UNIVERSITY PARK - Before Penn State's final home dual meet of the season, against Rider, a Division I school in Lawrenceville, N.J., the Nittany Lion seniors were recognized and celebrated before 6,532 Sunday at Rec Hall.
And then the Lions, ranked third in the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Coaches Poll, went out and pounded the Broncs.
The Lions recorded five pins, including a first-period pin by senior Bryan Pearsall, and three major decisions, including a 12-4 win by senior Quentin Wright, and routed the Broncs, 48-0, for their fourth shutout of the seaon.
In addition to Pearsall and Wright, James English, Andrew Church, Nick Fischer, Derek Reber and manager Taylor Durci were recognized before the meet. English as just awarded a sixth-year of eligibilty, but he hasn't decided if he'll return.
"They're the ones that bought into the system, and that's obviously huge. You've got to have guys on board," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. "Senior night is always tough. I'm never going to see Quentin Wright wrestle in Rec Hall again. That's a bummer. I'm never going to see Pearsall [wrestle in Rec Hall].
But, it's a celebration of their career. We're very happy for them, and where they're at. There's still a lot of wrestling to do, but they won't be in Rec Hall anymore."
"I've been blessed with great teammates and great coaching staff," Wright said. "Everything has just been a dream these past four or five years. There's been a lot of ups and downs and all-arounds. It was a lot of fun. It's probably going to hit me next home next year. You're now allowed to go back and weigh in. I didn't think I'd ever say that. It will hit us later on because we're still in national title mode."
Joining Pearsall in the pin parade were Nico Megaludis with a fall in 3:48 at 125, David Taylor in 3:48 at 165, Matt Brown in 4:06 at 174 and Ed Ruth in 2:38 at 184.
"I was just looking for an opening," Pearsall said. "Obviously, I wanted to get the fall. It would have been nice to get a little mat time out there, but I saw an opening, and I had to take it."
"I like to see our guys looking for pins, especially at this time of the year," Sanderson said, "because that's what is going to win the national championship. It's going to be pretty even if everybody just wins. I think that's what separated us from the rest of the pack the last two years."
Penn State (12-1), as always, had a big advantage in the takedowns category. The Lions held a 30-1 advantage, and the one the Broncs (10-7) got was against the second-ranked Taylor. Ramon Santiago, ranked 20th, took him down right off the whistle, but in the second period, Taylor stuck him quickly with a bar-arm and half nelson.
Dylan Alton had one of the toughest bouts of the afternoon, earning a 5-2 at 157 win fifth-year senior Zac Cibula, who is unranked but won four Wisconsin state titles. Alton had two takedowns in the first two periods, but he was pushed by the physical Cibula.
"He had a tough, physical kid," Sanderson said, "and the kid did a real nice job of getting his hands on Dylan and trying to control the tieup. Dylan did what he needed to do. He hit some nice shots. Rider has some good kids in there. The score didn't look very good, but it's a good match for us this time of the year. Dylan definitely wrestled one of their better kids."
Dylan's brother, Andrew, hit a four-pointer right away against Curt Delia and earned a 12-4 major decision at 149. Jordan Conaway (133) also had a major decision.
The other decision came at 285, where Jimmy Lawson earned a 3-0 win over Greg Velasco to close out the meet. Lawson appears to have taken over the 285-pound spot from Jon Gingrich, who won some big bouts earlier in the season.
"It's not finalized," Sanderson said, "but we're working on it. We've been giving Lawson the nod the last few matches, and I guess that's a pretty good indicator of what we're doing."
Notes: Penn State will close out the dual meet season next Sunday at Rutgers. ... The Lions had wrestled Rider twice before, beating the Broncs 41-0 in the 2007 Virginia Duals and 38-3 in the 2003 Virginia Duals. ... After the press conference, the Lions were whisked off to an autograph session with very long lines.
125-Megaludis, PS, pinned Skinner, 3:48; 133-Conaway, PS, pinned Schupin, 19-5; 141-Pearsall, PS, pinned Cignay, 2:01; 149-A. Alton, PS, maj. dec. Delia, 12-4; 157-D. Alton, PS, dec. Cibula, 5-2.
165-Taylor, PS, pinned Santiago, 3:48; 174-Brown, PS, pinned Brundage, 4:06; 184-Ruth, PS, pinned Wolfe, 2:38; 197-Wright, PS, maj. dec. McNeil, 12-4; 285-Lawson, PS, dec. Velasco, 3-0.
Records: Rider (10-7), Penn State (12-1).