Photo of sold out Bryce Jordan Center during Penn State vs. Pitt dual from GoPSUSports.com
Penn State breaks national attendance record in 28-9 win over Pitt at Bryce Jordan Center
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City reads, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Apparently those same sentiments apply to Pennsylvania wrestling fans.
Despite a snowstorm that moved into the area an hour before the 2 p.m. match was to start, an NCAA dual meet record 15,996 fans crammed into the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday to watch No. 1 Penn State (5-0) dispatch No. 11 Pittsburgh (3-1), 28-9.
“Any time you can get 15,000, or whatever the final count was, to see a dual meet it’s a great environment,” Pitt coach Jason Peters said. “It’s great for Pennsylvania wrestling.”
Penn State’s previous home dual meet attendance record was 11,275 on Dec. 6, 1996 against Iowa. The previous NCAA record was set on Dec. 6, 2008 when Iowa State visited Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The attendance figure also set an all-time Penn State Athletics record for an event in the BJC.
“I think that’s very exciting,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We didn’t think that (the attendance record) was possible. We were hoping. We were working behind the scenes to make that possible. I hope we wrestled an exciting enough style to make it worth everyone’s time.”
The two teams wrestled on a raised platform in a darkened arena with only a few spotlights illuminating the mat, much like the NCAA finals. Each team’s wrestlers ran out from opposite tunnels on carpeted walkways that meandered past and through fans seated on the arena floor.
“I loved it. It was pretty awesome,” Penn State fourth-ranked 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh said. “I like that kind of thing. I love Rec Hall (where Penn State has sold out its last 12 matches), obviously, but this gives you a little extra edge. You get pumped up running out through the crowd.”
The Nittany Lions won eight of 10 bouts and had a decided 16-5 edge in takedowns, but through five bouts the dual meet was tied at 9-9.
Third-ranked Nico Megaludis scored a key early win for Penn State when he edged No. 9 Anthony Zanetta, 4-1, at 125. Megaludis escaped and scored the only takedown of the match in the second period and added a riding time point with 1:56 of advantage.
“I think Nico did a nice job. Zanetta’s very tough, very technical. A win in that match was a good thing,” Sanderson said. “Nico did a good job controlling the match, which is not easy to do against that kid.”
Pitt tied the bout at 133 when No. 17 Shelton Mack scored two late takedowns to turn aside Jordan Conaway, 5-2. Conaway was subbing for No. 11 Jimmy Gulibon, who Sanderson said wasn’t feeling well.
At 141, freshman Zain Retherford nipped Pitt’s Edward Bright, 3-2. After Bright scored the initial takedown early in the first period, the first takedown Retherford has allowed all season, Retherford escaped. He added another in the second to send the match into the third tied at 2-2. Bright chose bottom and Retherford kept him there, piling up 1:49 in riding time for the decisive riding time point and the win.
“That’s been a strength of his since he’s been a little kid. I think he’s always been tough on the mat,” Sanderson said of his true freshman.
“He did a nice job. That was a tough kid. That’s a good thing to see him have the poise to ride him out for a win.”
The Panthers grabbed the lead at 149 in one of the most entertaining finishes of the day. Pitt’s Mike Racciato was tied with James English late in the third period when a wild scramble ensued.
English scored a takedown, but Racciato reversed him to his back and scored the fall with just 9 seconds left in the bout to give Pitt a 9-6 lead.
“I really don’t even know. I have to watch the film,” Racciato said of his pin. “I was sitting with one of my hips up and he gave me pressure. I scooted out and then put him on his back. I don’t really know what happened.”
Peters couldn’t explain the move either, but he said he knew that in a scramble his wrestler was in good shape.
“Mikey does a really good job of wrestling whistle to whistle,” he said. “When he’s scrambling, he’s really dangerous. It put some spark into us.”
Penn State’s James Vollrath tied the match at 9-9 heading into the intermission. He used three takedowns and an escape to fashion a 7-2 decision over Cole Sheptock at 157.
Once the teams resumed wrestling after intermission, however, it was all Penn State.
Top-ranked 165-pounder David Taylor scored a fall over Geno Morelli in 3:09. He did it with an indescribable rapid combination of moves that few can pull off.
“The guy shot in and I had a couple of little tricks in there and I put him on his back and the ref called a pretty fast pin, a little too fast, but I’m not really complaining about it,” Taylor said.
