UNIVERSITY PARK - Matt Brown is one of those Penn State wrestlers you hardly ever hear about because of who's in front of them on the depth chart.
Brown, a redshirt freshman who spent the last two years on a Morman mission after starting his career at Iowa State, sits behind second-ranked Ed Ruth at 174. If he went at 165, he'd have to deal with top-ranked David Taylor. If he moved up to 184, he'd have to deal with defending national champion Quentin Wright.
Actually, in one four-hour practice during Thanksgiving break, Wright dealt way too much with Brown, whom the Bald Eagle Area graduate was happy to praise after the second-ranked Nittany Lions beat 12th-ranked Michigan, 34-7, Sunday afternoon at Rec Hall.
"That day, he just broke me," Wright said. "It was after I lost to Minnesota and I had to learn how to get off the bottom, and they put Matt Brown on me. I had to get out 10 times or something, and it took me 120 minutes. It was terrible, but he's a tough kid.
"I was just laying down there, and I just didn't want to get up, but Coach [Cael Sanderson] was like 'You're not leaving until you get out.' Brown wouldn't let me go until I put the effort into getting out."
Brown has wrestled the last two dual meets at 197 - two weights above his normal weight - to give freshman Morgan McIntosh's gimpy knee a rest. He beat Nebraska's James Nakashima, 2-1, Friday, and then he knocked off Michigan's 15th-ranked Max Huntley, 3-1.
Brown came out of a flurry with 6.7 seconds remaining for a takedown of Huntley, and when the final second ticked off the clock, the crowd of 6,671 erupted in its approval of the backup.
"That was pretty awesome," Brown said. "It's the first time I've wrestled in front of Rec Hall, and it was great."
Brown's win really didn't surprise any of his teammates.
"He's a beast," 157-pounder Dylan Alton said. "A lot of people don't know what they're getting into when they wrestle Matt Brown. Your neck is sore at the end of two periods. To wear someone out that weighs 20 pounds more than you is so hard, and he did it twice in one weekend."
"Matt's definitely a versatile wrestler," Ruth said. "He can wrestle any way he wants to, and whoever he wrestles, their neck is going to hurt."
Their admiration of Brown can even be found in the team's nickname of him.
"We call him Captain America on our team," Wright said. "He's like a super hero practically. We had a turbulance coming home on the plane [from Nebraska], and [Justin] Ortega realized we didn't see Matt Brown anywhere during all of this. So, we figured he must have went in there and took over for the pilot."
The Lions' win gave them a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with Minnesota with a 7-1 conference record. The seven wins are a new record for the Lions, who are 11-1 overall. After the match, the team was presented a trophy for its accomplishment.
"I didn't know there was a duals title, to be honest with you," Sanderson said. "I don't know how many years they've been doing that, but it's a great honor any time you win a Big Ten title."
Halfway through the dual meet, the Lions held a 10-7 lead. Nico Megaludis opened at 125 by taking Gene Pizzo down 10 times and managed to accumulate a 3:19 riding time advantage in a 22-10 major decision.
But Michigan's 16th-ranked Zac Stevens beat Frank Martellotti, 11-7, at 133, and top-ranked Kellen Russell majored Bryan Pearsall, 12-2, at 141.
Top-ranked Frank Molinaro was given the Ridge Riley Award for his 6-1 win over Eric Grajales in a rematch of last year's Big Ten Tournament 149-pound final. Molinaro scored two takedowns in the first period and added an escape and riding time point, and he exhorted the crowd after his hand was raised.
"Frank had a big win out there, and he kind of got things going," Sanderson said.
The sixth-ranked Alton found a challenge in unranked Brandon Zeerip. They were tied, 4-4, in the third when Alton escaped and made that stand up in a 5-4 win.
After Taylor rang up a technical fall and Ruth earned a 12-1 major decision to give the Lions a 19-7 lead, Wright, for the second home meet in a row, hit a left-handed headlock. Soon after he caught Hunter Collins with it, Wright got the pin in 3:22.
"It was there," Wright said, "so I went for it."
After Brown's win, Cameron Wade finished the night by pinning Ben Apland in 3:58 at 285.
The Lions only have two dual meets left - Saturday at small-school Utah Valley and Feb. 19 at home against Pittsburgh.
"We're all just trying to wrestle hard," Molinaro said. "When you wrestle hard, like in [Brown's] match, those kind of things happen."
125-Megaludis, PS, maj. dec. Pizzo, 22-10; 133-Stevens, M, dec. Martellotti, 11-7; 141-Russell, M, maj. dec. Pearsall, 12-2; 149-Molinaro, PS, dec. Grajales, 6-1; 157-D. Alton, PS, dec. B. Zeerip, 5-4.
165-Taylor, PS, tech. fall Yates, 15-0, 5:25; 174-Ruth, PS, maj. dec. J. Zeerip, 12-1; 184-Wright, PS, pinned Collins, 3:22; 197-Brown, PS, dec. Huntley, 3-1; 285-Wade, PS, pinned Apland, 3:58.
Records: Michigan (6-4 overall, 4-3 in Big Ten); Penn State (11-1 overall, 7-1 in Big Ten).