STATE COLLEGE - Although the final score was 30-7 in favor of Penn State at Rec Hall on Friday night, it probably wasn't one of the most impressive performances of the 2011 season according to the assessment of head coach Cael Sanderson.
Following the match, you could tell by looking in Sanderson's eyes that he wasn't exactly overjoyed with what he had just witnessed.
"I saw the same things you saw," said Sanderson as he addressed the media. "We were a little flat, but that is going to happen when you take a week off. But regardless of that, it still falls on our heads that you have to be ready to go. That is what is important to us. But give them credit because that is a good team we wrestled tonight."
The two squads opened the dual meet by swapping major decisions, Pitt's Anthony Zanetta downing Eric Cashera 14-5 at 125 before Nittany Lion Andrew Long put on a takedown clinic in his first home dual meet, Long slicking Pitt's Shelton Mack seven takedowns en route to a 17-5 win at 133.
"He got a major against a guy who has a style that is tough to score on," said Sanderson of Long's debut in Rec Hall. "His conditioning is great and I think he is coming on real well. He is entertaining to watch and his win got us going there after a loss."
Cashera was subbing for Brad Pataky who is out with a knee problem, while Frank Martolletti, who was in the lineup at 125 for much of the early part of the season, is out of the lineup due to academic problems.
With the meet tied at four-all, former Central Mountain standout Andrew Alton put the Lions ahead as the true freshman doubled up on returning All-American Tyler Nauman for an 8-4 decision at 141. Going into the match, Alton was ranked fifth, while Nauman held down the seventh spot in the national rankings.
When asked if it was good to have Alton involved in a control match instead of getting the quick fall, Sanderson said, "That was a good match for him because that was a tough kid. "He (Nauman) is a good wrestler who also has some tricks that you have to be aware of. He (Alton) is a true freshman who beat a returning All-American. He can score and every time he tries to score, he usually does. He is really talented and we want him to just keep pushing the pace."
Frank Molinaro made it three wins in a row as he overcame the stalling tactics of Dane Johnson for a methodical 8-2 win at 149 before David Taylor put on his version of a takedown clinic by taking down Donnie Tasser down nine times en route to racking up a 26-11 technical fall in 7:00.
With the Alton, Molinaro and Taylor wins, the Lions surged to a commanding 15-4 lead midway through the meet.
Following the halftime break, Pitt's Ethan Headlee temporarily stopped the bleeding when he tossed a 4-0 shutout at Jake Kemerer, but Ed Ruth turned Andy Vaughan every way but loose as he mauled Vaughan for a 16-7 lead before cradling the Panther for the fall at the 5:45 mark of their bout at 174.
Quentin Wright made his return to the Lion lineup a successful one as he rode a five-point move in the first period to a 12-7 win over Max Thomessuit at 184 and Nick Ruggear gave the Lions three more points at 197 when he doubled up on Phil Sorrentino 4-2.
"It was his first match back so I think he is going to get better every time he steps out on the mat," said Sanderson of Wright. "I don't think he is too happy with his performance tonight. He did some great things in the match, but he just needs to wrestle to get back to where he could be."
In the evening's finale, Cameron Wade, ranked sixth in the country, used a first period takedown and a third period escape to register a 3-2 win over third-ranked Ryan Tomei to set the final.
"I liked Wade's patience in his match, especially against a tough kid," said Sanderson. "He (Wade) is pretty good at what he does, but the top kids know what he does and what is coming. He has to set up what he is going to do and stick with the fundamentals. He rode the kid out the whole second period and I thought he did a real nice job."
With the win, the Lions remain perfect at 12-0 as they head to Indiana for a dual meet Sunday afternoon with the Hoosiers.
Coupled with top-ranked Cornell's loss to Lehigh, the Lions could possibly find themselves perched on the top rung of the national rankings when next week rolls around. Stay tuned.