Mark Hall stepped up the stairs and onto the mat Saturday night in the Bryce Jordan Center with his Nittany Lions clinging to a one-point lead over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The 174-pounder was a clear favorite to defeat Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero, but few knew how quickly he’d flatten his No. 7-ranked opponent.
Hall caught a shot attempt by the Ohio State 174-pounder early in the match and saw an opening. He twisted the Buckeye’s upper body and turned him to his back with a cement mixer. After a few seconds of writhing by Romero, Hall pressed his weight onto him until Romero could no longer keep himself up. The referee slapped his hand to the mat with the clock showing 2:14 and the sold-out crowd of 15,995 erupted.
The first-period pin proved to be crucial in pushing Penn State to victory over the Buckeyes at the annual Bryce Jordan Center dual, as PSU went on to win 20-16.
The Lions came in ranked No. 2 in the nation, while Ohio State was No. 3, according to Intermat.
The Penn State senior said he anticipated Romero’s shot and knew he had to finish him once he turned him.
“(The advantage came) pretty quick,” Hall said. “I knew he was going to shoot with his right hand, so I just got where I was good and made him pay the price. ... I kind of learned my lesson from the Iowa match. If I do something big, I’ve got to put it away.”
Hall’s victory wasn’t the only time the BJC crowd rose to its feet.
Lee also gets pivotal win: Nick Lee did his best to blow the roof off the arena when he took down No. 1 141-pounder Luke Pletcher. Lee, the No. 2 wrestler in the weight class, defeated Pletcher 8-4. The NIttany Lion trailed 3-1 with 50 seconds left in the second period but quickly took control of the match from there.
Lee secured a takedown to tie the match at 3-3 with 48 seconds left in the period, and a second stall call on Pletcher made it 4-3 entering the final period. It was all Lee from there. He closed out the match with a 4-1 third period to earn the victory.
The Penn Stater said he never let the initial takedown by Pletcher faze him.
“It’s just seven minutes of wrestling,” Lee said. “You’re going to give up takedowns sometimes. It’s all right; you just keep wrestling through the whole match.”
Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said Lee’s success isn’t a surprise given how he carries himself and the talent he brings to the mat.
“Nick is extremely consistent,” Sanderson said. “The way he trains year-round, his lifestyle, those things pay off and we’re seeing that. … Nick is a pretty darn good wrestler and when you match the skill with the commitment, this is what you get.”
Joseph comes up big: Lee earned the biggest victory and Hall earned the only pin of the night, but 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph also played a key role in securing the victory for the Nittany Lions.
Joseph went down 2-0 early in his match against Ethan Smith but quickly showed his superior ability to earn a 13-5 major decision. The senior earned four takedowns in the match on his way to the win, including two in the final period.
“My first thought was that Nick Lee got taken down and still whooped his guy,” Joseph said. “So I can do the same thing.”
Not all good news: The match wasn’t all good for Penn State. The team struggled to earn victories at weight classes it hasn’t found consistency at yet this year. The Nittany Lions have struggled at 125, 149, 157, 197, and 285 all year and dropped matches at all five weights in the dual.
“I don’t think we wrestled great tonight,” Sanderson said. “I don’t think that’s any secret. Our guys that are consistent were consistent. Our guys that haven’t been consistent, weren’t consistent. We need those guys that haven’t been consistent to just kind of step it up a little bit if we want to compete for a national title. We’re right there, when you go up and down the lineup, we’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay positive.”
Berge loses in return: Those weights included the return of Brady Berge at 157 pounds. Berge suffered a head injury in October, tried to return in December by competing in one match but then sat out again — until Saturday. He lost 4-3 to Quinn Kinner.
Sanderson acknowledged the 157-pounder showed some rust.
“It’s his first time on the mat in a little while,” Sanderson said. “I thought his speed and his movement and everything looked good. He just needs to be focused and have everything right in his mind.”
Other losses for Penn State came at the hands of Brandon Meredith (125; decision), Jarod Verkleeren (147; decision), Shakur Rasheed (194; major decision) and Seth Nevills (decision; 285). Other PSU winners were Roman Bravo-Young (133; decision) and Aaron Brooks (184; major decision), who thumped No. 12 Rocky Jordan 15-4.
The Nittany Lions will finish their regular season when they take on American University on Feb. 23 at Rec Hall. The dual is slated to begin at 2 p.m.
No. 2 Penn State 20, No. 6 Ohio State 16
Saturday at University Park
125: Malik Heinselman, OSU dec. Brandon Meredith, PSU, 5-3
133: No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, dec. Jordan Decatur, OSU, 10-4
141: No. 2 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. No. 1 Luke Pletcher, 8-4
149: No. 1 Sammy Sasso, OSU, dec. No. 17 Jarod Verkleeren, PSU, 3-1
157: Quinn Kinner, OSU, dec. Brady Berge, PSU, 4-3
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, maj. dec. No. 16 Ethan Smith, OSU, 13-5
174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, fall No. 7 Kaleb Romero, OSU (:46)
184: No. 6 Aaron Brooks, PSU, maj. dec. No. 12 Rocky Jordan, OSU, 15-4
197: No. 1 Kollin Moore, OSU, maj. dec. No. 17 Shakur Rasheed, PSU, 14-6
285: Gary Traub, OSU, dec. No. 15 Seth Nevills, PSU, 5-4
Takedowns: Penn State 18, Ohio State 12
Records: Penn State 11-2, Ohio State 10-4
Next match: American at Penn State, Feb. 23, 2 p.m.