UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In the end it certainly was not what the NWCA had hoped for with its marquee matchup in the first edition of the Bowl Dual Series on the final weekend of the regular season.
Oklahoma State, coming off a win over North Carolina on Friday night, showed up at Rec Hall barely two hours before weigh in, bringing with them heavy hearts for a teammate not in attendance and minus another starter. Top-ranked Penn State (16-0) showed no mercy, picking up pins from Nico Megaludis (125), Jason Nolf (157), and Morgan McIntosh (197), plus a technical fall at 174 by Bo Nickal in a 29-18 Nittany Lion victory in front of 6,575.
“I think overall we wrestled pretty good against a good team, a solid team,” said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. “Obviously when you are wrestling for the national dual championship you are going to wrestle a good team. This is a big deal to us; we want to win the dual championship, but it’s more about getting ready, as we move forward, for the Big Ten’s and nationals, about getting our guys where we want them to be at this point.”
The aforementioned PSU foursome are a combined 100-3 this season. Throw in 149-pounder Zain Retherford, a 4-1 winner over Anthony Collica on Sunday, and PSU has a group of five with a standard of 125-3. Retherford, Nolf, and McIntosh are all unbeaten with Nickal owning just one loss in 2015-16. Even with a full lineup, the Cowboys (12-3) knew Sunday was a tough task.
“We kind of knew that with the lineup we were bringing, it was going to be really tough,” OSU head coach John Smith said. “If you can’t bring your best lineup, you’re immediately working from behind.
I’m a little disappointed in the pins. We should do a better job, regardless of who’s out there. Getting pinned is a pride issue. We gave three up? It’s been a long time since we’ve given three pins up.”
Freshman Joe Smith (27-3 at 157) did not make the trip, nor did 174-pounder Chandler Rogers, an upset winner over second-ranked Ethan Ramos of UNC on Friday. The Rogers family suffered a tragic loss on Saturday with the passing of Bill Rogers, father of Chandler and Jordan Rogers. PSU officials held of moment of silence before the dual meet got started on Sunday.
Megaludis (24-2) beat Eddie Klimara for the fifth time in five meetings, turning a not-yet-finished takedown into a neutral position pin at the 3:58 mark of the opener. Senior Jordan Conaway improved to 22-3 with an 8-4 win over Gary Wayne Harding at 133 pounds and the hosts were out front 9-0 after two bouts.
“I don’t like to show a lot of emotion,” said Megaludis, a senior and three-time All-American. “Rec Hall … my last match, it’s pretty cool. I haven’t been the biggest pinner in the world; my first match here against Bloomsburg I got a pin, and then this. It is kind of special.”
“I could tell that everyone was really excited for this match and all season it is a lot of fun following Nico,” said Conaway, a senior. “He goes out there and sets the pace really hard. I wasn’t expecting (the pin), everyone was going nuts, so I had to hurry up and get ready to go. He just sets the pace for the rest of the match and I try to continue that.”
OSU tried to get into the dual with a tough 9-5 win by Dean Heil (24-1) over Jimmy Gulibon at 141 pounds, but the Nittany Lions rebounded with back-to-back victories at 149 and 157 pounds. Retherford (25-0), a sophomore, scored an early takedown, rode out the second period, and controlled Collica throughout. Nolf (26-0) had little trouble with Ryan Blees, filling in for Smith. The talented rookie totaled nine takedowns before scoring the fall at the 6:32 mark to put the Big Ten hosts up 18-3 halfway through the dual.
The visitors won three of the last five bouts, but the two PSU victories salted the meet away. Nickal (26-1) cruised past backup 157-pounder Heston Lamons, 17-2, and McIntosh (24-0) cradled rookie Andrew Marsden for a fall at 1:59 for a 29-14 margin.
“It was a different atmosphere today,” McIntosh said after his final Rec Hall match. “It is always a special place, but today, to me at least, it seemed a little different than usual. I agree with Conaway, I was trying not to think about this being my last match here, trying to put it aside until after the season, but it was nice, a nice way to go out.”
Nolan Boyd and Matt McCutcheon were locked in a 4-3 match at 184 pounds when McCutcheon, injured earlier this season, could not continue due to another injury.
OSU senior Alex Dieringer (24-0) moved his win streak to 74 with an easy 17-2 technical fall at 165 pounds. He enters his final postseason with a career record of 125-4. Austin Marsden (24-2) fashioned the final score with an 18-6 major decision of Jan Johnson at 285 pounds. PSU rookie heavyweight Nick Nevills, back last weekend from a preseason injury, did not suit up. He competed at an Open tournament on Saturday.
The Bowl Dual Series concludes on Monday with North Carolina State visiting Carver-Hawkeye Arena and unbeaten Iowa and Edinboro visiting 2015 NCAA champion Ohio State. A Hawkeye win and the debate as to who is the best dual team in 2015-16 will continue into March.
“This is something that can grow,” said Smith of the National Duals format that continues to evolve. “I think we ought to put even more importance on it. If Penn State is the best team in dual meets this year there should be points carried over into nationals. It just becomes that much more important. Maybe then Joe Smith wrestles today if that is the case.
“I think we’re all worried about injuries, but hell, football has to deal with it every week. They gotta go play. If they’re missing their quarterback, they still gotta go play. I would like to see maybe in the future that we recognize that dual meets are exciting and when you put some importance on them, carry over some points to the NCAAs, I think we’ll find ourselves in a much better place.”
Sanderson also weighed in on the new duals concept.
“I think it’s a solid concept,” Sanderson said. “I like the idea. I don’t think this is the time of year you have a huge tournament. I think one match is great. It seemed like there was some controversy in who wrestled who. That obviously doesn’t need to be a part of the process. You’re either in or you’re out of the process.
“That was kind of the fun part. We didn’t know who we were going to wrestle.”
The best tournament team will be determined in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, March 17-19.
No. 1 Penn State 29, No. 3 Oklahoma State 18
125-Nico Megaludis (P) pin Eddie Klimara, 3:58
133-Jordan Conaway (P) dec Gary Wayne Harding, 8-4
141-Dean Heil (O) dec Jimmy Gulibon, 8-4
149-Zain Retherford (P) dec Anthony Collica, 4-1
157-Jason Nolf (P) pin Ryan Blees, 6:32
165-Alex Dieringer (O) tech fall Geno Morelli, 17-2 (4:36)
174-Bo Nickal (P) tech fall Heston Lamons, 17-2 (4:39)
184-Nolan Boyd (O) by injury default Matt McCutcheon
197-Morgan McIntosh (P) pin Andrew Marsden, 1:59
285-Austin Marsden (O) maj dec Jan Johnson, 18-6