UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State 125-pounder Nico Megaludis joked after the Northwestern match that he had been getting a bunch of forfeit wins lately.
There was no forfeit on Friday night at Rec Hall. What he did experience was a huge win and sweet revenge.
In a rematch of last year's NCAA finals, Megaludis defeated Illinois' Jesse Delgado, 5-4, avenging the 7-4 loss in the finals, thrilling the sellout crowd of 6,480 and kickstarting the top-ranked Nittany Lions to a 31-3 win over the 11th-ranked Fighting Illini.
While many were celebrating Megaludis' win, he wasn't about to start jumping up and down.
"I want to do it when it matters," he said. "He's got the thing I want, and I want to take it, so it's going to be more satisfying when I do it."
But, he definitely was looking forward to the bout for a long time.
"There's not a day that passes that I don't think about that," Megaludis said. "I've been waiting 10 months for it, but the bigger things are yet to come."
After a scoreless first period at 125, Megaludis struck first, hitting a switch and scoring a reversal. Delgado escaped, but Megaludis managed to take Delgado, a funky wrestler who is excellent in flurries, down to take a 4-1 lead. Delgado escaped, and Illinois coach Jim Heffernan called for a video review.
Referee J.R. Johnson, with mat judge and former Juniata Valley head coach Jim Rivello at his side, determined that Megaludis did indeed get a takedown.
"I guess that is what he relies on with me," Megaludis said of Delgado's funky style, "because most guys aren't going to attack him, but I am. I'm not going to take away my offense just because he's dangerous and has a good offense."
"Those guys get into some crazy scrambles," PSU coach Cael Sanderson said.
With the score at 4-2 entering the third, Delgado (14-2) reversed to tie the score. Megaludis (20-2) escaped with 55 seconds left in the third and he fought off a Delgado single-leg takedown attempt, going off the mat with 12.7 seconds left. When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the crowd roared in appreciation.
Everything else seemed anticlimactic after that as the Lions (11-0) bolted to a 13-3 halftime lead after five bouts over the Illini (6-5), who had two wrestlers ranked in the top 8 out of the lineup, and swept the remaining weights.
"I think we wrestled okay," Sanderson said. "I think we need a little more urgency. That's a tough team. They're very tricky. They're masters of rolling under and catching those ankles. It seems like every one of their guys did that, so that's obviously something we need to spend some time working on. I don't think we used every second of all of our matches tonight."
A 15-3 major decision by unbeaten freshman Zain Retherford (21-0) at 141 and decisions by Zack Beitz (149) and Dylan Alton (157) were included in that stretch.
The only PSU loss was Jimmy Gulibon's 3-1 overtime loss to Zane Richards at 133. Richards took Gulibon down with 27.9 seconds left in overtime.
Even David Taylor (21-0) didn't look like his dominating self at 165 in an 11-3 major decision of Jackson Morse, who caught Taylor offbalance and took him down in the second to make it 5-3. Taylor reversed 40 seconds into the third and tilted Morse twice late in the bout for four nearfall points.
"I don't know what David was doing," Sanderson said. "I was trying to figure that out too. Maybe he got frustrated or something. I know he's not real happy with his performance, and he shouldn't be. He still finds a way to get a major at the end of the match, which I don't know how he pulled that off."
At 174, Matt Brown (21-1) rolled to a 12-2 major decision of former Central Dauphin stud Tony Dallago. Brown hit a five-point move at the end of the first, and only the buzzer saved Dallago. Brown had a near takedown at the end of the second, which wasn't called, infuriating Sanderson, who yelled his displeasure at Johnson.
PSU 184-pounder Ed Ruth (20-1), whose figurine wasn't handed out to fans as they walked in, earned a 14-3 major decision of Nikko Reyes. Ruth scored nine points in the final period.
Morgan McIntosh (20-2) followed with a 10-3 decision over Jeff Koepke at 197. Jon Gingrich, stepping into the 285-pound weight class after Jimmy Lawson was injured against Northwestern, earned a 6-1 win over Chris Lopez.
"He hasn't wrestled in several weeks," Sanderson said of Gingrich, "but he did what he does. He controlled the tieup and hit some nice shots. I think he wrestled well."
Notes: The Lions wrestle next Friday at Michigan State, but aren't home again until Feb. 16 against Oklahoma State. ... Sanderson said the 149-pound weight class is still uncertain. He hasn't ruled Andrew Alton out as a starter there. ... The final margin of victory was the closest since the 24-12 win over Iowa on Dec. 21
125-Megaludis, PS, dec. Delgado, 5-4; 133-Richards, I, dec. Gulibon, 3-1 OT; 141-Retherford, PS, maj. dec. Fahy, 15-3; 149-Beitz, PS, dec. Ervin, 4-2; 157-D. Alton, PS, dec. Brunson, 5-2.
165-Taylor, PS, maj. dec. Morse, 11-3; 174-Brown, PS, maj. dec. Dallago, 12-2; 184-Ruth, PS, maj. dec. Reyes, 14-3; 197-McIntosh, PS, dec. Koepke, 10-3; 285-Gingrich, PS, dec. Lopez, 6-1.
Records: Illinois (6-5 overall, 0-4 in Big Ten); Penn State (11 overall, 5-0 in Big Ten).