Before I get to a recap of this week's wrestling action I want to congratulate the Penn State Men's Basketball team on a signature win beating No. 9 Michigan State at the Breslin Center. I'm not a basketball fan but, like any sport, I root for Penn State and this is a huge win for this team. I missed the game for the Penn State – Wisconsin wrestling match and believe me, I would have rather watched the basketball game, but more on that later.
No.16 Penn State vs. No. 10 Minnesota and No. 17 Wisconsin
Penn State was all but assured two losses going into this weekend against two ranked opponents without the aid of their best wrestler Bubba Jenkins who was out with an ankle sprain. The team was already smarting from past injuries to the lineup but you simply don't replace Jenkins in any meaningful way and Penn State had no answer.
Despite being shorthanded though, the Lions nearly pulled off the upset against Minnesota, a match that came down to heavyweight. In fact Penn State held a 15-11 team score advantage going into 197, it's unfortunate that 197 and HW are gigantic wastelands of suck for this year's version of the Nittany Lions and Penn State left with an 20-18 loss.
Penn State laid a gigantic egg against Wisconsin losing 38-13 and wrestled probably some of the worst wrestling I've seen in a long, long time. Frank Molinaro continues to put in two periods of effort against ranked opponents; unfortunately there are three periods to each bout. When Molinaro is down he just seems to give up and he did a fine job of that this weekend losing 12-5 to 8th ranked Mike Thorn of Minnesota and giving up a technical fall to top-ranked Zach Tanelli of Wisconsin. Sure you would expect losses in both cases but the effort just wasn't there once each bout was clearly decided.
Sure Penn State is fighting injuries and there are a lot of freshmen seeing mat time that wouldn't regularly be in the lineup but against Wisconsin there were many instances of Penn State wrestlers getting in deep on singles only to be countered and taken down, that's fundamental flaws you learn to avoid in grade school wrestling.
It wasn't all bad though; there were two shining examples of wrestlers peaking at the right time in 125 pounder Brad Pataky and 133 pounder Jake Strayer. Both wrestlers dominated this weekend especially against Minnesota. Pataky beat No.5 (and returning national champ) Zach Sanders of Minnesota 14-7. Brad picked an ankle on the opening whistle, took Sanders down and tilted him to his back twice to break out to an 8-0 lead.
From there Pataky cruised, kept the pressure on, and walked away with a 14-7 decision. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Brad actually had a 14-6 major decision but the ref called a completely unnecessary and irrelevant stall call with 1 second left in the bout to make the score a 7-point victory instead of the 8-point major. Like every other sport, the Big Ten claims some of the WORST referees in Wrestling and this was a shining example, but I digress.
Jake Strayer also beat the 5th-ranked wrestler in the nation besting Jayson Ness of Minnesota 4-3. Strayer used a first period takedown and escape (after a reversal) and strong defense to edge Ness.
Strayer nearly had Ness turned for backpoints but lost the hold and gave up the first period reversal. Jake also had a strong ride in the second period and built riding-time advantage but couldn't keep it in the third. Regardless, it was two complete matches from two of Penn State's best wrestlers and they are wrestling their best at the right time. Hopefully they can carry the momentum into the Big Ten's coming next month in early March.
Next Up: Penn State tackles a tough task in Ohio State Friday night and top-ranked Iowa Sunday at 2:00PM.