UNIVERSITY PARK - Soon after his hand was raised for beating Pitt's 12th-ranked Tyler Nauman, Penn State's top-ranked Frank Molinaro did a running high five with many of the fans with matside Rec Hall seats, including new football coach Bill O'Brien.
It was the last dual meet of the regular season, so Molinaro, a senior and three-time All-American who got the most applause in a pre-match senior day ceremony for the Nittany Lions, thought the high fives were a good way to celebrate.
"That was cool," Molinaro said. "I planned before the match on doing that. The fans have been great here. It's such a great opportunity since I've been here. We've got the best coaching staff, great workout partners. I've gotten so much better as a wrestler and as a person, so I'm thankful for that."
Molinaro, who beat Nauman, 5-2, is one of only two senior starters for the second-ranked Lions. The other one - 285-pounder Cameron Wade - pinned Joel Yahner in 3:56 to finish off a 33-6 win over the ninth-ranked Panthers on Sunday before 6.755 at Rec Hall.
"We lost two matches that we would have liked to have picked up," PSU coach Cael Sanderson said, "but overall, the team wrestled pretty well. Two weeks from the Big Ten [Championships] and your eyes are on the end, and then you've got a match before that.
"These guys had a lot going on with their senior day, which is a real special day, so I think the guys did a nice job. [Pitt] is a tough team, and they came out wrestling hard."
The Lions (13-1) were without second-ranked 174-pounder Ed Ruth for the second straight match. Sanderson said it was more a "precautionary" move to rest an undisclosed injury.
"It's just kind of a nagging injury that we don't want to take a chance on," he said. "I think [it happened] before the Michigan match, and he wrestled through it."
The dual meet started with PSU's Nico Megaludis taking Anthony Zanetta down in the second sudden death overtime to win, 4-2.
Pitt 133-pounder Shelton Mack, who upset Tyrone graduate A.J. Schopp in Friday's match against Edinboro, got tested, oddly enough, by Frank Martellotti, who has been struggling this season. Martellotti led 3-1 in the third, but Mack took him down and rode him the rest of the way for a riding time point and a 4-3 win.
At 141, PSU's Bryan Pearsall trailed Travis Shaffer 6-0 in the second and 6-3 in the third when the Lion junior hooked up a cradle with time winding down, rocked Shaffer to his back and got the pin with 3.2 seconds left in the bout. The crowd erupted in celebration and gave Pearsall a standing ovation.
Nauman missed three takedown attempts against Molinaro in the first period before getting a takedown with 15 seconds left. But Molinaro quickly escaped and took him down with 2 seconds left. Molinaro added an escape and riding time point to win, 5-2.
"I would have liked to have dominated a little more in that match," Molinaro said, "but I'll take that as a good reminder of how bad I want to win. I wasn't going to let that kid take that match away."
The 157-pound bout between PSU's Dylan Alton and Pitt's Donnie Tasser got a little heated. Up 5-1, Alton pushed Tasser, and Tasser received a penalty point from referee Mark Sigmon. After winning 5-3, Alton barely shook hands with Tasser, and Tasser through his headgear when he was off the mat. Alton wasn't available for comment afterward.
"When the refs are involved, that kind of gets things stirred up," Sanderson said. "I don't think we have anything against Pitt. I think they're a great program, but that makes it more fun for everybody."
The Lions led, 15-3, over the Panthers (14-2) going into halftime. During halftime, O'Brien spoke to the crowd and referenced the intense matches before the break.
"I'm too fired up to talk after watching those first five matches," he said to the delight of the crowd.
The Lions won four of the last five bouts, including major decisions by top-ranked David Taylor at 165, Matt Brown at 174 and a second-ranked Quentin Wright at 184. After Morgan McIntosh dropped a 4-3 decision to fourth-ranked Matt Wilps, Wade put the exclamation point on the day by pinning Yahner.
Wade was asked afterward senior day had set in for him.
"It probably won't set in for me for a couple months," Wade said. "Once I start coming back and watching my friends like David, the Altons and the younger guys, I think that's when it will set in."
125-Megaludis, PS, dec. Zanetta, 4-2 OT SV; 133-Mack, P, dec. Martellotti, 4-3; 141-Pearsall, PS, pinned Shaffer, 6:57; 149-Molinaro, PS, dec. Nauman, 5-2; 157-D. Alton, PS, dec. Tasser, 5-3.
165-Taylor, PS, maj. dec. T. Wilps, 20-9; 174-Brown, PS, maj. dec. Headlee, 12-2; 184-Wright, PS, maj. dec. Vaughan, 12-2; 197-M. Wilps, P, dec. McIntosh, 4-3; 285-Wade, PS, pinned Yahner, 3:56.
Records: Pitt (14-2); Penn State (13-1).