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December 15, 2013

WRESTLING: Retherford upsets Stieber

Freshman Zain Retherford doesn't like to celebrate. But on Sunday, there was no avoiding it.

Facing off against Ohio State's Logan Stieber, a two-time NCAA champion and the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the country, according to FloWrestling.com, Retherford scored an overtime takedown to upend the Buckeyes' top wrestler in front of a sold-out Rec Hall crowd.

The 141-pound upset was the highlight win of the dual meet, in which Penn State won eight of its 10 bouts with two technical falls, four major decision wins and two upsets of ranked wrestlers. In all, the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes, 31-6.

Most of the talk in the post-match press conference, however, surrounded Retherford and how the deafening cheers from the crowd were too much for him to maintain his consistent calmness.

"I usually don't celebrate too much after a match, but the crowd definitely got me fired up after that match," Retherford said. "I kinda lost my head for a second. It was electric in there. It was real exciting. (Afterward) I did exactly what I always do. I cooled down and got my conditioning in and then came back up and felt like normal."

Cael Sanderson said he was too excited to register the noise level, but many observers say the arena has never been louder for a wrestling match under Sanderson.


Best Performance - That's because there has been no bigger upset to occur under Sanderson at Rec Hall. Few people gave Zain Retherford a chance to beat Stieber, but Retherford never had a doubt in his mind.

"I envisioned myself doing this well, but you never know," Retherford said. "Anything can happen. I'm just working on improving every day. This isn't the end, by far. 2014 nationals is what I'm looking for."

He rode out Stieber for the entire duration of the second period, and then he used an overtime takedown to top the nation's top wrestler and send the sold-out Rec Hall crowd into a new decibel level of crowd noise.

"Zain is just a tough kid and loves wrestling, a student of the game," Sanderson said. "Whatever his parents did, I'm gonna try to do thing same thing (with my kids)."

Retherford was honored with the Ridge Riley Award after for the dual meet's most outstanding performance.

Most Anticipated Match - Although they were at 133 pounds, Stieber had won the past two NCAA titles and hadn't lost a match since the 2011-12 season. As the No.1 pound-for-pound wrestler in the country (yes, he was ranked above David Taylor and Ed Ruth) this match was only supposed to be a measuring stick with which to measure Retherford and his early-career progress.

For Penn State's top recruit a year ago, it turned out to be much more.

Ruth's match vs. Kenny Courts at 184 -- a 14-3 major decision in favor of Ruth -- gets an honorable mention nod. It was Ruth's first match after serving a one-month suspension for DUI.


Best Move - In a dual meet without any falls, heavyweight Jimmy Lawson might have had the most impressive takedown. To open the bout, his opponent Nick Tavanello shot deep on a double leg, but Lawson used his athleticism to wiggle free and drive Tavanello to the mat. And he didn't stop there.

Lawson caught Tavenello on his backside and planted him there for three near-fall points to earn an early 5-0 lead. Lawson went on to win by major decision, 15-4.

"Inch by inch, (Lawson gains) a little more confidence," Sanderson said. "You see his athleticism. He was dead to rights in that takedown (vs. Tavanello) and he can scramble out of that in an unorthodox manner. As he continues to grow, he's got some great stuff."


Biggest Surprise - Not to beleaguer the point, but Retherford's win over Stieber caught everyone by surprise -- not just in Rec Hall, but across the national landscape. Stieber hadn't lost a match in two years and had won the previous two NCAA tournaments.

Reports say that Stieber had been fighting an illness throughout the week, but still, Retherford, a true freshman, emerged victorious.


Did you notice? Wes Phipps, who was certified at 174 pounds, jumped up to 197 to wrestle Ohio State's Nick Heflin. Despite jumping a weight class -- Phipps is normally a 184-pounder -- Phipps kept the match close, falling only by two points.

Sanderson said afterward that normal 197-pound starter Morgan McIntosh was held out for precautionary reasons due to an arm injury.

"Mac could've wrestled but Phipps got another great opportunity to go out and comepte," Sanderson said. "It came down to a takedown in the third period."


No. 3 Penn State 31, No. 6 Ohio State 6
December 15, 2013 - Rec Hall -- University Park, Pa.
 
125: No. 3 Nico Megaludis PSU tech fall No. 14 Nick Roberts OSU, 21-4 (TF; 6:54)      5-0
133: No. 9 Johnni DeJulius OSU dec. Jimmy Gulibon PSU, 3-2                             5-3
141: No. 11 Zain Retherford PSU dec. (sv) No. 1 Logan Stieber OSU, 4-2 (sv)                  8-3
149: Zack Beitz PSU dec. No. 17 Ian Paddock OSU, 5-3                                             11-3
157: James Vollrath PSU dec. Randy Languis OSU, 11-5                                        14-3
165: No. 1 David Taylor PSU tech fall Joe Grandominico OSU, 20-5 (TF; 7:00)          19-3
174: No. 3 Matt Brown PSU maj. dec. Mark Martin OSU, 16-4                                    23-3
184: No. 1 Ed Ruth PSU maj. dec. No. 9 Kenny Courts OSU, 14-3                                27-3
197: No. 6 Nick Heflin OSU dec. Wes Phipps PSU, 3-1                                                27-6
285: No. 12 Jimmy Lawson PSU maj. dec. Nick Tavanello OSU, 15-4                         31-6
Rankings from FloWrestling.com

Attendance: 6,380 (14th-straight home sell-out for Penn State)
Records: Penn State 6-0, 1-0 B1G; Ohio State 4-1, 0-1 B1G)
Up Next for Penn State: Saturday, Dec. 21 at Iowa (non-conference dual), 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central


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