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Bonus points a big deal for Nittany Lions

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State has long been known for its ability to produce bushels of bonus points, especially as it has won eight of the last nine NCAA championships.

Saturday night in front of 15,995 fans in the Bryce Jordan Center, it was that ability to produce bonus points that enabled No. 2 Penn State (11-2, 8-1 B1G) to outlast No. 6 Ohio State (10-4, 6-3), 20-16.

The two teams split the 10 bouts 5-5, but the Nittany Lions were able to leverage a fall and two major decisions to just a major decision for the Buckeyes to earn the win.

Ohio State Coach Tom Ryan said it was his Buckeyes’ inability to fight through positions in some key weights that was the difference in the match.

“When you lose fight in positions. It was 5-5. You get caught in a front headlock against (Mark) Hall and you go to your knees,” he said. “When you’re facing resistance and you don’t fight it, you’ve got a problem. Against (Aaron) Brooks, we hit resistance and our brain turned off. If it turns off against a wrestler who has moves like that, you’re going to find yourself in a world of trouble. That cost us.”

Despite the win, Penn State Coach Cael Sanderson wasn’t pleased with his team’s overall effort.

“I don’t think we wrestled great tonight – I don’t think that’s any secret. Our guys that are consistent were consistent and our guys that haven’t been consistent weren’t consistent,” he said.

“We need those guys that haven’t been consistent to step it up a little bit if we want to compete for a national title. But, we’re right there if you go up and down the lineup. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay positive.”

Penn State got a 46-second fall from second-ranked Hall at 174 and major decisions from No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (13-5) at 165 and No. 6 Aaron Brooks (15-4) at 184.

There were no bonus points to be had in one of the most anticipated individual matchups of the collegiate season, No. 1 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State and No. 2 Nick Lee at 141 pounds. Still, the match lived up to the hype.

Pletcher converted a leg sweep into a double for a clean takedown midway through first period and then rode Lee for 6 seconds in front of a hushed Bryce Jordan Center crowd. Lee escaped and the two jousted the rest of the period.

“I mean it’s just seven minutes wrestling, you’re gonna give up takedowns sometimes so you just keep wrestling through the whole match,” Lee said.

Lee chose bottom to start the second and quickly escaped to push his lead to 3-1. With less than a minute to go, Lee brought the crowd to its feet as he converted on a single to tie the match at 3-3. Lee barred Pletcher’s arm and rode him the rest of the period, coaxing a stall point to lead, 4-3, heading into the third.

Lee quickly escaped to start the third and brought the raucous crowd to its feet as he converted another single and rode Pletcher for another minute before the Buckeye could escape late in the period. Lee earned a point for 1:50 in riding time for the convincing 8-4 win.

“We knew 141 was a war. Lee is really good. It was a 1-2 matchup. We struck first and he just kept coming,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to be ready to fight the whole time. I’ve never been around someone who has achieved anything high in this sport and they can’t fight hard for seven minutes.”

Lee admitted he “was pretty excited” and his teammates, who usually talk about not getting caught up in a teammate’s match as they prepare for theirs, couldn’t help themselves.

“I was not very even keel. I was kind of jumping up and down and running around a lot, I got a little excited,” Joseph said.

Hall admitted as much, too.

“A really good match like that, the anticipation is huge and it’d be near impossible for us not to be jumping around. Yeah, it was cool to see; we’re excited for him,” he said.

Lee’s win gave Penn State an early 6-3 lead. Ohio State had won at 125, 5-3, before Roman Bravo-Young pulled Penn State even with a 10-4 decision at 133.

At 149 Jarod Verkleeren took No. 1 Sammy Sasso into overtime before giving up a takedown with 2 seconds left and dropped a 3-1 decision.

Brady Berge returned the mat for the first time since Dec. 6 against Lehigh. He scored a takedown in the first period and led 3-1 heading into the third. But Ohio State’s Quinn Kinner escaped, converted a takedown and rode out the rest of the period for a 4-3 win at 157.

Ohio State led 9-6 at the break, but Penn State started the second half of the dual with three straight bonus point wins. Joseph started the swing with a 13-5 major decision at 165 over No. 16 Ethan Smith.

Hall made quick work of No. 7 Kaleb Romero at 174 pounds. The nation’s second-ranked 174-pounder snapped Romero down into a front headlock and rolled him through to his back with a cement mixer, securing the fall in just 46 seconds.

Brooks used six takedowns to roll up a 15-4 major decision over No. 12 Rocky Jordan at 184.

Ohio State took the final two bouts. Top-ranked Kollin Moore scored six takedowns on No. 17 Shakur Rasheed to roll to a 14-6 major at 197. And, at heavyweight, Gary Traub used a late takedown to upset No. 15 Seth Nevills, 5-4.

Penn State finishes its dual meet season at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 when American visits Rec Hall.

No. 2 Penn State 20, No. 6 Ohio State 16

(Saturday at University Park, Pa.)

125: Malik Heinselman, OSU, dec. Brandon Meredith, 5-3. 133: No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, dec. Jordan Decatur, 10-4. 141: No. 2 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 1 Luke Pletcher, 8-4. 149: No. 1 Sammy Sasso, OSU, dec. No. 17 Jarod Verkleeren, 3-1 SV. 157: Quinn Kinner, OSU, dec. Brady Berge, 4-3.

165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, maj. Dec. No. 16 Ethan Smith, 13-5. 174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, pinned No. 7 Kaleb Romero, :46. 184: No. 6 Aaron Brooks, PSU, Maj. Dec. No. 12 Rocky Jordan, 15-4. 197: No. 1 Kollin Moore, OSU, maj. Dec. No. 17 Shakur Rasheed, 14-6. 285: Gary Traub, OSU, dec. No. 15 Seth Nevills, 5-4.

Ridge Riley Award winner: Nick Lee, 141 pounds.

Attendance: 15,995.

Takedowns: Ohio State 12; Penn State 19.

Records: Ohio State 10-4, 6-3 B1G; Penn State 11-2, 8-1 B1G.

Next match: American at PSU, 2 p.m., Feb. 23.

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