UNIVERSITY PARK - Second-ranked Penn State lost four of the first five weights against fourth-ranked Minnesota, but with three weights to go, the match was tied and the Nittany Lions still had a shot to beat the Golden Gophers.
But that's when the Gophers kicked it into gear again.
PSU's defending 184-pound national champion Quentin Wright was upset by Kevin Steinhaus, 6-1, and second-ranked 197-pounder Sonny Yohn scored a late takedown to beat freshman Morgan McIntosh, 4-3. Third-ranked Tony Nelson finished off PSU's fourth-ranked Cameron Wade, 5-0, to secure a stunning 23-14 win before 6,277 fans and Big Ten Network cameras at Rec Hall Sunday afternoon.
"I think the score pretty much summed it up," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. "We had some glimpses of some good wrestling, and we're very optimistic about what we can do this season. I think our two true freshman [Nico Megaludis and McIntosh] did a nice job, and it was exciting to see those guys continuing to fight throughout the match. But, really, they just beat up on us today."
"It feels similar [to the Iowa loss last year]," PSU's top-ranked 165-pounder David Taylor said. "You only get so many opportunities to go out there, and then when you let it slip away, it's frustrating. But we moved on last year and we were national champs, and I know we're going to move on from this one, and we're going to be national champs this year. I still believe we're the best team in the country, and we're only going to get better."
The Gophers (1-1), who had nine wrestlers ranked in the top 10, limped into the match coming off of a 21-16 loss to Cornell Friday. But, the Gophers, who tied the Lions, 18-18, last year, wrestled like they had something to prove against Penn State (1-1), especially early on.
Megaludis battled second-ranked 125-pounder Zach Sanders, but Sanders' experience and riding ability earned him a 6-2 win over the three-time state champion from Franklin Regional.
Minnesota dominated in the next two weights. Seventh-ranked David Thorn earned a 14-5 major over Derek Reber, who suffered an ankle injury but finished the 133-pound bout. At 141, 10th-ranked Nick Dardanes took Sam Sherlock down eight times en route to a 19-6 major to give the Trojans an 11-0 lead.
PSU's top-ranked 149-pound Frank Molinaro led fifth-ranked Dylan Ness, 5-0, after two periods and was up 10-4 in the third, but Ness reversed and added two takedowns to pull within two, 12-10, but Molinaro pulled away to win, 16-10.
"I think I wrestled pretty good up until that last 30 seconds when I lost my composure," Molinaro said. "That kid fought the whole match, and I think I let up for 30 seconds, and he did a good job of scoring points. I've got to close that match out in the future."
At 157, PSU's 11th-ranked Dylan Alton and UM's ninth-ranked Jake Deitchler went to the third tied, 3-3, but the Gopher notched two takedowns in the final period and had riding time to win, 9-4. The Gophers, in fact, earned a riding time point in six of the 10 bouts.
"They're a good team, and they ride hard and do a nice job," Sanderson said, "but we can't be ending periods on bottom. We had a lot of guys ending periods on bottom, and that's not a good sign for us."
The home crowd, silent due to the 14-3 score, got something to cheer about in the next two weights. NCAA runner-up Taylor racked up a 16-1 technical fall in 4:29 over eighth-ranked Cody Yohn at 165, and Ed Ruth pinned Alex Ortiz in 3:28 with a cradle to fire up the crowd and tie the score, 14-14.
But Steinhaus took Wright down twice to get the win. Steinhaus beat Wright in the dual meet last year, but Wright beat him at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
"Steinhaus is very tough, very consistent and solid from all three positions," Sanderson said. "It's just a matter of Quentin deciding if he wants to win that match because it's going to be a tough match every time."
The powerful McIntosh took Sammy Yohn down with about 14 seconds left to take a 3-1 lead, but Yohn immediately escaped and took the 10th-ranked McIntosh down with 8 seconds left to win, 4-3.
"That's just experience," Sanderson said. "[McIntosh] will be fine. Coming out on a big scramble with a very good scrambler just shows he has a lot of ability."
Nelson parlayed a reversal, takedown and riding time into a shutout of Wade to close it out.
The Lions will work on getting better before they host the Penn State Open Dec. 4. Then they travel to Lehigh on Dec. 9, and host West Virginia on Dec. 11. The match with top-ranked Iowa, by the way, looms on Jan. 22.
"It's a really long season," Molinaro said, "so better we make mistakes now than in March. I'm confident these guys will be better."
Notes: Former four-time All-American and 2008 NCAA champion Phil Davis, now an MMA fighter, signed autographs after the match. ... There's a new rule that gives your opponent the choice of position if you take an injury timeout. ... There were TV timeouts every third bout. ... The Gophers were missng ninth-ranked Logan Storley at 174.
125-Sanders, M, dec. Megaludis, 6-2; 133-Thorn, M, maj. dec. Reber, 14-5; 141-Dardanes. M, maj. dec. Sherlock, 19-6; 149-Molinaro, PS, dec. Ness, 16-10; 157-Deitchler, M, dec. D. Alton, 9-4.
165-Taylor, PS, tech. fall C. Yohn, 16-1, 4:29; 174-Ruth, PS, pinned Ortiz, 2:28; 184-Steinhaus, M, dec. Wright, 6-1; 197-S. Yohn, M, dec. McIntosh, 4-3; 285-Nelson, M, dec. Wade, 5-0.
Records: Minnesota (1-1); Penn State (1-1)