Jordan Conaway couldn't hide his grin in the post-match media room. A redshirt freshman 133-pounder, Conaway had just topped Wisconsin's No. 3 Tyler Graff, 10-8, in a come-from-behind sudden-death victory - a bout that highlighted Penn State's 36-6 shellacking of the visiting Badgers Friday night.
Conaway especially couldn't hide the grin when asked to rank it among the best victories in his career. "It's up there," he replied. "I don't know - maybe the top. But it's up there for sure. It was awesome."
Conaway's upset came against the Badger's top-ranked wrestler, a junior who took an Olympic redshirt a season ago. Conaway's teammate David Taylor said it was "probably the biggest win of his career", and Cael Sanderson said the win over a top-five ranked opponent bodes well for Conaway's chances of earning a berth in the NCAA Championships in March.
"That's a good win obviously, and they'll look at that," Sanderson said. "You have a lot of matches, and that's a huge win for him as a far as trying to get a wildcard. But he still has to earn his way. We don't want to get in on the wildcard process. We like to get there on our own account."
In all, Penn State tallied 28 takedowns compared to the Badgers' eight. Penn State also earned a four-point technical fall from Nico Megaludis at 125 pounds, a technical fall from Taylor at 165, a pin from Bryan Pearsall at 141 and a pin from Quentin Wright at 197 for his 100th career win.
Best Performance - There were a few of them, but probably none more outstanding than Conaway's. Graff is a two-time All-American and certainly no slouch - proven by his takedown clinic in the first period against Conaway. Graff took a 7-3 lead into the second period, but that's when Conaway began his comeback.
"Even in the second period he was starting to slow down," Conaway explained. "So I knew to just keep the pressure up, and that was what the coaches were telling me - just to wear him out. His shots weren't feeling as strong. He wasn't working as hard, so I started to get a little emotion going and started wrestling like I should and just wore him out."
Trailing by two points with about thirty seconds remaining in regulation, Conaway countered a takedown attempt by Graff and spun behind for the tying takedown, 8-8. Once overtime began, Conaway denied one more attempt and countered with another takedown of his own for the 10-8 win. Cue Zombie Nation.
Most Surprising - Not to beat a dead horse, but this has to go to Conaway, too. But some of Conaway's teammates might not totally agree.
"The feeling wasn't that maybe he was going to keep the match close," Taylor said. "It was that he's going to win the match. There's not many times when you're wrestling a guy and you're down three-four points when you feel you're still going to win. I feel like everyone in Rec Hall thought he was going to win the match. I think that's how encouraging the fans are. That definitely gave Jordan an edge."
Best Move - In fitting fashion, as he acknowledged in the post-match news conference, Wright earned his 100th career win with a 24-second fall. Even more fitting: it was in front of his sold-out Rec Hall crowd of 6,515.
It wasn't a hip toss or a from-out-of-nowhere headlock. It was a spladel from the top position that spread No. 20 Jackson Hein's legs like a book and put his shoulders to the mat for the pin. "Opportunity was there," Wright said. "That was fun."
Did you notice? - During James English's 149-pound bout, the coaching staff called for an instant replay review of a reversal no-call in overtime. Official replay reviews are new to college wrestling this season and they are still being used on an experimental basis.
The referee confirmed that there was no reversal, meaning the Penn State staff lost the challenge. English eventually fell, 8-4, in the bout that lasted 11 minutes.
"They're testing that rule out this year," said Sanderson. "I don't like that rule, so kind of thinking back, I wish we wouldn't have called it. But you gotta do what's in the best interest of your kid. It's basically you get one review per dual and if you lose you don't get another one. If you win, you get another one."
He continued, "Hopefully [the rule] won't stick because as you can see, thinking back, I think that was a mistake on my part because it slowed down the action. I thought James had the conditioning edge, and [the replay process] takes a little longer than you would hope."
No. 1 Penn State 36, No. 24 Wisconsin 6
January 18, 2013 - University Park, Pa. - Rec Hall
285: No. 11 Connor Medbery UW dec. No. 16 Jon Gingrich PSU, 6-3 0-3
125: No. 2 Nico Megaludis PSU tech fall (4) Matt Cavallaris UW, 22-7 (TF4; 7:00) 4-3
133: Jordan Conaway PSU dec. (sv) No. 3 Tyler Graff UW, 10-8 (SV) 7-3
141: Bryan Pearsall PSU pinned Tom Kelliher UW, WBF (1:22) 13-3
149: Cole Schmitt UW dec. (tb2) James English PSU, 8-4 (TB2) 13-6
157: James Vollrath PSU dec. Kalvin York UW, 5-3 16-6
165: No. 2 David Taylor PSU tech fall Frank Cousins UW, 25-7 (TF; 6:22) 21-6
174: No. 3 Matt Brown PSU dec. Scott Liegel UW, 12-8 24-6
184: No. 1 Ed Ruth PSU win by forfeit 30-6
197: No. 3 Quentin Wright PSU pinned No. 20 Jackson Hein UW, WBF (1:24) 36-6
Records: Penn State 6-0, 3-0 Big Ten; Wisconsin 6-3, 3-1 Big Ten
Up Next for Penn State: at Purdue, Sunday, Jan. 20, 1 p.m.