No. 19 Purdue Wrestling scrapped with No. 1 Penn State Friday in Holloway Gymnasium, claiming three wins in a 30-10 overall loss.
“I thought we were better than what we have been,” said head coach Tony Ersland. “Obviously it’s a very good team, the score was a little against us, but at most weights I saw more fights, more wrestling through tough positions and more activity.”
The meet drew a large crowd, nearly filling the bleachers with equal parts Purdue (5-6, 2-3 Big Ten) and Penn State (9-0, 5-0) fans.
Consistently the first on the mat for the Boilers is sophomore Devin Schroder, who claimed his fifth consecutive win, defeating Devin Schnupp of Penn State.
“It feels good getting in a groove for sure,” Schroder said.
The first two minutes of the match were scoreless, but a flurry of action in the final minute of the first period saw Schroder get a takedown and execute tilting combination for two back points, putting him up 4-0. Schroder, traditionally a back–point leader for the Boilers, was also able to expose his Michigan opponent’s back last weekend, winning 9-1.
“It was nice to get that near-fall and push that lead out early in the match,” Schroder said. “We worked on it last week, and we’re always working on improving.”
The 125–pounder widened the score gap to 6-1 in the final two periods.
No. 18 Ben Thornton followed, going after Penn State’s No. 13 Roman Bravo-Young with a lightning-fast opening attack. Thornton had Bravo-Young’s leg in the air and was in good position to get a takedown when the Nittany Lion attempted a flip to improve his position. Thornton, a senior and returning NCAA qualifier, came prepared.
“I knew going into the match he was a very athletic wrestler. I’ve seen a couple of matches (and) I knew he was going to make action happen,” Thornton said. “I just knew I had to stick to my technique on finishes. I couldn’t let the momentum create scrambles because I know that’s what he wanted.”
After dealing with Bravo-Young’s acrobatics, Thornton finished his takedown. The flip caused Penn State to call for injury time, as Bravo-Young’s leg was loaded heavily in the exchange. Because of the injury time, Thornton was allowed to choose his starting position after the timeout. He chose to start from the bottom position, and quickly got away for an escape point. This made the score 3-0 with over two minutes still left in the first period.
“With Ben, I was happy how he came out,” Ersland said. “He came out, he hit the leg, he was aggressive.”
The two went back and forth with takedowns in the remaining two periods. Thornton got one at the end of the second period and Bravo-Young got one midway through the third. Thornton finished out the upset win 7-3, making the team score 6-0 in favor of Purdue.
“It’s a good confidence booster,” Thornton said. “You gotta have a short memory, especially in the Big Ten season, because every opponent you’re gonna have is tough. You can’t dwell on the losses, you can’t dwell on the wins either.”
The next match saw junior Nate Limmex of Purdue go up against No. 7 Nick Lee, an Indiana-native recruited to Penn State. It was Lee’s first match back in Indiana since beginning his college career. The match ended 17-6 for Lee.
Limmex was able to get a takedown towards the end of the final period in order to prevent getting tech falled, saving a team point for the Boilers. While it was a tough loss, Limmex’s effort throughout, as well as similar showings from the rest of the lineup, were appreciated by the Purdue bench.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re wrestling, but you’ve got to wrestle hard for seven minutes,” Schroder said.
The following matches proceeded into what many call Penn State’s “murderer’s row.” Three back–to–back undefeated No. 1 wrestlers, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall, secured wins for the Nittany Lions. Nolf and Joseph got falls. This, along with a decision from Jarod Verkleeren of Penn State, brought the team’s score to 22 against Purdue’s 6.
Purdue sent out No. 14 Dylan Lydy against Hall. While the match didn’t go his way, he kept it close until the end, nearly hitting a throw to get a lead in the final period. The exchange had the crowd roaring and was undoubtedly the loudest moment of the night.
Sophomore Max Lyon of Purdue took out Francisco Bisono in a 12-4 major decision. Lyon and Schroder, while both unranked nationally at the moment, are each on a five-match win streak.
The final two bouts went to Penn State. Bo Nickal, another undefeated wrestler and one of four returning NCAA champs for Penn State, took out No. 12 Christian Brunner 17-6. The meet ended 30-10.
Penn State is currently on a 54 dual–meet winning streak and has won national team titles for the past three years. The Nittany Lions stayed in Indiana for the full weekend in order to face Indiana University on Sunday, closing out a 35-9 victory over the Hoosiers. Bravo-Young forfeited for Penn State, likely due to injuries weathered in his match against Thornton, meaning that IU took just one bout against PSU.
The Boilers return to action next Sunday at Minnesota.
“We’ve got a little time to prepare and train, you know being off for over a week now,” Ersland said. “We’ll enjoy some of the good things the guys did tonight, evaluate tomorrow and move forward.”