Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said the past two weeks have “been rough” on his squad as it deals with a sickness running through the team.
The Nittany Lions had to rally for the 20-16 victory over Penn on Friday at the Palestra without NCAA champs Roman Bravo-Young and Aaron Brooks. Another champ in Nick Lee wrestled while still recovering from illness.
“I think a couple of guys dug deep. It’s all preparation. We didn’t wrestle great tonight,” Sanderson said. “I know our guys didn’t feel very good. Guys like Nick Lee, if he didn’t wrestle — he was sick last weekend — we lose that dual meet. It’s a good team. They came to win, you could tell during introductions. We responded enough, I guess, but we’ve got a ways to go here.”
Some of those guys who dug deep like Lee were Beau Bartlett, Creighton Edsell and Donovon Ball, who filled in for Brooks.
Penn State dropped the first two bouts of the night.
Penns Valley alum Baylor Shunk suffered an 8-2 loss to the Quakers’ Ryan Miller at 125 pounds to start the dual. Brandon Meredith got the call to replace RBY at 133, where he took on a familiar face in No. 12 Michael Colaiocco.
Two years ago when Penn came to Rec Hall, Meredith topped Colaiocco, 8-5. On Friday, Colaiocco used a late takedown to secure a 10-2 major decision to give the Quakers a 7-0 lead.
Lee came to the mat and was able to secure two first-period takedowns on No. 28 Carmen Ferrante. The champ added another takedown in the second period, but it was Ferrante’s full third-period ride that brought the crowd to its feet. In the end, Lee won 6-3 to get the Nittany Lions on the board.
No. 20 Bartlett needed a late reversal to hold a 3-2 lead after two periods of wrestling with No. 23 Anthony Artalona at 149 pounds. Artalona secured a third-period escape to send the bout to sudden victory, but Bartlett’s tough ride in the first rideout period, and an escape in the second gave the Penn State wrestler a 4-3 win.
The Nittany Lions trailed 7-6, but Penn’s No. 21 Doug Zapf gave the Quakers another victory (4-2 over Terrell Baraclough) and extended their lead to 10-6 at the break.
Out of the break, No. 32 Creighton Edsell took on No. 33 Lucas Revano at 165 pounds. Edsell controlled most of the match, but Revano used a takedown with three seconds remaining in the third period to force sudden victory at 4-4. Edsell secured a takedown with 1:11 left in overtime to get a 6-4 win, and pulled Penn State to within 1, 10-9.
“Looking back, very important,” Sanderson said when asked about how important it was for his team to get those wins at 149 and 165 pounds. “Bartlett is going to keep getting better. Edsell didn’t need to be in overtime. He got taken down with no time left, that’s something that falls on the coaching staff. We got to make sure our short time defense and offense is a little stronger.”
Even Penn coach Roger Reina knew how important those weights were.
“We knew we had to get out to a quick jump. I think we left a bonus point on the table at 125,” Reina said. “We lost two overtime matches that were winnable matches for us. We can’t be losing overtime matches.”
After Edsell’s win, it started what has become as the starting point for Penn State’s murderer’s row.
NCAA champ Carter Starocci looks like a man on a mission to defend his crown at 174 pounds. He snapped off three first-period takedowns, and added another takedown in the second period to hold an 8-3 lead after two periods over No. 21 Nick Incontrera.
In the third period, Starocci used an escape, a fifth takedown, a stall point and riding time point to secure a 13-3 major decision. Starocci’s win gave the Nittany Lions’ their first lead of the dual at 13-10.
“There is a lot of illness going around on our team, so that’s there,” Starocci said of his win, “but oh freaking well, you got to come in and show out when it’s game day. You got to put your head down and go through it. It’s good to face adversity, but who knows any day when you have to wrestle, how you are going to feel, so you got to keep going.”
Following Starocci was Ball, who was just making his second start for Penn State.
He opened with a 5-1 lead over Jesse Martinez after one period. In the second period, Ball nearly caught Martinez for a fall, but instead received near fall points. Ball led 10-1 after two periods of wrestling.
In the third period, Martinez came back with an escape and a takedown, but it wasn’t enough as Ball secured an 11-4 win while filling in Brooks.
“He’s a beast. He filled in and showed out. It’s what we need from him,” Starocci said of his teammate. “We need guys like Donovon, and that’s inspiring for guys like us, too, to come out and perform like this. It’s good to have guys like Donovon on our team and putting up points.”
Sanderson added: “He knew he had that opportunity coming this week. He did a nice job preparing. I think he was happy. You could tell he was a little stressed to start, but he relaxed. We lost the major at the end, which doesn’t need to happen, but that’s just a little bit of experience.”
No. 4 Max Dean took on State College alum Cole Urbas at 197 pounds. Dean shut out the former Little Lion, 10-0, to seal the dual win for the Nittany Lions. They led 20-10 with heavyweight to go.
Penn State forfeited to Penn’s Ben Goldin to set up the final score. Sanderson said they decided to only wrestle starter Greg Kerkvliet if he was needed — even though the sophomore was pushing to wrestle either way. But as the dual meet win was mathematically secured, they forfeited the final bout.
It wasn’t clear whether Kerkvliet was injured or dealing with the same sickness as many of his teammates. Either way, the Nittany Lions won’t get a whole lot of rest as they now get set to host Lehigh on at 2 p.m. Sunday inside Rec Hall.
“We knew this was going to be a tough dual last week because of the circumstances, but we’ll be all right,” Sanderson said.
No. 2 Penn State 20, Penn 16
Friday at The Palestra, Philadelphia
125: Ryan Miller, P, dec. Baylor Shunk, 8-2
133: No. 12 Michael Colaiocco, P, major dec. Brandon Meredith, 10-2
141: No. 1 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 28 Carmen Ferrante, 6-3
149: No. 20 Beau Bartlett, PSU, dec. No. 23 Anthony Artalona, 4-3 (UTB2)
157: No. 21 Doug Zapf, P, dec. Terrell Barraclough, 4-2
165: No. 32 Creighton Edsell, PSU, dec. No. 33 Lucas Revano, 6-4 (SV)
174: No. 1 Carter Starocci, PSU, major dec. No. 17 Nick Incontrera, 13-3
184: Donovon Ball, PSU, dec. Jesse Martinez, 11-4
197: No. 4 Max Dean, PSU, major dec. Cole Urbas, 10-0
285: Ben Goldin, P, won by forfeit
Takedowns: PSU 16, Penn 11
Records: Penn State 4-0, Penn 0-1
Next match: Lehigh at Penn State, Sunday, 2 p.m.