UNIVERSITY PARK - On a day when one of Penn State's shining stars returned from suspension, a future star, a true freshman no less, stole the show.
The No. 1 Nittany Lion wrestling team won eight of 10 bouts and piled up a 34-3 advantage in takedowns to blow out No. 7 Ohio State, 31-6, Sunday in front of a sold-out Rec Hall crowd of 6,380.
Top-ranked 184-pounder Ed Ruth was back in the starting lineup, dominating as usual, after serving a month-long suspension as a result of his DUI arrest. But on this day, true freshman 141-pounder Zain Retherford served notice that he just may be the Lions' next superstar with his 4-2 overtime upset of two-time defending NCAA champion Logan Stieber.
"As a program, you just want to keep getting better each match. This is exciting, seeing Zain wrestle so well and our other freshmen and young kids. They're just going to keep getting better each match. That's part of the plan. I thought the guys really wrestled well," coach Cael Sanderson said.
The scary part for future opponents is the Nittany Lions did it without two starters - 149-pounder Andrew Alton and 157-pounder Dylan Alton - who are both still making their way back from offseason shoulder surgeries.
Ohio State coach Tom Ryan was especially displeased with his team's fight.
"Terrible. Our fight was embarrassing. Our fight was way below our standard of excellence," he said. "It's hard to pull something from that event that's positive. That hurt. That loss stings. That hurts. That was an ugly loss."
The ugliest, from the Buckeyes' perspective, came at 141.
Stieber, a junior who had been ranked No. 1, last loss on Feb. 12, 2012 against Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver.
Stieber started quick, hitting a single on Retherford for a takedown 40 seconds into the match. The Buckeye rode him for 53 seconds before the Nittany Lion could escape. Despite getting in on a single, which Stieber fought off, Retherford was called for stalling with 40 seconds left in the period, which ended with Stieber in control, 2-1.
Stieber chose bottom to start the second and Retherford rode him the entire period. Using a stifling leg ride from top, Retherford coaxed a stall call with 45 seconds remaining.
"Once I flattened him out I felt I was in control right there. I think he got a stalling call shortly after that and the crowd was going crazy on top of that," Retherford said.
"I definitely felt like I was in control in that position. That's a dominating position and I like to stay there working on top. That's where I feel comfortable."
With 1:07 in riding time advantage, Retherford chose neutral to start the third. He was in on a single a couple times, but couldn't finish and the match went into the sudden victory period tied, 2-2.
Retherford again got in on a low single and this time, with 17.6 seconds left in the 1:00 sudden victory period, he converted for the winning takedown.
"The first two shots I felt like I was forcing the finish a little bit. He had a real good whizzer on me. It just took a little bit of readjusting knowing that I when I was pulling he was looking for my ankles," Retherford said.
"The final takedown I got, instead of pulling I kind of pushed in a little bit. He ended up falling to his butt and I was able to finish the takedown."
The deafening roar of the crowd was easily the loudest of the season and one for the ages.
"That was awesome. I couldn't keep my emotions in check. It was exciting. It was really exciting," the freshman said.
"I don't remember how loud it was," Sanderson said. "We were all pretty excited. That was a great moment."
Ryan did divulge that Stieber had been fighting an illness for the past week and was overcoming some undisclosed injuries, but that was only after giving Retherford credit.
"There are a million excuses we could use. The bottom line is that Retherford tried harder than we did. That's it. He tried harder," he said.
"Hats off to Retherford. My belief is that Retherford just hopefully ensured that Logan wins his third national title. That's just what he needed."
Five of their other seven wins earned the Lions bonus points.
No. 3 125-pounder Nico Megaludis rolled up a 22-4 technical fall in 6:56 over former three-time PIAA champion Nick Roberts of North Star. No. 1 165-pounder David Taylor also scored a tech fall, 20-5 in 7:00.
No. 3 174-pounder Matt Brown (16-4), Ruth (14-3 over No. 12 Kenny Courts) and No. 12 heavyweight Jimmy Lawson (15-4) all earned major decisions.
Zack Beitz, filling in for Andrew Alton at 149, upset No. 19 Ian Paddock, 5-3, at 149. And James Vollrath, filling in for Dylan Alton at 157, used five takedowns to earn an 11-5 decision.
PSU has one more dual to look forward to after finals week, a 9 p.m. Saturday showdown at No. 3 Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
125-Megaludis, PS, tech. fall Roberts, 22-4, 6:56; 133-DiJulius, OSU, dec. Gulibon, 3-2; 141-Retherford, PS, dec.Stieber, 4-2 OT; 149-Beitz, PS, dec. Paddock, 5-3; 157-Vollrath, PS, dec. Languis, 11-5.
165-Taylor, PS, tech. fall Grandominico, 20-5, 7:00; 174-Brown, PS, maj. dec. Martin, 16-4; 184-Ruth, PS, maj. dec. Courts, 14-3; 197-Heflin, OSU, dec. Phipps, 3-1; 285-Lawson, PS, maj. dec. Tavanello, 15-4.
Records: Ohio State (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten); Penn State (6-0, 1-0).