Penn State Wrestling: Nittany Lions Bring Determination in Hard-Fought Win over Iowa
Wrestlers don't like coincidence. Everything must have a reason, a purpose, a clear, defined meaning as opposed to be decided by luck.
With that being said, it wasn't just coincidence that Penn State earned a hard-fought, 22-12 victory over Iowa Sunday at Rec Hall. And it wasn't coincidence that Iowa won the first three bouts before Penn State rolled out seven straight victories.
It wasn't coincidence, either, that Penn State beat Iowa at home for the first time since 2007, and it wasn't coincidence that a fired-up Nittany Lion club, in front of a standing-room-only house, handed Iowa its second consecutive dual loss for the first time since 2006.
Rather, it had determination written all over it, a desire to fight until the final horn, score when the opponent had only defense on its mind, and unite the 6,796 in attendance in loud applause with takedown after takedown.
"It's a big match for us and our program, and gives us something we can keep building on," head coach Cael Sanderson said of his first-ever win over Iowa.
Penn State had a 16-12 lead heading into the final two bouts, and electricity started flowing through Rec Hall as row after row, section after section, began to realize that a victory by true freshman Morgan McIntosh over Iowa's Grant Gambrall would clinch the Lions victory.
Gambral scored the lone first-period takedown early in the period to give him a 2-0 lead, but McIntosh answered before the first three minutes were up with a reversal to tie the match at two. Each earned an escape through the final two periods, McIntosh to start the second and Gambrall to start the third. That brought Rec Hall to its feet for a sudden-victory overtime period.
"Coach always tells us we have to wrestle the entire match, so that's what I tried to do. And I knew I wanted to try and score on his reshots and get the corner and get a takedown that resulted in the win," McIntosh said.
The action never left the center circle in the deciding period, as a quick flurry and a scramble ended with McIntosh's slipping around Gambrall for the winning takedown. That resulted in a leap of joy from the Penn State corner, and an eruption so loud it could have been heard at Beaver Stadium.
"I was just wrestling as hard as I could to get that W," McIntosh said. "That was the coolest feeling I've ever had, just the noise and the atmosphere and everybody cheering loud. I won't forget that for a long time."
The 19-12 team score that came with the decision sealed the deal for the Nittany Lions regardless of what heavyweight Cameron Wade did. He won, anyway, defeating Blake Rasing, 4-0, to close things out.
It was a rough start for the Nittany Lions, as Nico Megaludis led off with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to second-ranked Matt McDonough in sudden victory. Iowa followed with a pin from Tony Ramos of Frank Martellotti at 4:20, and a Montell Marion decision over Bryan Pearsall, 7-3, to give Iowa a 12-0 lead. That was similar to the one the Hawkeyes had a year ago against the Lions after the first three bouts.
This was no repeat of last year, though. Before the intermission, Penn State climbed back within six after a pair of decisions from Frank Molinaro and Dylan Alton. And David Taylor gave Ed Ruth a chance to take the lead when he pulled Penn State within three points, 12-9, with a 9-4 decision over Mike Evans.
Ruth didn't miss his opportunity, turning Evan Lofthouse four times and earning two penalty stalling points to earn a 10-1 major decision that put Penn State in front for good. Quentin Wright added to the lead with a decision of his own, setting the stage for McIntosh.
"It's an awesome feeling to wrestle with a bunch of guys who give it their all," Wright said.
Penn State won seven of ten bouts, winning the takedown battle, 18-10, and surrendered just two in the final seven matches.
"It's satisfying to get this victory, because it's been a long time since Penn State beat Iowa here at Rec Hall. We broke that top there and got over that peak."
- Turning attention away from the match and onto the passing of Joe Paterno, Frank Molinaro and Cameron Wade revealed they both met Paterno as part of a recruiting trip their senior year of high school. "We went to meet Joe Paterno, and I didn't think we were going to get to say hi or anything, but just see him," Molinaro said. "But I saw him, and he shook my hand and got down in a wrestling stance and said, 'Try to take me down.' I was scared; I was only a little kid."
- When Minnesota beat Penn State at Rec Hall in the Nittany Lions' second dual meet of the season, it came after Minnesota turned in a lethargic effort two nights before at Cornell. With Iowa losing Friday night to Ohio State, it would certainly seem like a similar scenario could be forming, with Iowa winning the first three matches. "That crossed my mind for a second, but it's just coincidence, and we have to take care of ourselves and focus on what we're going to do and make it real simple," Sanderson said.
- Penn State didn't score its first takedown until the 149-pound match, where Frank Molinaro scored two in the first period en route to an 11-5 victory over Mike Kelly.
- Penn State will return to the mat next Sunday, when it will host Ohio State at 2 p.m.