The Broncs were competitive, but the Nittany Lions lived up to their billing
But boy, was it a big one.
Sixth-year senior 197-pounder Ethan Laird took down national champion Max Dean in overtime for a 3-1 win in what became a 37-3 Penn State victory.
“He was ready,” said Rider coach John Hangey. “He has all the intangibles. The thing he does the best is make in-match adjustments better than anybody I’ve ever coached. That’s not something you can teach. That’s something that’s internal. I don’t know what else I can say about Ethan Laird. He’s an awesome kid.”
Laird fought off three near takedowns by Dean during the match, including in the final seconds of the third period with the Broncs calling for a technical violation for Dean pulling Laird’s singlet. The review didn’t go Laird’s way, but it did give him a chance to rest and plot.
Shortly after the start of the sudden-death overtime period, Laird slipped behind Dean and brought him down to the mat. Dean slipped out of the hold quickly, but the two fingers went up from ref Gary Wade and the call stood after another review.
“You know what I’m going to say, it’s all practice for March,” said Laird. “I might see him in the national finals, semis, quarters. Now I know what he has, I’ve felt it and I know I can beat him.
“I went to an eye-level shot I go to when a guy has really good defense. I slipped him, got behind him and got the mat return.”
On the defense that gave him a chance to win, Laird said “That’s my thing. You can get to the hips. Good luck getting through them.”
There was a best-case scenario for the Rider from a team standpoint. There was also a worst-case scenario.
What happened pretty much resembled the latter until Laird took the mat.
The absolute best-case scenario for the Broncs was to win six of the 10 bouts - which still might not have been enough to win the dual.
A more likely scenario was to pick off two or three close wins and remain competitive in a handful more, and while the Broncs were in many of the matches until the third period they couldn’t finish the job in most of the bouts. In addition, they lost Jake Silverstein in the first few seconds of the 157-pound match with a shoulder injury that resembled the one that cost him his entire season a year ago.
Last year’s 45-0 drubbing against Penn State was expected as Rider was decimated by injury, but it hoped for a better score with a more complete and healthy team in front of a crowd of 3,229. It didn’t look like the result was going to be different until Laird took the mat.
“My favorite match in the six years I’ve been here, for a small school like Rider to put on a match like this in an atmosphere like this was awesome,” said Laird. “A lot of guys fought hard. That’s the No. 1 team in the country.”
Penn State’s Gary Steen opened the match at 125 with a 6-4 win over Tyler Klinsky, fighting off a late takedown attempt. Two weights later, Rider freshman McKenzie Bell (141) held a 4-2 lead with a minute left against seventh-ranked Beau Bartlett and seemed primed for another upset - he defeated No. 11 Parker Filius of Purdue earlier in the year - but Bartlett reversed Bell to his back for a stunning fall at 6:08.
In the next match - a toss-up between Rider’s Quinn Kinner and Penn State’s Shayne Van Ness- the Penn State freshman and former Blair standout scored four points to take an early lead. Kinner fought back to 6-5, but Van Ness closed out the match with an 11-6 victory.
Rider’s Hunter Mays was close to an opening takedown in his 165-pound match against Alex Facundo, but he couldn’t convert and the rest of the match went the Nittany Lions’ way, 13-4.
“We wrestled well at 25 and 41, everybody else let the wrestling come to them and that was frustrating,” said Hangey. “McKenzie wrestled on his butt, which you can’t do. He put himself in position to win the match, and he made a fundamental mistake. He pushed the pace, he should have won.”
Two other Penn State national champions Roman Bravo-Young (133) and Carter Starocci (174) both picked up bonus points, while their fourth national champion, 184-pounder Aaron Brooks, did not compete.
NEXT: Rider is off until competing in the Southern Scuffle Jan. 1-2 in Chattanooga, Tn. Penn State will face Lehigh on Sunday.
Penn State 37, Rider 3
|125||Gary Steen (PSU) d. Tyler Klinksy, 2-1||3-0|
|133||Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) md. Richie Koehler, 23-9||7-0|
|141||Beau Bartlett (PSU) p. McKenzie Bell, 6:08||13-0|
|149||Shayne Van Ness (PSU) d. Quinn Kinner, 11-6||16-0|
|157||Terrell Barraclough (PSU) won by injury default over Jake Silverstein||22-0|
|165||Alex Facundo (PSU) d. Hunter Mays, 13-4||26-0|
|174||Carter Starocci (PSU) md. Shane Reitsma, 18-6||30-0|
|184||Donovan Ball (PSU) d. Asa Terrell, 9-3||33-0|
|197||Ethan Laird (R) d. Max Dean, 3-1 (OT)||33-3|
|285||Greg Kirkvliet (PSU) md. David Szuba, 11-1||37-3|