UNIVERSITY PARK - Another standing room only, capacity crowd packed Rec Hall as the top-ranked Penn State Nittany Lion wrestlers took care of No. 11 Illinois in Big Ten wrestling action. Nearly 6,500 fans, the 17th-straight home sell out for Penn State, cheered on as head coach Cael Sanderson's team won nine of ten bouts to roll to a 31-3 Big Ten dual meet victory.
Junior All-American Nico Megaludis (Murrysville, Pa.), ranked No. 2 at 125, got Penn State off to a hot start in a rematch of last year's NCAA title bout. The Lion took down No. 4 Jesse Delgado 5-4 to put Penn State up early and bring yet another capacity crowd to its feet. At 133, Lion freshman Jimmy Gulibon (Latrobe, Pa.), ranked No. 15, nearly upset No. 11 Zane Richards but the Illini connected on a takedown in extra time to post the 3-1 (sv) decision, briefly tying the dual at 3-3.
Unbeaten true freshman Zain Retherford (Benton, Pa.), ranked No. 2 at 141, majored John Fahy 15-3 to put Penn State up 7-3. Red-shirt freshman Zack Beitz (Mifflintown, Pa.) then took down yet another ranked opponent, using a third period reversal to post a 4-2 win over No. 19 Caleb Ervin. Junior All-American Dylan Alton (Mill Hall, Pa.), ranked No. 4 at 157, then took care of No. 12 Zac Brunson 5-2 in only his second dual meet of the year. Alton, who has been slowly returning to action after off-season surgery, stayed unbeaten with the win.
After halftime, senior All-American David Taylor (St. Paris, Ohio) majored No. 12 Jackson Morse 11-3. Taylor, ranked No. 1, at 165, stayed unbeaten with the win. Junior All-American Matt Brown (West Valley City, Utah), ranked No. 3 at 174, majored Illinois senior Tony Dallago 12-2 and Penn State was out to a 21-3 lead.
Senior All-American Ed Ruth (Harrisburg, Pa.), ranked No. 2 at 184, rolled to a 14-3 major over Nikko Reyes to continue Penn State's string of bonus points and put the Lions up 25-3. At 197, sophomore Morgan McIntosh (Santa Ana, Calif.), ranked No. 7 at 197, then posted a 10-3 win over Illinois' Jeff Koepke. With 12th-ranked Jimmy Lawson (Tom's River, N.J.) out with an injury, junior Jon Gingrich (Wingate, Pa.) got the nod at 285, making his second dual meet appearance of the year. Gingrich stepped up in a big way with a strong 6-1 win over Illinois' Chris Lopez, cementing the 31-3 final score.
The 6,480 in attendance marked the 17th-straight home sell out for Penn State. Penn State posted a lop-sided 20-2 takedown advantage as well. Taylor improved to 21-0 on the year with 10 pins, six tech falls and five majors. He is 121-3 overall and is tied for ninth on Penn State's all-time wins list. Ruth is 20-1 on the year with seven pins, seven tech falls and six majors. He is 122-3 overall and is eighth all-time in wins at Penn State. Retherford moved to 21-0 with three pins, two techs and seven majors.
Megaludis is 20-2 on the year with a pin, four techs and eight majors while Brown improved to 21-1 with eight pins, two tech falls and seven majors. McIntosh improved to 20-2 with three pins and nine majors.
Penn State stays unbeaten on the year with an 11-0 mark, 4-0 in Big Ten action. Illinois falls to 6-5, 0-4 B1G. Penn State makes a Big Ten swing through the state of Michigan this weekend. The Nittany Lions are at Michigan State on Friday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. and then visit Michigan on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2. The Lions and Wolverines tangle at 3:30 p.m.
--Penn State Athletic Communications