UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State 285-pounder Jon Gingrich is quickly developing a reputation for being a giant killer.
On Dec. 9 - the last time he was in the lineup for a dual meet - the Bald Eagle Area product knocked off Indiana's eighth-ranked Adam Chalfant. Gingrich, who has apparently locked up the starting role after eliminating Jimmy Lawson, struck again on Sunday afternoon at Rec Hall.
Gingrich hit fourth-ranked Mike McClure with a four-point move in the third period to win, 5-3, and secure the top-ranked Lions' 41-0 win over the Spartans before 6,353 appreciative fans. The Lions have beaten Indiana and MSU in the first two Big Ten matches by a combined 93-0.
"I kind of like it," Gingrich said of facing another ranked wrestler. "It's more of a challenge. Coach Cael says 'You have to have gameness.'"
"That was just an awesome opportunity for him to go out and wrestle the fourth-ranked guy in the country," 149-pounder James English said. "He just took it too him. That was an awesome match. Gingrich is just a monster.
Checking out the lineup before the match, it appeared the Spartans' best shot for a bout win would be at 285. But, Gingrich wasn't going to be denied. Especially, with the score tied, 1-1, in the final period, when he shot in on a double-leg attempt, took McClure down right to his back and got four points out of the move. The crowd, kind of quiet for most of the meet, roared its approval.
"I'm not one to get excited too often," English said, "but I was on my feet, practically on the mat, telling the ref to count the back points."
McClure escaped and was given a stalling point, which drew loud boos, but Gingrich's big move earned him the win and the Ridge Riley Award for the biggest victory.
"It was pretty crazy," Gingrich said. "It reminded me a lot of the Indiana match with the explosion of cheers. That feeling you can't replace with anything else."
The Lions were wrestling without Andrew Alton and Dylan Alton at 149 and 157, respectively, because they're serving a 30-day suspension because of the pre-Christmas fight they were involved with in Lock Haven. The twins, who graduated from Central Mountain, were cited for disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and harassment on Dec. 21.
Their replacements, English at 149 and James Vollrath at 157, have been performing admirably since making the lineup. Vollrath finished second at the Southern Scuffle, and English placed third. Both win their bouts Sunday.
English earned a 6-0 win over Dan Osterman (14-6), and Vollrath took previously unbeaten and 19th-ranked David Cheza (6-1) down with a strong double-leg shot with 10.2 seconds left to win, 6-4.
"I'm prepared for everybody I wrestle," Vollrath said. "I just go out there and wrestle my match. The Scuffle was definitely a confidence booster for me. In the finals, I didn't wrestle as well as I wanted to, but I know what I have to work on to get better."
"They're both tough kids," PSU coach Cael Sanderson said. "They had tough opponents, and they had to wrestle well. They both did a great job."
The dual meet opened with Nico Megaludis' 19-6 major decision over Brenan Lyon, who clearly wanted no part of PSU's second-ranked 125-pounder. A decision by Jordan Conaway at 133 and a major decision by Bryan Pearsall at 141 set the stage for English and Vollrath.
The Lions (5-0) led 17-0 at the break, and the lead quickly expanded in the second half as PSU's most talented wrestlers took over. Second-ranked David Taylor (165) and top-ranked Ed Ruth (184) both had pins in 1:37, and third-ranked Matt Brown rang up a 23-7 technical fall in 6:17. Third-ranked Quentin Wright earned a 13-4 major decision at 197 to set the stage for his fellow BEA graduate Gingrich.
Gingrich will have more opportunities to beat ranked opponents as the starter.
"Each guy on our team has to keep earning their spot," Sanderson said, "but he's carrying the ball right now."
125-Megaludis, PS, maj. dec. Lyon, 19-6; 133-Conaway, PS, dec. Fitfield, 7-2; 141-Pearsall, PS, maj. dec. Trumble, 10-2; 149-English, PS, dec. Osterman, 6-0; 157-Vollrath, PS, dec. Cheza, 6-4.
165-Taylor, PS, pinned Proctor, 1:37; 174-Brown, PS, tech. fall Wohlford, 23-7, 6:17; 184-Ruth, PS, pinned Rizqallah, 1:37; 197-Wright, PS, maj. dec. Jones, 13-4; 285-Gingrich, PS, dec. McClure, 5-3.
Records: Michigan State (4-6 overall, 0-3 in Big Ten); Penn State (5-0 overall, 2-0 in Big Ten)