Penn State Opens Season with 45-3 Win Against Army

STATE COLLEGE – Things quickly went from banners to bonus points for Penn State’s top-ranked wrestling team Thursday night.

It wasn’t long after Penn State raised yet another commemorative NCAA championship banner in Rec Hall before 6,320 onlookers that it flattened Army West Point 45-3 and made the Black Knights its 32nd straight victim.

Three Penn State starters were first-timers in the lineup and another returned after injury, and three in that particular quartet – Corey Keener, Jered Cortez and Anthony Cassar – walked off as winners.

So did Penn State’s five returning NCAA champions and its returning All-America heavyweight. Army is known for scrapping and battling, but it was pretty much as easy for the Nittany Lions as the score indicated.

“We’re just happy to be rolling,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We’re happy to get out there and see where we’re at, what we can work on, where we can improve. It’s going to be a great year.’’

It would be difficult to dispute that point, and Thursday’s 45 points are the first reason why.

While Penn State redshirt freshman Devin Schnupp (Warwick) lost his Nittany Lion debut 6-4 to Trey Chalifont at 125 pound to yield Army’s only points, Keener (Blue Mountain) connected with a deep headlock on Lane Peters and held him on his back until securing the fall at the 2:50 mark.

His Rec Hall debut was everything he anticipated.

“Coming out it was exciting, it was kind of different,” Keener said. “I didn’t really have any nerves. It was almost too calm, I thought, for whatever reason, I don’t really know why that was.”

“I talked to some of the guys about what the atmosphere was going to be like and they said it would be like everyone would be right on top of you, like right on the mat. I definitely got that feeling, so it was exciting,” Keener said.

From there, it was even smoother sailing. Cortez at 141 looked to be fully recovered from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of last season as he knocked off Austin Harry (Lake Lehman) 12-6. Cortez was slick on his feet throughout, notching five takedowns.

“That’s the first time he’s been on the mat for a while and he did a nice job,” Sanderson said about Cortez. “He has some great skills, he’s very quick and can hit both sides. Being on the mat for the first time in a long time, I think he wrestled well.”

Penn State’s next five wrestlers were familiar faces who have not only earned fans’ respect going away, but won five straight titles from 149-184 at last season’s NCAA championships and earned five more victories Thursday night.

First on that list was Zain Retherford (Benton), who could become Penn State’s second three-time NCAA champion in March. He dispatched of Knox Fuller via technical fall in just 4:13 to give the Nittany Lions a 14-3 lead.

Jason Nolf (Kittanning) wasted no time in running the score to 20-3 when he cradled Lucas Weiland for an early two-and-two, lost that and eventually wound up with his legs around Weiland’s head with Weiland on his back, something he called his “secret move.” He finally settled into more of a conventional body press, and all in just 1:07.

“I enjoy watching it,” Sanderson said about the secret move. “Yeah, he knows what he’s doing. You may see that again throughout the year; he’s getting pretty good at it.’’

Vincenzo Joseph (Pittsburgh Central Catholic) was stunned a bit when Andrew Mendel recorded the opening takedown, but Joseph stormed back with seven takedowns while in complete control en route to a 17-7 major decision at 165. And Mark Hall was sweet on his feet against Ben Harvey, slicking the Black Knight sophomore for four two-pointers before rolling through on a cement mixer for a fall in 4:09.

Bo Nickal at 184 did the same, only much, much faster. He immediately went upper body on Noah Stewart (Mifflin County) and left no doubt with his version of the mixer, decking Stewart in just 26 seconds for a 36-3 Penn State lead.

Cassar and Nick Nevills closed with easy wins as well. Cassar downed Rocco Caywood 10-3 and he, too, had his way on his feet. “I’ve seen what I can do in training and in practice and I got that little jump-start in confidence to get the season going,” Cassar said.

Nevills finished with a five-takedown performance against Bobby Heald, the final one a low single-leg on which he hesitated, positioned himself better and quickly reached up for an overhead cradle to pin Heald in 6:10.



125: Trey Chalifoux, Army dec. Devin Schnupp PSU, 6-4

133: Corey Keener, PSU pinned Lane Peters, 2:50

141: Jered Cortez, PSU dec. Austin Harry, 12-6

149: Zain Retherford, PSU tech fall Knox Fuller, 4:13 (17-1)

157: Jason Nolf, PSU pinned Lucas Weiland, 1:53

165: Vincenzo Joseph, PSU maj. dec. Andrew Mendel, 17-7

174: Mark Hall, PSU pinned Ben Harvey, 4:09

184: Bo Nickal, PSU pinned Noah Stewart, :26

197: Anthony Cassar, PSU dec. Rocco Caywood, 10-3

285: Nick Nevills, PSU pinned Bobby Heald,  6:10

Leave a Comment