Finally, A Penn State Win over Iowa Wrestling

January 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

Morgan McIntosh tangles with Iowa's Grant Gambrill in this Mark Selders photo.


Three bouts into the wrestling team’s dual meet with Iowa on Sunday afternoon, the Nittany Lions had lost all three bouts, one by pin, and were down 12-0.  Surely some of the 6,796 fans—the largest crowd in Rec Hall since its reconfiguration—were having flashbacks to last year’s Iowa dual, in which Penn State lost the first three matches—one by pin—and never recovered from a 12-0 deficit.

So was coach Cael Sanderson worried?

“I know Cunningham was,” Sanderson said, using assistant coach Casey Cunningham as a comic foil, as he often does. “I was doin’ all right.”

Spoken like someone who had seven ranked wrestlers—including two guys at No. 1 and two guys at No. 2—coming up to the mat. But it was the guy ranked No. 12—197-pounder Morgan McIntosh, a true freshman—who clinched a 22-12 victory over the Hawkeyes.

McIntosh, facing Iowa junior Grant Gambrall, who finished third at NCAAs last season, got a takedown with 17 seconds remaining in the one-minute “sudden victory” overtime period for a 5-3 victory that gave Penn State insurmountable 19-12 lead with one bout to go.

The takedown also gave Sanderson his first dual-meet victory—as an Iowa State wrestler, Iowa State coach, or Penn State coach—over the Hawkeyes. And it gave McIntosh a loud, long standing ovation. “Coolest feeling I ever felt,” he said. “I’m not going to forget that for a long time.”

As usual, the Hawkeyes made things tough for the Lions. Guys who are usually big scorers—149-pounder Frank Molinaro, 165-pounder David Taylor, 184-pounder Quentin Wright—won only by decision. Ed Ruth got a major decision at 174 thanks to two stalling calls on Iowa’s Ethan Lofthouse.

And the wrestlers were fine with that.

“We compared it to last year,” Wright said. “Last year they did the same thing. They let us go out there and wear ourselves out. We pushed the action so hard that we fell apart in the third period. That’s because we were so hyper, thinking we were going to go out there and just roll over them.

“And this year we were like,  ‘Hey, don’t let that happen.’  We knew they were going to try to beat us, and the only way they can beat us is if they stall and wait for us to make our own mistakes. And we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re not going to make any mistakes. We’re just going to wrestle solid and beat them.’”

The match was the first athletic event on campus after the announcement of Joe Paterno’s death, and there was a moment of silence before the match, then warm, sustained applause as the public-address announcer read a tribute to Paterno as an “educator, philanthropist, and coach.” (Although the best eulogy to Paterno may have come after the match, from Ruth, who said he hadn’t met the coach but that “I had his ice cream.”)

There’s no love lost between Penn State and Iowa wrestling, but Iowa coach Tom Brands paid Paterno a high compliment, as well.

“I know what he means to this community—or I can imagine I know, I don’t live here,” Brands said after the match. “The thing that I said to our radio (broadcasters) earlier is that he was a competitor his whole life, and that in a way, this is a celebration. Because you’re competin’. You didn’t postpone; you didn’t cancel. I happen to agree with that—that’s my way of thinking. “

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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