Penn State announced that nearly 16,000 fans filled the Bryce Jordan Center for its match vs. in-state rival Pittsburgh Sunday, snapping the record for most attended dual meet in college wrestling history.
"That's a good thing for Pennsylvania wrestling," said Pitt head coach Jason Peters. "We just would've like to win a few more."
Instead, the Nittany Lions rolled to a 28-9 victory, winning eight of the 10 individual bouts, including a pin from senior 165-pound David Taylor and a 13-3 major decision from redshirt freshman Wes Phipps (184).
The wrestling mat was elevated upon a four-foot tall platform in the center of the arena. At least a dozen rows of seats on the floor flanked both sides. Each PSU wrestler ran out of the tunnel toward the mat under a spotlight through the crowd of fans who were dangling their hands out for high fives, hand shakes and pats on the back. Said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, "That was just like the national tournament."
Sanderson added that might have been the most beneficial part of the unique dual meet. Only three of his starters vs. Pitt had wrestled in the NCAA finals, in which the mat is also raised upon a platform. He said the experience was a helpful simulation for his other seven wrestlers.
Added Taylor, who has wrestled in the NCAA finals on three occasions, "It was almost the exact same format of the national finals. Everything was very similar to it."
Best Performance - Taylor, a NCAA champ, had been anxiously awaiting Penn State's dual meet in the BJC, but his appearance at 165 pounds was brief, barely lasting three minutes.
After nearly being taken down to begin the match, Taylor rattled off two first-period takedowns. His opponent Geno Morelli chose down to begin the second. Taylor cut him away for the escape. Once Morelli was on his feet, he attempted another takedown, but this time Taylor was ready and he turned Morelli for the second-period fall in 3:09.
"I don't know what happened," Taylor said with a grin. "Just kidding. He shot in and I had a couple little tricks in there. Then the ref called a pretty fast pin -- maybe a little too fast -- but I'm not complaining."
Penn State honored Taylor with the Ridge Riley Award, given to the dual meet's most outstanding performer.
Most Anticipated Match - At 125, Nico Megaludis drew Anthony Zanetta, who topped Megaludis last season. Megaludis had beaten Zanetta two seasons ago, so this was a rubber match of sorts. In fact, Sanderson earlier in the week called it the "key matchup" of the dual meet.
Megaludis never trailed. The junior from Murrysville, Pa., scored three second-period points and added 1:56 of riding time to clinch the 4-1 opening-bout victory.
"Nico did a nice job controlling the match," Sanderson said. "It wasn't just an overtime situation -- you knew he was going to get (the win). It was just a matter of time."
Best Move - Filling in for Ed Ruth, who is suspended but expected to return next week, Phipps put forth one of the most entertaining bouts of the afternoon.
Said Phipps, "Ruth will be coming back here soon, so it was my last little hoorah. I just wanted to go out here and have fun."
Indeed he did. To open the bout, Phipps, a native of Grove City, Pa., exploded off the whistle into the waist of opponent Aaron Rothnell. Using a double-leg maneuver, Phipps lifted Rothnell into the air and forcefully returned him to the mat for the opening takedown. Phipps said the raised wrestling surface on top of the four-foot platform "makes a pretty sweet sound when you pick (an opponent) up and slam him down like that."
Added Sanderson, "He's real strong and picks people off the ground. That's fun to watch."
Biggest Surprise - Penn State wasn't supposed to break the dual meet attendance record. In fact, the fire marshal had told Penn State recently that it would not be able to fill the stands with more than 15,955 fans, the old record set by Iowa in 2008.
But Sanderson said they "worked behind the scenes" to fit a few more people into the arena. The announced attendance? 15,996.
Not only did it break the Division I wrestling record, but it is also the largest crowd for a sporting event in the BJC's history.
Editor's note: The BJC has a max capacity of 16,000. There were certainly more than four empty seats in the arena.
Did you notice? Despite losing to Shelton Mack 5-2, Jordan Conaway got the start at 133 pounds over teammate Jimmy Gulibon, who fell in overtime Friday night at Boston University.
Sanderson said Gulibon had an undisclosed sickness that prevented him from wrestling again Sunday.
"Gulibon wasn't feeling very good today so we gave Conaway (the start)," Sanderson explained. "(Conaway) got in late last night after he won (the Thunder Wolve Open on Saturday in Sanborn, N.Y.) He's a good kid and always ready to go."
No. 3 Penn State 28, No. 16 Pittsburgh 9
December 8, 2013 - Bryce Jordan Center -- University Park, Pa.
125: No. 3 Nico Megaludis PSU dec. No. 8 Anthony Zanetta PITT, 4-1 3-0
133: No. 15 Shelton Mack PITT dec. No. 11 Jordan Conaway PSU, 5-2 3-3
141: No. 12 Zain Retherford PSU dec. Edgar Bright PITT, 3-2 6-3
149: Mike Racciato PITT pinned James English PSU, WBF (6:52) 6-9
157: James Vollrath PSU dec. Cole Sheptock PITT, 7-2 9-9
165: No. 1 David Taylor PSU pinned Geno Morelli PITT, WBF (3:09) 15-9
174: No. 3 Matt Brown PSU dec. No. 8 Tyler Wilps PITT, 9-3 18-9
184: Wes Phipps PSU maj. dec. Aaron Rothwell PITT, 13-3 22-9
197: No. 7 Morgan McIntosh PSU dec. Nick Bonaccorsi PITT, 4-3 (tb) 25-9
285: No. 9 Jimmy Lawson PSU dec. P.J. Tasser PITT, 3-1 28-9
Rankings from FloWrestling.com
(13th straight home sell-out; new NCAA dual meet record and new PSU/BJC Athletics record)
Records: Penn State 5-0, 0-0 B1G; Pittsburgh 3-1
Up Next for Penn State: Sunday, Dec. 15 home vs. #12 Ohio State, 12 p.m. (Rec Hall)