UNIVERSITY PARK - Over the Thanksgiving break, the Penn State wrestling team didn't take it easy. In fact, the wrestlers went through brutal three-hour practices in an effort to overcome the Minnesota loss and improve their mat wrestling.
If Sunday afternoon's match against West Virginia before 6,078 fans at Rec Hall is any indication, the hard work is paying off.
The No. 5 Nittany Lions held a riding time advantage of 4 or more minutes in three straight bouts, received a riding time point in all eight of their wins and forced 10 stalling calls on the sleepwalking Mountaineers in addition to holding a whopping 35-2 takedown advantage in a 34-6 rout.
"A lot of that is the attitude that the individuals take when they're in those positions," PSU coach Cael Sanderson said. "When guys are good wrestlers, they can wrestle on the mat or on their feet. It's just a matter of putting a little more emphasis into it."
"We've been working a lot on attitude," 184-pounder Quentin Wright said, "as in we're not going to let them up. They're going to have to earn it to get to their feet. It makes the match a lot easier when you can ride a guy. Over Thanksgiving, it was not fun. They just made us wrestle for a long time. It taught us to mentally push through and not give up."
Of the eight Penn State wins, seven of them were bonus-point wins. The only Lion winner who didn't pick up bonus points was 125-pounder Nico Megaludis, who earned an 8-2 win over former Penn Trafford three-time Class AAA state champion Shane Young. Megaludis held a 1:43 riding time advantage and received two stalling points.
Asked if the stalling points and calls, Sanderson said, "The way that the stalling call is supposed to be called now, we really haven't seen that yet. Our understanding coming into the season was you couldn't back up. It's not really being called like that, but that's really a can or worms you don't want to open because it's hard to enforce. It's not really a penalty. It's something you earn."
At 133, Derek Reber, winless in his two previous Rec Hall appearances, picked up a 12-4 major decision over Jesse Schiffbauer. Reber notched four takedowns and held a 3:55 riding time advantage.
"It feels good getting a win here at home finally," said Reber, who was given the Ridge Riley Award.
PSU's Bryan Pearsall, who has taken over the 141-pound spot from Sam Sherlock, took a 4-2 lead over WVU's returning NCAA qualifier Nathan Pennesi into the third period, but Pennesi tilted him for three points in the final period and won, 5-4.
Top-ranked 149-pounder Frank Molinaro took George Scheffel four times and held a 4:25 riding time advantage in a 10-1 major decision. While he was riding Scheffel in the second, Molinaro took time to adjust his headgear, drawing some laughter from the crowd.
Dylan Alton dominated Dominic Prezzia on his feet and on the mat in their 157-pound bout, racking up six takedowns and a 4:09 riding time edge to give the Lions (3-1) a 15-3 lead at the midway point.
PSU's top-ranked David Taylor was even more dominant against Kyle Eason, notching nine takedowns in a 22-7 technical fall in 4:18 at 165. PSU's second-ranked 174-pounder Ed Ruth took Lance Bryson down eight times and racked up a 4:02 riding time edge in an 18-6 major decision.
The Mountaineers did take a few shots, but they paid for them. The second time Matt Ryan had PSU's defending national champ Wright hopping on one leg following a shot, Wright threw him to his back and pinned him in 1:57.
"I was just looking to get a takedown there," Wright said. "It's something that we work on in practice, when a guy gets a single leg. It's one of the last options."
Wright looked over at Sanderson at the podium and and asked "What's it called? Leg, hip thing?" Sanderson said, "Leg, hip thing, yeah."
Mac Mancuso stopped PSU's run with a 3-2 win over Justin Ortega, who was filling in at 197 for freshman Morgan McIntosh. McIntosh is nursing an injury, but Sanderson was evasive when asked what the injury was.
"He has a tweak that really don't want to throw him out there," he said.
A tweak on what?
"Just in his body," Sanderson said, drawing laughter from the media.
Cameron Wade close the meet with an 11-0 pounding of Brandon Williamson at 285, holding a 2:54 riding time edge.
"Our coaches preach going after people," Wade said. "With the new stalling rules, we're able to get a couple more stalling calls. I think we should have been able to get a little more, but you're trying to score points not stalling points. I felt great out there."
Match notes: Penn State wrestles at Lock Haven next Sunday. The Lions don't wrestle at home again the Jan. 22 Iowa match. ... More levity in the post-match press conference came when Wright got a call on his cell phone. "It's the ball and chain," Wade said next to him. Asked who it was, Wright said "I ain't saying." ... WVU fell to 2-1.
125-Megaludis, PS, dec. Young, 8-2; 133-Reber, PS, maj. dec. Schiffbauer, 12-4; 141-Pennesi, WV, dec. Pearsall, 5-4; 149-Molinaro, PS, maj. dec. Scheffel, 10-1; 157-D. Alton, PS, maj. dec. Prezzia, 16-4.
165-Taylor, PS, tech. fall Eason, 22-7, 4:18; 174-Ruth, PS, maj. dec. Bryson, 18-6; 184-Wright, PS, pinned Ryan, 1:57; 197-Mancuso, WV, dec. Ortega, 3-2; 285-Wade, PS, maj. dec. Williamson, 11-0.
Records: West Virginia (2-1); Penn State (3-1)