Penn State wraps up Big Ten championship
UNIVERSITY PARK — While there was little doubt as to who would win the final dual meet at Rec Hall this season between 12-0 Penn State and 2-13 Maryland, there was plenty of stuff going to keep the 6,661 fans entertained.
n After the Nittany Lions, ranked second in the NWCA poll, captured their fourth Big Ten Conference title and second in a row with a 45-6 thumping of the Terrapins, they hoisted the Big Ten trophy, donned championship shirts and hats and posed for photos.
“It’s awesome to be able to do that at the end of the dual season,” PSU returning NCAA champion Zain Retherford said, “but we have our eyes set on nationals, I think.”
“It feels good,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “You want to win dual meets. It’s a big deal. I think we had some big matches on the road. Our guys did a great job and competed well. We’re happy.”
n It was Penn State wrestling alumni weekend. Many former wrestlers, including 2016 NCAA champion Nico Megaludis and Maryland coach Kerry McCoy, and coaches, including Rich Lorenzo and John Fritz, were recognized.
“We’ve honestly taken them for granted a little bit,” Sanderson said, “in that we haven’t had alumni reunions because we see so many alumni. It’s something I need to do a better job as a head coach making sure that we’re inviting them back on a regular basis.”
n The Penn State wrestlers wore pink and black singlets. Pink and black were the original colors of the school. When the wrestlers were introduced before the match, they wore pink and black shirts that read “Strong and Great.” Wrestlers and coaches tossed those shirts, and many, many others to the crowd afterward.
“Giving the guys a chance to wear a different colored singlet was fun,” Sanderson said. “And if you’re throwing a thousand shirts out and giving the shirts off of your back, I think it was a great idea. You could tell the people that were receiving the shirts were excited about that. That’s the point.”
n On senior day, the seniors were recognized before the match in a ceremony. There was only one senior in the lineup, 141-pounder Jimmy Gulibon, and he received the biggest ovation.
“It’s been a great five years,” the soft-spoken Gulibon said. “I had a lot of fun. It’s kind of weird, and it really hasn’t sunk in yet that this is my last match, but it was fun.”
n Maryland superfan Robin Ficker was especially entertaining with his chants, cheers and heckles. The 73-year-old attorney has his own Wikipedia page, which has a section about him titled “sports heckler.” Go ahead, look it up. Penn State fans were heckling him in response.
“He’s everywhere where Maryland is,” Sanderson said. “I try to give him a hard time when I get a chance. He’s always respectful. He wants you to be upset, and I think a lot of our fans were kind of playing into what he wants. He’s famous for his NBA stuff, where’s taunting Charles Barkley. He’s good at what he does. Our fans were playing back and forth. I think it was all in good fun.”
After Nick Suriano opened with a 23-8 technical fall over Michael Beck in 6:21 at 125, Maryland senior Billy Rappo, who won two state titles at Council Rock South, pinned Penn State’s Triston Law in 4:45 at 133.
Gulibon has been on a roll lately, but he had his hands full with Ryan Diehl, a four-time state champ who won two at Trinity High School. Diehl scored the first takedown, but Gulibon, a four-time state champ at Derry High School, scored three takedowns from there to win, 8-4. Gulibon was given the Ridge Riley Award later.
The Lions then went on a five-bout pin spree.
It started with Retherford at 149, who decked Alfred Bannister in 3:17. Jason Nolf followed with a fall in 1:27 at 157.
At 165, Vincenzo Joseph rolled up a 12-3 lead over Patrick Gerish before cradling him for the fall in 3:58. Mark Hall followed at 174 by cradling Josh Ugalde for the fall in 1:14.
Penn State 184-pounder Bo Nickal built a 6-2 lead on Idris White before throwing White to his back and pinning him in 2:08. That gave the Lions a 38-6 lead.
“Bonus points are always a big part of winning in the postseason and winning dual meets,” Sanderson said, “so we need our guys looking for those extra points. I think they feed off of each other in those situations.”
At 197, Matt McCutcheon was losing, 3-2, to David-Brian Whistler in the third period when he took Whistler down with 30 seconds left. With a 1:31 riding time advantage, he won, 5-3.
Nittany Lion 285-pounder Nick Nevills amassed an astounding 5:26 riding time advantage and forced two stalling points in a 10-1 major decision over Yousef Hemida. That led to the festivities afterward.
The Lions will now await the time and day of the NWCA National Duals Championship Series title match at top-ranked Oklahoma State. Last year, the Lions beat the Cowboys, 29-18, at Rec Hall.
“They’re going to be a tough team,” Retherford said. “I look forward to wrestling them.”
125–Suriano, PS, tech. fall Beck, 23-8, 6:21; 133–Rappo, M, pinned Law, 4:45; 141–Gulibon, PS, dec. Diehl, 8-4; 149–Retherford, PS, pinned Bannister, 3:17; 157–Nolf, PS, pinned Alexander, 1:27.
165–Joseph, PS, pinned Gerish, 3:58; 174–Hall, PS, pinned Ugalde, 1:14; 184–Nickal, PS, pinned White, 2:08; 197–McCutcheon, PS, dec. Whistler, 5-3; 285–Nevills, PS, maj. dec. Hemida, 10-1.
Records: Maryland (2-14 overall, 0-9 Big Ten); Penn State (13-0 overall, 8-0 Big Ten)
Referee: Jim Rivello