Nickal pins Moore as No. 1 Penn State dominates No. 6 Ohio State in Columbus, 28-9

By Andy Elder, Special to TheMat.com | Feb. 08, 2019, 11:17 p.m. (ET)
Bo Nickal of Penn State shakes hands with Ohio State's Kollin Moore after their match at 197 pounds, won by Nickal by fall. Video capture from BTN.

The No. 6 Buckeyes had a record crowd of 13,276 in St. John Arena, No. 1 Penn State was without two starters and Ohio State coach Tom Ryan believed his team was prepared to win and end the Nittany Lions’ winning streak at 55 matches.

What ensued caught nearly everyone by surprise. Everyone, that is, except for Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, his coaches and his No. 1 Nittany Lions.

Penn State won seven of 10 bouts, including two upsets to start the dual meet, and amassed a 30-16 edge in takedowns as the Nittany Lions dismantled the Buckeyes, 28-9.

“We believe in our guys, obviously, but, yeah, they wrestled a great match," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said outside the locker room. "We've got a lot of matches left. This was a great atmosphere but we're happy with the way our guys came in and wrestled today."

A subdued Ryan spoke matter-of-factly about a dream scenario that turned into a nightmare.

“Rough night. Not much else to say. We got outworked in a lot of positions. That’s a really good team. We had to hold our ground in the five weights that we were favored in and we didn’t hold our ground,” he said.

"No, I didn't envision it going this way, I thought we were ready to win. We thought we were. What happened was tragically different.''

A pre-match draw set the starting weight at 133 and Penn State stunned a packed St. John Arena by scoring upset wins in the first two weights.

In the opener, No. 6 Luke Pletcher and No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young were tied 1-1 after regulation and through the sudden victory period. Bravo-Young, returning to the lineup after a two-match absence due to a right knee injury, escaped in the first tiebreaker period. In the second tiebreaker period, Pletcher took bottom and Bravo-Young kept him there for the 2-1 upset win.

“That was a tough first one. The team knew we needed that first one. It took a little bit of energy out of us and our crowd,” Ryan said.

As Bravo-Young lept to his feet to celebrate the win, he ripped off his headgear and spiked it, costing Penn State a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Nittany Lions’ lead was 2-0.

"He has a lot of talent and he works hard and he's been grinding every day trying to get better and it's starting to pay off for him," Penn State's Jason Nolf said about Bravo-Young.

At 141, No. 2 Buckeye Joey McKenna built a 5-2 lead through two periods on the strength of two takedowns. But in the third, No. 5 Lee escaped and scored a takedown to tie the match at 5-5. With less than a minute to go, the Penn State coaches instructed Lee to cut McKenna, which he did. He then converted a takedown with less than 30 seconds left and rode McKenna the rest of the way for a 7-6 win.

“Those two are two we had to have,” Ryan said of 133 and 141.

Ohio State finally got on the board at 149. No. 3 Buckeye Micah Jordan edged Penn State’s Jarod Verkleeren, filling in for starter Brady Berge, 10-8. Jordan’s win was fueled by three penalty points, one for a hands-to-the-face call and two stalling points, one the Penn State coaching staff vehemently challenged.

Penn State came right back with a dominating win at 157. Top-ranked Jason Nolf crushed No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes in a 21-6 technical fall in 5:51. Nolf rolled up eight takedowns in the win.

The Nittany Lions added another dominating win at 165 as No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph snagged four takedowns and added a point for 2:12 in riding time to throttle No. 12 Te’Shan Campbell, 11-2. What made Joseph’s win all the more impressive was the fact that Jeff Byers reported on the Penn State Sports Network that Joseph developed flu-like symptoms Thursday and it was uncertain he would feel well enough to compete.

Penn State made it three wins in a row with No. 1 Mark Hall’s 12-4 major decision at 174 over No. 18 Ethan Smith. Hall led just 2-1 through two periods but escaped to start the third and then picked up the pace, scoring four takedowns and a point for 3:16 in riding time advantage.

Ohio State finally stopped the bleeding at 184. Top-ranked Myles Martin majored Penn State backup Mason Manville, who was outweighed by 14 pounds, 18-6. Martin accumulated eight takedowns in the win.

Bo Nickal, as he has done so many times, turned what promised to be a nip-and-tuck matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 Kollin Moore into a rout. Nickal got in on a single then quickly snatched a near cradle, rolled Moore to his back and got a pin in 1:38. That stunning result sent Buckeye fans streaming toward the exits.

“Bo always expects to pin his guys, which is a great mentality," Nolf said. "He went out and did what he wanted to do and that's Bo.”

Nickal’s win locked down the win for the Nittany Lions, extending their consecutive wins streak to 56 in remarkable fashion.

“He was ready to go. Bo's a big match guy — the bigger the match, he's gonna lock in,” Sanderson said. “All of our guys for the most part are locked in. This was a big match for them. Obviously we want to wrestle well and they did.”

At 285, third-ranked Nittany Lion Anthony Cassar used eight takedowns in an 18-8 major decision over No. 19 Chase Singletary to expand the Penn State lead to 28-6.
Finally, at 125, Buckeye Malik Heinselman edged Devin Schnupp, 7-4, to give Ohio State fans a consolation prize as they quietly exited St. John.

“This is one of the great teams,” Ryan said of Penn State. “I’ve been in this sport for a long time. They’ve got guys on that team, four of the best college wrestlers we’ve seen in the last 25 years. Credit to them: Nolf, Joseph, Hall, Nickal. Those guys are at a really elite level.”

Sanderson didn’t want to put too much emphasis on this win, knowing that more important things, like the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, are ahead.

“I think the guys are happy. Verkleeren wrestled really well and was in the match with seconds left and obviously Shakur didn't wrestle and Myles Martin's very good, but that's not why Shak didn't wrestle,” he said. “Manville did a nice job weighing in around 170 and bumping up for us. All's good, but we've got to keep getting better."

No. 1 Penn State 28, No. 6 Ohio State 9
(Friday at Columbus, Ohio)

133: No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, dec. No. 6 Luke Pletcher, 2-1 TB.*
141: No. 5 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 2 Joey McKenna, 7-6.
149: No. 3 Micah Jordan, OSU, dec. Jarod Verkleeren, 10-8.
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, PSU, won by tech. fall over No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes, 21-6 (5:51).
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, maj. Dec. No. 12 Te’Shan Campbell, 11-2.
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, PSU, maj. Dec. No. 18 Ethan Smith, 12-4. **
184: No. 1 Myles Martin, OSU, maj. Dec. Mason Manville, 18-6.
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, pinned No. 2 Kollin Moore, OSU, 1:38.
285: No. 3 Anthony Cassar, PSU, No. 19 Chase Singletary, OSU,
125: Malik Heinselman, OSU, dec. Devin Schnupp, 7-4.
* Penn State deducted team point for unsportsmanlike conduct.
** Ohio State deducted team point for control of mat area.
Referee: Matt Sorochinsky, Nick Grosso.
Attendance: 13,276.
Takedowns: Penn State 30; Ohio State 16.
Records: Penn State 11-0, 7-0 Big Ten; Ohio State 9-2, 5-2.
Next match: Michigan State at Penn State, 7 p.m. Friday; Ohio State at Purdue, 7 p.m. Friday.