Conaway’s upset highlights Lions’ romp

UNIVERSITY PARK – For some, the prevailing opinion is Jordan Conaway is just holding down Penn State’s 133-pound spot until four-time state champion Jimmy Gulibon comes off of his redshirt year next season.

That might be true, and there is evidence to support that theory in that Gulibon placed at the Southern Scuffle while Conaway didn’t. But if Friday night is any indication, Conaway isn’t going to give up the spot without a battle.

The unranked Conaway, whose dad, Dave, is a Philipsburg-Osceola graduate who coached in the Bellwood-Antis system at one time and is still the New Oxford coach, earned the biggest win of the night, knocking off Wisconsin’s third-ranked Tyler Graff, 10-8, in overtime.

That win, plus Quentin Wright’s 100th career victory – a pin of Jackson Hein in 1:24 at 197- highlighted the top-ranked Nittany Lions’ 36-6 victory over the Badgers before a season-high 6,515 fans at Rec Hall.

But, Conaway, who won the Ridge Riley Award, was clearly the star of the night.

“It reminded me of my freshman year, when I got a last-second takedown to win,” Wright said. “The place went loud. It was crazy. It’s so super special. he doesn’t realize it, but doing something like that, he’s now created a memory for 6,000 people that they will hold on to for the rest of their lives, including me.

“I’ll be sitting with buddies some day, and I’ll say ‘Hey, remember that time when Jordan won that match in Rec Hall?’ It’s a testament to the person that he is – a never say die attitude.”

“That was probably the biggest win of his career,” PSU 165-pounder David Taylor said. “It’s one of the biggest ones I’ve seen in Rec Hall since I’ve been here. He was down by three or four with 30 seconds left, and the feeling wasn’t he was going to keep it close. It was he was going to win the match. I think that’s how encouraging the crowd was. That’s a huge win for a guy who is aspring for the national tournament.”

Conaway trailed Graff, 7-3, entering the third period, but that’s when the crafty Lion redshirt freshman went to work, pushing the action and waiting for a fading Graff to make a mistake. After escaping, Conaway worked a takedown and gave up a takedown to make the score 8-6, and the crowd got louder.

Conaway (8-4) nailed a takedown with 13 seconds and rode the rest of the way to send the bout into overtime. Graff (18-4) took a shot in OT, but Conaway snapped him down to the mat and went behind him for a takedown. The crowd roared its approval.

“It’s crazy,” Conaway said, “especially in Rec Hall with everyone screaming. Going into the third period, I had some work to do, and I knew he was kind of getting tired. I just kept the pressure on and wore him out even more and I was getting a little bit easier takedowns.

“I think that’s a big confidence booster for him,” PSU coach Cael Sanderson said. “He’s just one of those guys who is very special to the team, so to have a big win like that is very special to everybody. You saw everybody jumping around.”

Asked where that win ranks in his career, the former state champion, whose dad might have missed the televised match because he was coaching New Oxford at the Top Gun Tournament in Ohio, said “Maybe top, but it’s up there for sure. It’s awesome”

Usually, Penn State matches start at 125, but Friday’s meet started at 285, where PSU’s 16th-ranked Jon Gingrich couldn’t pull off another giant killing, falling to 11th-ranked Connor Medbery, 6-3.

After Nico Megaludis earned a 21-7 major decision over Matt Cavallaris at 125, Conaway pulled off his upset. That set the stage for Bryan Pearsall, who pinned Tom Kelliher in 1:22 at 141.

The 149-pound bout between PSU’s James English and Wisconsin’s Cole Schmitt was a survival marathon that was won by Schmitt, 7-3, and went to the second set of tiebreakers.

Over that time, Sanderson called for, lost and later regretted a video review of a possible English reversal in the first rideout, a stalling point for English right before the buzzer of the second rideout to tie the score, 2-2, and back points in the final rideout.

“Thinking back, I think [the review] was a mistake on my part,” Sanderson said, “because it slowed down the action. I thought James had the conditioning edge. and [the review] takes a little longer than you would hope.”

After the intermission, James Vollrath earned a 5-3 win over Kalvin York at 157, and the second-ranked Taylor rang up a 25-7 technical fall in 6:22 over Frank Cousins at 165. Third-ranked Matt Brown followed with a tougher-than-expected 12-8 win over Scott Liegel, and top-ranked Ed Ruth won by forfeit at 184.

Wright was leading, 2-0, when he quickly hooked up a spladle on Hein from the top position, rolled him to his back and got the fall.

Asked what he thinks he’ll remember in 20 years about the match – his 100th win or Conaway’s shocker – Wright said, “I’d say both. Winning my 100th match is incredible, but I’m also super proud that Jordan gutted out that win.”

285-Medbery, W, dec. Gingrich, 6-3; 125-Megaludis, PS, maj. dec. Cavallaris, 21-7; 133-Conaway, PS, dec. Graff, 10-8 OT; 141-Pearsall, PS, pinned Kelliher, 1:22; 149-Schmitt, W, dec. English, 7-3 OT TB.

157-Vollrath, PS, dec. York, 5-3; 165-Taylor, PS, tech. fall Cousins, 24-7, 6:22; 174-Brown, PS, dec. Liegel, 12-8; 184-Ruth, PS, won by forfeit; 197-Wright, PS, pinned Hein, 1:34.

Records: Wisconsin (6-3 overall, 3-1 in Big Ten); Penn State (6-0 overall, 3-0 in Big Ten).

Att: 6,515.