BY ANDY ELDER
STATE COLLEGE —
As if the Penn State wrestling team’s lineup wasn’t formidable enough, on Sunday the Nittany Lions introduced another potential superstar.
True freshman Zain Retherford, already ranked No. 8 at 141 pounds, improved his record to 11-0 with a stunning 4-2 overtime upset of top-ranked junior Logan Stieber, a two-time defending NCAA champion.
That was one of eight wins No. 1 Penn State (6-0, 1-0 Big Ten) scored in a dominating 31-6 pasting of No. 7 Ohio State (4-1, 0-1) in front of a sold-out Rec Hall crowd of 6,380.
“As a program, you just want to keep getting better each match. This is exciting, seeing Zain wrestle so well and our other freshmen and young kids. They’re just going to keep getting better each match. That’s part of the plan. I thought the guys really wrestled well,” coach Cael Sanderson said.
Ohio State coach Tom Ryan was especially displeased with his team’s fight.
“Terrible. Our fight was embarrassing. Our fight was way below our standard of excellence,” he said. “It’s hard to pull something from that event that’s positive. That hurt. That loss stings. That hurts. That was an ugly loss.”
The ugliest, from the Buckeyes’ perspective, came at 141.
Stieber’s last loss came on Feb. 12, 2012 against Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver.
Trailing 2-1 after a period, Retherford rode Stieber the entire second period. Retherford chose neutral to start the third and neither wrestler scored.
The Nittany Lion’s 1:07 advantage in riding time gave Retherford the tying point and sent the match into overtime. He converted a low single into a takedown with 17 seconds to go for the 4-2 win.
Five of Penn State’s other seven wins earned the Nittany Lions bonus points.
No. 3 125-pounder Nico Megaludis rolled up a 22-4 technical fall in 6:56 and No. 1 165-pounder David Taylor also scored a tech fall, 20-5 in 7:00.
No. 3 174-pounder Matt Brown (16-4), No. 1 184-pounder Ed Ruth (14-3 over No. 12 Kenny Courts) and No. 12 heavyweight Jimmy Lawson (15-4) all earned major decisions.
Zack Beitz, filling in for Andrew Alton at 149, upset No. 19 Ian Paddock, 5-3, at 149. And James Vollrath, filling in for Dylan Alton at 157, used five takedowns to earn an 11-5 decision.
Nick Roberts, a redshirt freshman 125-pounder for the Buckeyes, struggled along with his team this day.
He had been making progress for Ohio State, earning a No. 19 ranking and an 18-4 record.
Roberts, a North Star graduate, was coming off a seventh-place finish last weekend at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational.
“I see signs of improvement. Last weekend at Vegas was really good,” Ryan said.
He cautioned that Roberts, like a lot of young wrestlers, is still transitioning from high school.
“A lot of high school kids think they understand what competing is. They think they understand what hard work is and they’ve had a lot of success doing what they’ve been doing. And it’s so far below what the standard is,” he said.
“For him, right now, it’s taken him awhile to understand how hard you’ve got fight. It’s about the run in the morning. It’s about doing the extra sprint. It’s about doing the extra lift. It’s about fighting a little harder when the guy’s in on your leg in practice every day. All of those little things add up to something very big. We saw, when you don’t do that, what happens.”
So, will Roberts take the extra steps that the coach talked about? Ryan wasn’t ready to say that just yet.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to make any assumptions,” he said. “I’ll see it after 90 days of work. I’ll see it tomorrow morning when everyone’s hurting.”