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No. 2 Gophers nip Lions

UNIVERSITY PARK – Going up against a Minnesota team ranked second and with three top-ranked wrestlers in its lineup, Penn State faced an uphill battle to pick up a victory Sunday afternoon at a sold-out Rec Hall.

The 10th-ranked Nittany Lions knocked off one of those top-ranked wrestlers, with sixth-ranked Morgan McIntosh beating Scott Schiller, 7-4, at 197, and the dual meet came down to the last bout.

Needing at least a technical fall with the Lions down by five, Jordan Conway put freshman Ethan Lizak, a Parkland two-time state champion, on his back a couple times briefly, but he could only get a 13-3 major decision and the Lions suffered a 17-16 setback to the 10-0 Gophers.

“It’s a bummer,” McIntosh said. “We hate losing, and we’re not satisfied right now. At the same time, there’s always things we can take away from the match. A lot of guys could have done things differently. If I could have finished a couple more of those shots maybe I could have gotten the major. We’re just moving forward from this loss and working on what we need to work on and also take it as a positive that we’re this close to beating the top teams.”

“We’ve got to win those close matches,” PSU coach Cael Sanderson said. “We had a chance to win a couple of those, obviously. We gave up two majors, which ended up being the difference. They did what they had to do to get those bonus points.”

With the Lions (8-2) losing 14-3 going into the second half, fourth-ranked Matt Brown set the tone in his match with old foe and third-ranked Logan Storley in the eight bout between the two (Brown had a 4-3 advantage going in). After a scoreless first period, Brown (17-2) took Storley (20-3) down after a long scramble in the second period. Storley escaped in the third, but Brown stayed in good position and had a 2:15 riding time advantage to win, 4-1.

“I would give myself a B,” Brown said. “I was able to scramble, and I’ve been working with coach (Casey) Cunningham on that. “That was positive. I didn’t have a productive third period, so that’s something I can work on.”

After Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr beat Matt McCutcheon, 11-5, at 184, McIntosh (8-2) thrilled the crowd against Schiller (16-3). McIntosh scored two first-period takedowns, the second confirmed by video replay, and scored a third in the second for a 7-2 lead. Schiller had two more escapes, but this was McIntosh’s day.

“I was very impressed,” Brown said. “He was able to get in on the leg, and he obviously he could finish those in the future. He controlled that whole match. Mogan should be (No. 1). I wrestle with him and I can’t stop what he does. I’m like ‘What the heck. How is anybody else beating him?'”

To get out out of one late takedown attempt, Schiller kicked McIntosh in the head. McIntosh briefly objected, as did the crowd, but there was nothing called.

“It’s wrestling. I probably would have done the same thing,” McIntosh said. “If a guy is in on your leg about to score, you do what you’ve got to do to get away. He’s wrestling hard.”

Jimmy Lawson (10-0) showed his agility for a 285-pounder by doing three standing grambys to avoid danger, and his first-period takedown of Michael Kroells stood in a 3-1, making the team score 17-12.

Conaway was dominant on his feet in the first, taking Lizak down three times for a 6-2 lead, once nearly putting Lizak on his back, drawing a roar from the crowd. But Lizak rode Conaway the entire second period and chose top for the final period. Conaway, however escaped, scored two more takedowns and put Lizak on his back at the end for two quick nearfall points.

“I think that second period obviously killed him,” Sanderson said. “Lizak is really tough on top, and that’s his bread and butter. He did a good job neautralizing that second period, which I guess worked out (for him).”

“We took him out of a redshirt, and he’s a tough kid,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “We kind of lost confidence in our other 125-pounder, and we know that Ethan will wrestle hard the whole time. He’s got to work some things out. but I think he’s going to do really good in the end.”

If Conaway had won by technical fall, the Lions would have won on criteria F, which most technical falls.

The meet started at 133, with a battle of top 10 wrestlers in Minnesota’s top-ranked Chris Dardanes (17-0) and PSU’s ninth-ranked Jimmy Gulibon. The bout appeared to be heading to over time tied, 1-1, but Dardanes took Gulibon (15-4) down at the edge of the mat with 6 seconds left to win, 3-1.

“He looked a lot stronger this weekend,” Sanderson said. “That’s just a match you’ve got to take, when you’re wrestling the No. 1-ranked guy in the country. Jimmy had a chance to win the match, and it’s just a matter of you have to do it. I think he stopped wrestling at the edge.”

At 141, Nick Dardanes earned a 14-6 major decision over Kade Moss, with 1:28 riding time being the advantage. The Penn State fans were less than pleased about the two stall calls on Moss, and they were on the referee the rest of the dual meet.

“Stalling is a very tough call,” Sanderson as he chose his words carefully. “That’s the probably the biggest frustration in coaching, not particularly tonight, but it’s a hard call. If you have a solution for that, our sport needs it desperately.”

Penn State 149-pounder Zack Beitz earned the Lions’ first win in dramatic fashion. Down 3-0 in the third to Jake Short, Beitz scored nine points, including riding time, and got five points on a takedown with 10 seconds left and back points in the last 5 seconds.

After top-ranked Dylan Ness (22-0) majored Cody Law, filling in for the injured Dylan Alton, at 157, the Lions lost one at 165 they really needed to win. Garett Hammond dropped an 8-4 decision to Nick Wanzek, making the score 14-3 at the break.

Afterward, Robinson was asked if this is the year that another team unseats Penn State, winner of four straight NCAA titles, as champion.

“I think Penn State chose to be out of the running by not wrestling (Zain) Retherford and (Nico) Megaludis,” Robinson said. “You put those guys in and you have a completely different team. I think they just kind of stepped out of the thing. I think there will be another team.”

“We’ll find out in March,” Sanderson said.

133-C. Dardanes, M, dec. Gulibon, 3-2; 141-N. Dardanes, M, maj. dec. Moss, 14-6; 149-Beitz, PS, dec. Short, 9-4; 157-Ness, M, maj. dec. Law, 9-1; 165-Wanzek, M, dec. Hammond, 8-4.

174-Brown, PS, dec. Storley, 4-1; 184-Pfarr, M, dec. McCutcheon, 11-5; 197-McIntosh, PS, dec. Schiller, 7-4; 285-Lawson, PS, dec. Kroells, 3-1; 125-Conaway, PS, maj. dec. Lizak, 13-3.

Records: Minnesota (10-0 overall, 6-0 in Big Ten); Penn State (8-2 overall, 4-2 in Big Ten)

Att: 6,540