| By Andy Elder For USA Wrestling
LEFT: Morgan McIntosh's overtime win sealed Penn State's win over Iowa. BELOW: A sellout crowd watched the Nittany Lions defeat the Hawkeyes. Photos by Mark Selders, Penn State Athletics
STATE COLLEGE — On one of the saddest days in the history of Penn State University, the Nittany Lion wrestling team gave the community a brief reason to celebrate.
Mere hours after legendary former football coach Joe Paterno passed away, casting a pall over the community, the Nittany Lions put the Happy back in Happy Valley, at least for a couple of hours.
No. 3 Penn State (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) battled back from a 12-0 deficit to reel off wins in the final seven bouts to hand No. 2 Iowa (9-3, 4-2) a 22-13 loss in front of sell-out crowd of 6,796 fans in Rec Hall.
Before the match started, an image of a smiling Paterno, arms crossed, and the words Joseph Vincent Paterno 1926-2012, appeared on scoreboards at either end of the arena.
A moment of silence was followed by a 30-second standing ovation in honor of the man known as JoePa.
“These guys certainly wanted to win. We were a little hesitant throughout the match, but it’s a big match for us and our program, I guess, and that’s understandable,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “But it gives us something we can build on and go from there.”
Iowa figured to be spoiling for a fight after being dominated by Ohio State, 21-9, Friday night in Columbus. However, that fight didn’t come.
“This is a sport where you really don’t need something to spur ya’. You should be able to get up every time. That’s the mark of being the best. We try to be the best every time. Sometimes the falls are pretty hard,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said.
“But, if there is something you stumble on, you’ve got to be tougher coming back. I’m not sure we were. We lost seven straight matches in that dual meet. There’s got to be some type of change of emotion or energy or something from an individual point of view when it’s going against you as a team.”
As Brands alluded to, the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 12-0 lead after three bouts.
No. 2 Matt McDonough held off No. 8 Nico Megaludis with a takedown in the sudden victory period for a 3-1 win.
Sanderson was pleased with his true freshman’s performance.
“I think Nico did a great job. He hustled and battled in a lot of tough situations. He’s got a big heart. To do what he did, go out there and give himself a chance to win in a big match, a big dual against a national champion, you’ve got to take some positives out of that,” he said.
No. 2 Tony Ramos expanded the lead to 9-0 when he pinned Frank Martellotti in 4:21.
And, at 141, No. 3 Montell Marion earned a 7-3 decision over Bryan Pearsall.
No. 1 149-pounder Frank Molinaro stemmed the Hawkeye momentum for Penn State. He scored four takedowns and amassed 3:05 in riding time to decision Mike Kelly, 11-5.
Then, at 157, No. 8 Dylan Alton used two takedowns and an escape to edge Nick Moore, 5-3.
Iowa’s lead at the intermission was 12-6, but the heart of Penn State’s lineup was yet to come.
No. 1 David Taylor cut the lead to 12-9 with a 9-4 win over No. 6 Mike Evans at 165.
Then Ed Ruth, ranked No. 2 at 174, gave the Nittany Lions the lead for good with a 10-1 major decision of No. 9 Ethen Lofthouse.
No. 2 Quentin Wright padded Penn State’s lead with an 8-2 win over Vinnie Wagner. Wright just missed scoring a fall when he countered a Wagner single-leg attempt with what Wright termed “a flying cement job/just go for it.”
“I’m going to have to look at videotape on it because I don’t know how he got out of it,” Wright said. “He fought hard.”
Penn State led 16-12 with two tossup matches to go.
At 197, Iowa sent out Grant Gambrall, an NCAA third-place finisher at 184 pounds a year ago, against Penn State’s 12th-ranked true freshman Morgan McIntosh.
McIntosh scored a takedown with 17 seconds left in the sudden victory period for a 5-3 win that clinched the win for the Nittany Lions.
“Coach Cael always tells us we have to wrestle the whole match and that’s what I was trying to do. I saw my opportunity and I just wrestled as hard as I could to get the corner and get the last takedown for the win,” McIntosh said.
“That was awesome. That was the coolest feeling I’ve ever felt … the noise and the atmosphere, everybody cheering loud. I won’t forget that feeling.”
No. 6 heavyweight Cameron Wade closed out the match with a 4-0 win over Blake Rasing.
Despite handing Iowa back-to-back losses for the first time since the 2005-06 season and beating the Hawkeyes in a dual meet for the first time in five years, much of the post-match talk was about Paterno.
“We talked a little bit about it, not as a team. Obviously, everybody knows that … Joe Paterno and his legendary status, everything he means to the university and the athletic department, it’s a tough deal,” Sanderson said.
“When we think of Joe Paterno we think of a legendary college football coach, one of the legendary figures in sports in the United States and the world. It’s definitely a tragedy for us and for the university.”
Even Brands acknowledged the effect that Paterno’s passing had on the dual meet.
“You don’t necessarily talk about it but I know what he means to this community, or at least I can imagine that I know,” he said.
“The thing I said to our radio earlier was he was a competitor his whole life and, in a way, this is a celebration because you’re competing. You didn’t postpone, you didn’t cancel. I happen to agree with that. That’s my way of thinking.”
NO. 3 PENN STATE 22, NO. 2 IOWA 12
125: No. 2 Matt McDonough, I, dec. No. 8 Nico Megaludis, 3-1 SV.
133: No. 2 Tony Ramos, I, pinned Frank Martellotti, 4:21.
141: No. 3 Montell Marion, I, dec. Bryan Pearsall, 7-3.
149: No. 2 Frank Molinaro, PSU, dec. Mike Kelly, 11-5.
157: No. 8 Dylan Alton, PSU, dec. Nick Moore, 5-3.
165: No. 1 David Taylor, PSU, dec. No. 6 Mike Evans, 9-4.
174: No. 2 Ed Ruth, PSU, maj. dec. Ethen Lofthouse, 10-1.
184: No. 2 Quentin Wright, PSU, dec. Vinnie Wagner, 8-2.
197: No. 12 Morgan McIntosh, PSU, dec. Grant Gambrall, 5-3 SV.
Hwt: No. 6 Cameron Wade, PSU, dec. Blake Rasing, 4-0
Referee: Mike McCormick; Assistant: Jake Lleweylln.
Records: Iowa 9-3, 4-2 Big Ten; Penn State 8-1, 4-1.
Next match: Ohio State at Penn State, 2 p.m. Sunday.