“I was in pretty good position. I liked where I was. My biggest thing is I’m the best when I’m in flurries and I’m creating action and I was able to create some action, create some flurries and good things happened today and good things usually do happen when I’m in those flurries.”
Penn State’s third-ranked 174-pounder, Matt Brown, won the second marquee matchup of the day over No. 9 Tyler Wilps. After a scoreless first, Brown escaped and scored a takedown in the second and added two takedowns and two stall points in the third for a 9-3 win.
At 184, freshman Wes Phipps filled in for No. 1 Ed Ruth, who is serving a month-long suspension for violating team rules with a DUI arrest. Phipps took on Panther backup Aaron Rothwell, who was subbing for No. 6 Max Thomusseit, who was injured in a Friday dual against Maryland’s Jimmy Sheptock.
Phipps dominated in a 13-3 major decision. He’s savoring his dwindling time as the Lions’ starting 184-pounder. Ruth is due back from his suspension as early as next Sunday when Ohio State visits Penn State.
“Ruth will be coming back here pretty soon so it was kind of my last hurrah to go out there on a big stage and have fun,” he said. “I thought it (the elevated mat) was sweet. It was a lot of like NCAAs, the big stage rose up and it makes a pretty sweet sound whenever you pick a guy up and slam him down.”
McIntosh earned another win for Penn State at 197, but he had to work overtime to get it. Nick Bonaccorsi scored the first takedown and led 2-1 after one. McIntosh escaped and was awarded a point for locking hands to lead, 3-2, after two. Bonaccorsi escaped in the third to send the match into overtime.
Neither wrestler scored in the sudden victory period. McIntosh rode out Bonaccorsi in the first 30-second tiebreaker period. McIntosh escaped in the second tiebreaker period and held off Bonaccorsi for a 4-3 win.
No. 10 Jimmy Lawson closed the match with a win at 285 pounds for the Nittany Lions. He scored an escape and takedown in the third period for a 3-1 win over P.J. Tasser that sent the fans home happy.
Taylor, who has seemingly wrestled in front of huge crowds his whole life, summed up the feeling of most of the wrestlers about the record crowd and unique atmosphere.
“You think about going to school as a little kid, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, you think about doing it in front of a lot of people. You don’t get many opportunities to wrestle in front of your home crowd in front of 15,000 people. That’s awesome,” he said.
“I’ve been really excited to wrestle in the Bryce Jordan Center for a while. To finally get out there and have that many people at a wrestling match at home at Penn State is pretty special.”
Will Penn State try to replicate the record-setting day? Sanderson was noncommittal after the match.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to figure that out, talk about it. It was a lot of fun to come over here. The fans tell you whether it was the right thing or not, whether they’re buying tickets or not. We’ll listen to that.
“I’m sure the record will probably get broken in two weeks,” Sanderson said, alluding to Penn State’s dual meet at Iowa on Dec. 20. “It’s fun. It’s good to go back and forth.”
No. 1 Penn State 28
No. 11 Pittsburgh 9
(Sunday at University Park, Pa.)
125: No. 3 Nico Megaludis, PSU, dec. No. 9 Anthony Zanetta, 4-1.
133: No. 17 Shelton Mack, Pitt, dec. Jordan Conaway, 5-2.
141: No. 11 Zain Retherford, PSU, dec. Edward Bright, 3-2.
149: Mike Racciato, Pitt, pinned James English, 6:51.
157: James Vollrath, PSU, dec. Cole Sheptock, 7-2.
165: No. 1 David Taylor, PSU, pinned Geno Morelli, 3:09.
174: No. 3 Matt Brown, PSU, dec. No. 9 Matt Wilps, 9-3.
184: Wes Phipps, PSU, maj. dec. Aaron Rothwell, 13-3.
197: No. 4 Morgan McIntosh, PSU, dec. Nick Bonaccorsi, 4-3 OT TB.
Hwt: No. 10 Jimmy Lawson, PSU, dec. P.J. Tasser, 3-1
Ridge Riley Award winner: David Taylor, 165 pounds.
Referee: Michael Chase.
Takedowns: Pittsburgh 5; Penn State 16.
Records: Pittsburgh 3-1; Penn State 5-0.
Next match: Ohio State at Penn State, noon Dec. 15. Pitt at Bucknell, 6 p.m. Dec. 21.
Story by Andy Elder, Special to TheMat.com