For the first time under Cael Sanderson, No. 1 Penn State broke out its white singlets for Sunday's dual meet against No. 12 Nebraska. But other than that - and the season-high Whiteout crowd of 6,618 - the Lions' 33-9 victory was what most Penn State fans have come to expect over Sanderson's four-year tenure.
Including a forfeit win at 125 pounds, Penn State cruised to victories in eight of the 10 weight classes. It also won the takedown battle, earning 18 takedowns to the Cornhuskers' five, and the Lions picked up five bonus point victories, including three major decisions, a technical fall and the forfeit.
But the main storyline was the return of No. 3 Andrew Alton (149) and No. 6 Dylan Alton (157), who both served a one-month suspension stemming from a Dec. 22 incident. Sanderson said during the post-match interview that Andrew and Dylan had to wrestle-off with backups James English (149) and James Vollrath (157) to earn their starting spots back after the suspension.
"We decided [to have a wrestle-off] early last week to give them few days," Sanderson said. "Really, I guess that's the fairest thing in wrestling. You just have them wrestle and the winner goes. That's what we did at heavyweight. Ultimately it comes down to the coaches' decision, but the easiest and quickest solution is to let them wrestle and we thought that was fair."
Andrew fell to No. 12 Jake Sueflohn at 149 by a pin fall in 5:33. Dylan, on the other hand, topped No. 4 James Green, 3-1, with a third-period bout-winning takedown.
Best Performance - This could go to a few guys but let's give it to 133-pound Jordan Conaway, who continues his unbeaten dual meet streak in Rec Hall. Although Conaway fell behind, 2-0, early, he rebounded with four unanswered takedowns - three of which came in the final period. He also tacked on two near-fall points using a tilt before time expired on his 14-5 major decision victory over Husker Shawn Nagel.
After the match Conaway said he has an advantage over some fellow 133-pounders. A former 125-pounder, Conaway said he doesn't have to cut as much weight as some of his opponents. That, he added, helped him score 10 third-period points against Nagel.
"Kids coming down in a weight are a little more tired by [the third period]," he said. "So just staying on them and if they're taking bad shots, then I counter off them or I take the opportunity to take my shot."
Bryan Pearsall gets the runner-up nod here, specifically for his entire second-period rideout during his 2-0 win over No. 19 Ridge Kiley at 141. Throw No. 2 David Taylor in here, too. The 165-pounder used just one takedown along with five sets of near-fall points in his 16-1 technical fall in 5:09.
Most Anticipated Match - Dylan Alton's 157-pound bout was already highly anticipated since he hadn't competed in a PSU singlet in over a month. Then add in the fact that he was facing James Green, Nebrsaka's fourth-ranked 157-pounder.
The highly ranked pair had met twice last season, with Alton winning both. On Sunday, Alton used a third-period takedown to earn the 3-1 close victory. Alton now holds a 3-0 advantage over Green, and the pair will likely meet one or two more times during the post season.
Alton was awarded the Ridge Riley for the meet's most outstanding wrestler.
Best Move - Josh Ihnen seemed to be prepared for 184-pound No. 1 Ed Ruth's notorious cradle, so Ruth went to another move - a two-on-one tilt, hitting it twice from the standing position. Ruth used the tilt three different times in the third period for a total of eight near-fall points.
"There's a lot of other moves I can do on top, [but] when I'm out in the match, I always just hear, 'Cradle, cradle, cradle,' hearing that all the time, so that's just what I go for," Ruth explained. "I guess he was kind of schooled in defending [the cradle]. He wasn't schooled in [defending] the tilt."
Biggest Surprise - Andrew Alton burst out of the gates during his return to Rec Hall, picking up a first period takedown and two near-fall points. But then his pace began to flatten out. He was hit for two stall warnings by the second period, good for a penalty point in favor of opponent Sueflohn, before Sueflohn stuck Alton's shoulder to the mat with a headlock. The referee slapped the mat for Sueflohn's pin over Alton in 5:33.
"Andrew wasn't himself," Sanderson said. "Why that is? I'll figure that out. A lot of it is just making the decision that you're ready and deciding to be focused. A lot of it was mental obviously. I think he just needs some time to get back to where he wants to be. He can do that in a snap of the fingers, or maybe it'll take a few matches. But he's in good shape and he trains hard. It's just a matter of making that decision and just going out there and enjoying yourself."
No. 1 Penn State 33, No. 12 Nebraska 9
January 27, 2013 - University Park, Pa. - Rec Hall
125: No. 2 Nico Megaludis PSU win by forfeit 6-0
133: Jordan Conaway PSU maj. dec. Shawn Nagel NEB, 14-5 10-0
141: Bryan Pearsall PSU dec. No. 19 Ridge Kiley, 2-0 13-0
149: No. 12 Jake Sueflohn NEB pinned No. 3 Andrew Alton PSU, WBF (5:33) 13-6
157: No. 6 Dylan Alton PSU dec. No. 4 James Green NEB, 3-1 16-6
165: No. 2 David Taylor PSU tech fall Tyler Koehn NEB, 16-1 (TF; 5:09) 21-6
174: No. 4 Robert Kokesh NEB dec. No. 3 Matt Brown PSU, 10-7 21-9
184: No. 1 Ed Ruth PSU tech fall #8 Josh Ihnen NEB, 18-3 (TF; 7:00) 26-9
197: No. 3 Quentin Wright PSU maj. dec. Caleb Kolb NEB, 10-2 30-9
285: No. 17 Jon Gingrich PSU dec. Spencer Johnson NEB, 7-4 33-9
Records: Penn State 8-0, 5-0 Big Ten; Nebraska 9-4, 3-3 Big Ten
Up Next for Penn State: At Iowa, Friday, Feb. 1, 9 p.m. (Eastern)/BTN