UNIVERSITY PARK - Many of the fans attending the clash between top-ranked Penn State and fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Sunday afternoon at Rec Hall arrived late because of a massive traffic jam on Atherton Street.
The Nittany Lions actually started a little late.
After Oklahoma State's Chris Perry knocked off Matt Brown, 4-3, in an epic six extra periods in a rematch of last year's 174-pound NCAA finals to give the Cowboys a three-point lead, the Lions swept the last three bouts, including Ed Ruth's pin of Nolan Boyd in 5:41 at 184 pounds, to outlast the Cowboys, 23-12, before a rowdy 6,571 fans at Rec Hall.
"They won some close matches that we would have like to have obviously have won," PSU coach Cael Sanderson said, "but that's a good team too. These guys did a great job. Nico [Megaludis] did a great job [in an 11-7 win win over Eddie Klimara]. He fell behind, kept plugging away and did what he does. Ed got the pin, which was much needed at that point."
"Yeah, we ran out of horses," Cowboys coach John Smith said. "You just hate to coach to keep the score down. I felt like the last three matches left a bad taste in your mouth and you're coaching to keep your opponents from scoring."
The 174-pound was a treat for wrestling fans and a survival challenge for the combatants. Perry scored the opening takedown at the edge of the mat out of a flurry that Brown started. PSU fans, already ticked at referee Mike McCormick's admitted blown fleeing the mat call in the loss at Minnesota, booed the ref loudly for the latest call.
Brown escaped in the first and then again in the second to tie the score, 2-2. Brown went ahead with 28 seconds left in the second on a stalling point. Perry escaped in the third to tie the score, 3-3.
They then went through the first overtime and they rode each other out in the 30-second tiebreakers. Brown couldn't find a way to escape with Perry wrapped around his neck in the first rideout and the second - much to the dismay of the home crowd. Perry escaped in the final 30-second period, and Brown couldn't take him down. OSU led, 12-9.
"I think it was very similar to the match they had in the past," Sanderson said. "This time, Matt came out and tried to score right away and ended up in a long scramble and giving up a takedown at the edge. He made up for it by earning a stalling call. Obviously, he's got to figure how to get off the bottom. Perry is very tough when he throws that head and arm and gets a leg in. But, I'm optimistic about Matt's chances."
"It's a tough win on the road," Smith said. "I don't think we had by far our better match. Chris didn't seem that alert, and he seemed to get set in a mode that this was going to be tough and it would take a one-point win. But, it's important to find a way to win on the road."
Ruth tried very hard throughout to cradle Boyd, but the Cowboy fought it off numerous times. Ruth reversed in the third to make the score 12-4, hooked up the cradle, put Boyd on his back and got the fall as the crowd roared its approval.
"My neck was starting to hurt, so I just really pulled hard," Ruth said.
Asked how he thought Boyd's neck was feeling, "I hope it hurts," Ruth said with a smile.
Asked if he was thinking about bonus points going into the bout, Ruth revealed some information not many outside of the program knew about the senior:
"Not really, I was thinking about my daughter," he said. "She makes me happy."
Ruth says he has an almost 2-year-old daughter named Jade born on May 13 of 2012.
With the Lions (14-1) now holding a 15-12 lead, Morgan McIntosh lengthened the lead with a 16-2 whipping of Kyle Crutchmer, salting the dual meet win away. Jon Gingrich finished it with a 14-5 major decision of Ethan Driver at 285.
The dual meet didn't start well for the Lions as Megaludis found himself down 4-1 to Klimara at the end of the first and 5-1 in the second. Megaludis then turned it up a couple notches, scoring four takedowns from there to win, 11-7.
"I was just in my own little zone," Megaludis said. "I had five minutes left and I wanted to take it to him and make him pay. Sometimes crazier things happen, and you've got to expect it. I had a lot of time to score. You have to take it second by second, as Coach Cael says. Five times 60 is 300 seconds left after I was down."
The Lions got two more decisions from Zain Retherford (141) and David Taylor (165). Taylor's 5-2 win over former NCAA runner-up Tyler Caldwell was stunning in that Taylor got ridden out in the third and didn't get bonus points again.
"He's healthy," Sanderson said. "I think we need to rest him up a little bit to get him ready for the end of the season just so he has more pop. That's likely the kid he'll see in the national finals, assuming they both make it and both wrestle well. David will have his pop in March, no question."
That led to the drama at 174 amid the loud, electric atmosphere at Rec Hall.
"I thought it was great," Sanderson said of the atmosphere. "I thought our fans did a great job. It was loud most of the time. This is an opportunity for our guys. If you go out there and push the pace, the crowd is going to get behind you.
125-Megaludis, PS, dec. Klimara, 11-7; 133-Morrison, OS, dec. Gulibon, 2-0; 141-Retherford, PS, dec. Collica, 2-0; 149-Kindig, OS, dec. Beitz, 5-3; 157-Dieringer, OS, dec. D. Alton, 6-4.
165-Taylor, PS, dec. Caldwell, 5-2; 174-Perry, OS, dec. Brown, 4-3 OT TB2; 184-Ruth, PS, pinned Boyd, 5:41; 197-McIntosh, PS, maj. dec. Crutchmer, 16-2; 285-Gingrich, PS, maj. dec. Driver, 14-5.
Records: Oklahoma State (9-5); Penn State (14-1)