STATE COLLEGE — Seth Nevills probably won’t forget his first collegiate wrestling match.
The freshman from Clovis, California, took the mat Friday evening at Rec Hall as Penn State held a three-point lead over visiting Illinois. Nevills proceeded to tally points via two takedowns, an escape and riding time to secure a 6-3 win against Luke Luffman in the night’s heavyweight match to clinch the match for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State earned a 22-16 win against Illinois in Friday night’s Big Ten opener to improve to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the conference.
“Coach Cael (Sanderson) always tells us to be ready, so I guess from the time I got here,” Nevills said. “(The coaches) always keep us ready. They’re always putting us through the same stuff as the starters, so it always keeps us in check.”
Friday capped an eventful week for Sanderson, which saw him lose two wrestlers to injury (Anthony Cassar and Kyle Conel), and another (Brody Teske) to the NCAA transfer portal. Further complicating things, Sanderson was without several of his wrestlers on Friday, including Roman Bravo-Young and Vicenzo Joseph.
Penn State found itself down 9-0 before Nick Lee secured a 13-5 win over Dylan Duncan at 141 pounds. Lee tallied 1:27 of riding time in the Nittany Lions’ first win of the match.
“The guys did a nice job of coming back and winning a match that we very easily could have lost under the circumstances,” Sanderson said. “When you don’t have guys in the lineup, it’s hard to win tough matches like that. These guys sucked it up and found a way. We have a lot of positives, and that’s what we have to go on right now.”
Mark Hall needs no introduction at Penn State’s Rec Hall, and the scene before his 174-pound bout against Illinois’ Joey Gunther proved as much.
Before the public announcer could utter Hall’s name on Friday night, a chorus of applause and yells overtook the public announcer as Hall jogged to the mat.
Hall earned a win over Joey Gunther when Gunther was disqualified in the third period after being penalized for five stalls.
Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed (197) gave the Nittany Lions the lead in the second-to-last match of the night. Rasheed returned to the mat after sitting out nearly a year with a leg injury. Rasheed was met by a thunderous chorus of applause.
Rasheed and Illinois’ Matt Wroblewski ended the first and second periods tied at zero before Rasheed tallied a point in the third on an escape. He added a late takedown in the third period to secure a 3-0 win, and earn a standing ovation.
“I think he’s a little disappointed; Shaq likes to come out and put on a show,” Sanderson said. “Under the circumstances, we would have taken a fall, but seeing him wrestle seven minutes in his first match back, I think that’s beneficial and good for him, too. He knows he can do that.”
Penn State returns to Rec Hall on Sunday for a match against Northwestern. Sanderson remains optimistic about the prospects of fielding a fuller roster.
“We should have guys back Sunday,” Sanderson said. “That’s the expectation.”
PENN STATE 22, ILLINOIS 16
125: Justin Cardani (I) dec. Brandon Meredith 6-0; 133: Travis Piotrowski (I) pinned Austin Clabaugh 6:54; 141: Nick Lee (PSU) maj. dec. Dylan Duncan 13-5; 149: Jarod Verkleeren (PSU) dec. Mousa Jodeh 6-2; 157: Eric Barone (I) dec. Bo Pipher 5-2; 165: Danny Braunagel (I) maj. dec. Konner Kraeszig 12-3; 174: Mark Hall (PSU) win by DQ Joey Gunther (6:40, stalling); 184: Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. Zach Braunagel 9-4; 197: Shakur Rasheed (PSU) dec. Matt Wroblewski 3-0; 285: Seth Nevills (PSU) dec. Luke Luffman 6-3.