Penn State’s Rasheed, Nevills do what it takes for victory
By Todd Irwin
UNIVERSITY PARK — Many had pegged Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed to take the mat at 197 against Ohio State’s top-ranked Kollin Moore.
Instead, it was Anthony Cassar who wrestled at 197 with the Nittany Lions holding a one-point lead, and he didn’t disappoint his coaches — or anybody else, for that matter.
Cassar knocked off Moore, 5-3, and the roar from the crowd of 6,699 nearly blew the roof of old Rec Hall.
“I just went out there and in my head, I just tried to stay present and do my best,” Cassar said. “I knew if I did that, that’s all the fans wanted and the team wanted. It turned out in my favor because I felt I did my best in that match.”
It got louder, though, as Nick Nevills only lost by decision, 15-10, to World and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder, preserving a 19-18 win for the top-ranked Nittany Lions (12-0) over the second-ranked Buckeyes (12-1) on Saturday night. It was Penn State’s 43rd straight win.
“I think overall our guys wrestled well,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We lost some close matches, matches that we think that we can get. These guys did a great job. We were down a lot of points.”
“I’m just proud of the way our team competed tonight,” 149-pounder Zain Retherford said after posing for pictures celebrating the Big Ten regular season championship. “I think after the break, everyone stepped up. I think everyone was scoring points and looking to be competitive.”
After a scoreless first period at 197, Moore escaped, but the unranked Cassar took him down.
“Once I got the first takedown, I knew he wasn’t going to get in on my legs,” Cassar said, “and if I wanted to score, I could. I felt pretty in control the whole time.”
In the third, he added an escape, takedown and riding point for the win. Cassar pumped his fists to the crowd and ran around the mat in celebration.
“It was just fun hearing everybody cheer for you,” Cassar said. “I really haven’t wrestled in Rec Hall in awhile.”
Nevills trailed Snyder, 7-5, after one period, and 12-9 after the second period. Nevills took Snyder down in the second period when the Buckeye tried a throw.
As time ran off the clock, the fans roared their approval, leaving many to wonder if Rec Hall had ever been that loud.
Kuhn tickled the loud Penn State crowd when he took Tomasello down in the first period, and later headlocked the Buckeye off the mat for a takedown, bringing the crowd to its feet. Kuhn and Tomasello went back and forth, and Kuhn led, 8-7, after the first period.
Tomasello took Kuhn down in the second and tilted him for four nearfall points and a 14-8 lead. Tomasello added three more takedowns of the fading Kuhn to get the major decision, but the crowd roared its approval of Kuhn’s wrestling.
“We knew he was going to get tired, especially if you throw him out for his first match in that atmosphere,” Sanderson said.
At 133, Penn State’s Corey Keener gave second-ranked Luke Pletcher all he could handle. Pletcher could only master two takedowns, and he gave up stalling point with a second left to win, 5-4.
The Penn State faithful were feeling pretty good until Ohio State’s 11th-ranked Joey McKenna edged seventh-ranked Nick Lee, 7-6, aat 141 with a riding time point being the difference. Lee had a 4-2 lead until he was takedown at the edge of the mat right before the second-period buzzer sounded.
Lee went ahead again, 6-5, with a takedown in the third, but when he cut McKenna, he wasn’t able to take him down again. McKenna’s 1:32 riding time advantage gave him the win.
At 149, Ohio State’s Ke-Shawn Hayes took Retherford down twice in the first period, but Retherford reversed him to his back for a 5-4 lead. Retherford added a takedown and four nearfall points for an 11-4 lead. The Lion two-time NCAA champ continued his riding dominance in the third and earned a 20-4 technical fall.
“I was just thinking I need to get up and start getting some points on the board,” Retherford said. “He kind of caught me offguard, especially with the second (takedown).”
With Jason Nolf on crutches because of a knee injury, Bo Pipher took his place, and fifth-ranked Micah Jordan racked up a 24-9 technical fall. The Buckeyes led, 15-5, at the break.
Top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph only held a 6-1 lead over Te-Shan Campbell going into the third period, but he notched two takedowns in the period en route to a 12-3 major decision.
In a battle of No. 2 Mark Hall and No. 3 Bo Jordan at 174, Hall trailed, 4-2, entering the third period, but he escaped and hit a slick duck-under for a takedown with 1:15 remaining to take a 5-4 lead. He got a riding point for a 6-4 win.
Penn State’s top-ranked 184-pounder Bo Nickal took a 5-1 lead over second-ranked Myles Martin into the third, but Nickal earned bonus points when he scored two nearfall points right before the buzzer and got riding time to win, 10-2.
That set the stage for the late-meet drama.
“It was a great dual,” Sanderson said. “Ohio State has a really, really great team, and we’ll see them again shortly.”
125–Tomasello, OS, maj. dec. Kuhn, 21-12; 133–Pletcher, OS, dec. Keener, 5-4; 141–McKenna, OS, dec. Lee, 7-6; 149–Retherford, PS, tech. fall Hayes, 20-4, 7:00; 157–M. Jordan, OS, tech. fall Pipher, 24-9, 6:06
165–Joseph, PS, maj. dec. Campbell, 12-3; 174–Hall, PS, dec. B. Jordan, 6-4; 184–Nickal, PS, maj. dec. Martin, 10-2; 197–Cassar, PS, dec. Moore, 5-3; 285–Snyder, OS, dec. Nevills, 15-10.
Records: Ohio State (12-1 overall, 7-1 in Big Ten), Penn State (12-0 overall, 8-0 in Big Ten