STATE COLLEGE – David Taylor brought Penn State fans to Rec Hall one more time, and – once again – they didn’t go home disappointed.
Taylor beat Nick Reenan twice at 86 kilograms in one of six Final X series meant to determine World Team spots on Saturday night, and then led a “We Are” chant.
Here’s a recap of the best-of-3 series:
Men 65 KGs
Logan Stieber def. Joey McKenna (8-8, 8-0)
The night got off to a great start, as Stieber – a 2016 World Champion and four-time NCAA champ for Ohio State – beat McKenna – another Buckeye – 8-8 on criteria thanks to a 4-point takedown in the second minute of the match.
McKenna, the 2018 U.S. Open champion, stormed back to take a 7-6 lead with a little more than a minute left in the bout, but his funky style came back to bite him. Rather than give up a stepout point, McKenna tried to dive through on Stieber’s ankles off a shot and instead gave up two exposure points. That proved to be a fatal mistake, as Stieber was able to give up a late stepout point and win on that four-point first-period takedown, which was a double across McKenna’s body on which Stieber drove him to his back.
The pace was a bit slower in the second bout of the series, with McKenna trying to fight off a number of Stieber leg attacks. Stieber capitalized on one of those shots in the first period. McKenna fought from a quad pod position, but when he came up, Stieber threw him for four points.
That lead would have been enough to get the job done, but Stieber added to it in the second period with a takedown and then two exposure points from an ankle lace.
Women 62 KGs
Mallory Velte def. Kayla Miracle (2-4, 4-2, 7-1)
Miracle, who has won the past two U.S. Open titles and just wrapped up a four-time career at Campbellsville that saw her win four WCWA national titles, made two first-period takedowns stand up in the opening match, but it wasn’t easy. Velte, a 2017 World Team member, scored one takedown in the second and was behind Miracle with a chance for a second, but Miracle was able to break her grip and free herself to hold on for the 4-2 victory.
Miracle got off to another fast start in the second match, as she took Velte down in the opening minute.
Velte, a four-time U.S. Open champ, came out of the break quickly, as she got to a single leg and hoisted it to her shoulder. Miracle, fearing a bigger move, had little choice but to turn down for a takedown that tied the match at 2 but put Velte ahead on criteria.
Watters had more good scoring attempt, but Velte was able to fight off her shot and countered with a go-behind that gave her the 4-2 victory and forced a decisive third match.
The third match turned quickly. Velte scored off a double leg 1:30 into the match, and Miracle’s corner challenged it. That turned out to be a bad decision, as it was confirmed and she trailed 3-0. As she tried to push the action in the second period, it played into Velte’s hands, and she added a couple of takedowns in a 7-1 victory.
Women 72 KGs
Erin Clodgo def. Rachel Watters (4-2, 0-8, 4-4)
After scoring a stepout in the first period, Clodgo – a four-time U.S. Open champ and 2015 World Team member – came up with a crucial crotch lift in the second. Watters – the U.S. Open runner-up to Clodgo – was in on a nice low single but didn’t finish, and Clodgo exposed her for a 3-0 lead that became event bigger when Watters scored a takedown in the closing seconds. Watters’ corner argued that she should have also gotten a stepout point, but they lost the challenge to give Clodgo her final point and the victory.
Watters used a vicious snapdown that drew an “oooh” from the crowd to get Clodgo out of position in the first period, then threw her by for a takedown. She added another go-behind with 40 seconds left for a 4-0 lead at the break.
Watters kept pouring it on (pardon the pun) in the second with a beautiful ankle-pick and two exposure points made it 8-0 halfway through the period.
In the final match, Clodgo said she “hit the reset button” to put the loss out of her mind, and it looked like it, as she got a first-period shot-clock point to take the lead, then used a crotch lift to expose Watters to make it 3-0. Watters eventually scored a reversal, but it was 3-1 after one period.
Watters got a passivity point in the second and took the lead with a takedown, but Clodgo was able to get a stepout point with 24 seconds remaining to tie the match at 4 and give her the edge on criteria. Watters got one more good shot off, but Clodgo was able to fight off the attack and hold on to make her second World Team.
Men 79 KGs
Kyle Dake def. Zahid Valencia (4-0, 4-3)
Valencia – as he always does – came out firing. The World Team Trials Challenge Tournament winner and 2018 NCAA champ from Arizona State got in deep on a double and appeared to be in great position to score. But Dake, who won U.S. Open titles in 2016 and 2018 in addition to his four NCAA titles for Cornell, was somehow able to fight off the shot from a seemingly indefensible position on his butt and avoid giving up any points.
Dake went on the shot clock with 1:27 left in first period, but Valencia still took a shot – or at least a fake in which he dropped down. Dake countered with a lightning quick go-behind and drove Valencia to the edge before taking him down for a 2-0 lead that held after one period.
Valencia got in deep again in the second period, but Dake again came out with the better position. He was able to crotch lift Valencia and expose him for two more points. Dake appeared to have a leg lace, but couldn’t turn Valencia, and they went back to their feet for the final minute.
In the second bout, Valencia found a way to crack Dake’s defense – by getting him moving and dropping down for a sick ankle pick. After that takedown, Valencia nearly got another pick in the first, but Dake kicked out of it, and it was 2-0 at the break.
Dake looked like he was behind Valencia for a takedown in the second, but Valencia just slipped out to avoid danger. Valencia twice got into the same position that hurt in the first match – flattened out on his belly after a shot attempt – and Dake capitalized on the second opportunity. A crotch lift turned Valencia, and Dake used a gut wrench for two more points. Valencia got a caution and 1 brought Valencia within a point, but he couldn’t complete the comeback.
Women 76 KGs
Adeline Gray def. Korinahae Bullock (10-0, Fall 1:04)
Gray showed why she’s a three-time world champion. The coach of the Wyoming Seminary girls program, Gray scored of a single leg in the opening minute and never let Bullock reach her feet again. Four turns from a leg lace gave Gray the 10-0 vicory in just 1:15.
The second match didn’t last that long. Gray countered a Bullock shot for a takedown, then pinned her with an arm bar in a very impressive display.
Men 86 KGs
David Taylor def. Nick Reenan (13-2, 12-0)
The 13-2 score isn’t quite indicative of how close the first match was. Reenan, who hails from Texas but attended Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, wasn’t intimidated at all by Taylor, a three-time U.S. Open champion who his seven years his senior. Reenan scored the opening takedown on a go-behind to stun the clearly partisan crowd, which gave its biggest cheer of the night – at that point – with the introduction of Taylor, who won two NCAA titles and two Hodge Trophies for the Nittany Lions.
Taylor scored the next two takedowns on snapdowns to go ahead 4-2, but Reenan continued to be competitive, to say the least. He was in position to throw Taylor in their next exchange, but the Magic Man was able to block the attempt and put Reenan on his back for four points. Taylor added two more takedowns to win 13-2 in 2:22.
The second match wasn’t competitive. Reenan was understandably a bit more cautious in the early going, but after he got put on the shot clock, Taylor countered a Reenan shot for a 2-0 lead. He added a second takedown, then turned the N.C. State wrestler twice with a leg lace to make it 8-0.
Taylor ended it with a 4-pointer, as he drove Reenan to his back off a shot to clinch the win by technical superiority.