said. "So it was good to get that one in Rec Hall on Senior Night."
Pearsall has certainly had his work cut out for him since taking over the 141 pound slot at the beginning of January, and it appeared his matchup with Travis Shaffer was a winnable one, though not after the first two periods. Shaffer scored a quick takedown to take a 2-0 lead and then rocked Pearsall for two nearfall points before the first period horn to take a 4-0 lead. Shaffer then scored another takedown to start the second period, putting Pearsall in a 6-0 hole.
However, the Penn State junior never gave up, and after locking in a cradle late, his fall with three seconds left sent the 6,755 in attendance at Rec Hall into a frenzy of celebration.
"I really didn't know how much time was left, but I knew I had to pin him right there, and when the ref blew the whistle I just released a ton of emotion," Pearsall said. "And then when I looked up, I was like 'Wow, that was close.' "
Nico Megaludis gave Penn State a 3-0 lead to start the dual with a sudden victory takedown in the seventh period of a 125-pound bout to beat Anthony Zanetta, ranked 15th in the nation, 4-2.
"I can't remember the last time I wrestled that long, but I wasn't tired, and maybe that's saying something. I should have penetrated more of my shots and shouldn't have taken it that long," Megaludis said. "It's good to get that kind of win, but it was definitely an ugly win, and not my style of wrestling. It's something to learn from, and I knew he was going to keep it tight, but I can't let that happen again."
One of two marquee bouts on the match sheet saw No. 1 Frank Molinaro knock off Pittsburgh's 12th-ranked Tyler Nauman, 5-2.
After a late first-period flurry that saw Nauman strike first with a takedown of Molinaro only to have the Penn State senior escape seconds after and notch a take down of his own, Molinaro escaped to give himself a 4-2 lead in the second period and rode Nauman out the entire third period to earn a close victory.
"I would have liked to dominate more, but that quick takedown at the end of the first showed how bad I wanted to win," Molinaro said. "I wasn't going to let him take that away from me."
After his victory, Molinaro shook hands with many Rec Hall fans as a victory lap of sort, something he said he had planned.
The rest of the bout went as expected, with Dylan Alton, David Taylor, Matt Brown, Quentin Wright and Wade all notching victories. Brown filled in for Ed Ruth again this weekend as Ruth continues to nurse an unspecified injury.
"Ed has a nagging injury, and we don't want to turn it into a full-blown injury, so we've been giving him some time off," Sanderson said. "We know he'll be hungry going into the Big Ten tournament, and that's where we want him to be."
Morgan McIntosh was the only other Nittany Lion not to pick up a victory, as he dropped a hard fought 4-3 bout with Pittsburgh's fourth-ranked Matt Wilps. However, Rec Hall was not subdued for long, as Wade put an exclamation point on the match, the regular season and his final bout in Rec Hall with a dominating performance that ended with a fall of Joel Yahner at the 3:56 mark of the second period.
"I just need to keep what I've been doing going, and hopefully that rolls into the postseason," Wade said. "I think a lot of wrestling is mental, and you have to be mentally strong, and I feel like I am now and I feel good about what I'm doing."
Neither Wade nor Molinaro said it has sunk in yet that they have wrestled their final match at Rec Hall.
"I think it will sink in once I come back next year and watch a lot of these guys I've wrestled with still wrestling," Wade said.
As for Molinaro, he said it will sink in a few months from now.
"For me, I think it will sink in once I sit down and relax for a little bit, and really have time to think back on it."
Penn State will now begin preparation for the Big Ten tournament at Purdue in two weeks before going onto the NCAA National Tournament in Indianapolis.
- Penn State won the takedown battle, 22-5, and scored nine bonus points.
- Sanderson said that Ruth was involved in and agreed with the precautionary approach they have been taking that resulted in sitting him out the last two matches. Sanderson also noted that the injury has nothing to do with Ruth's prior knee injury.
- Football coach Bill O'Brien was introduced to the crowd at the halftime intermission and was obviously intrigued by the match, saying, "I'm too fired up to speak right now, this has been great." O'Brien received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech, which ended by him saying how excited he, his staff, and the players were to start spring practice.