Freshman, shmeshman. Penn freshman Jody Giuricich handled the biggest moment of his brief college wrestling career with poise and confidence Saturday evening, beating previously undefeated Penn State fifth-year senior Jason Betz to seal a wild 22-16 victory for the Quakers. Penn had never defeated Penn State in 17 meetings, and the last time the Nittany Lions even scheduled a dual meet with Penn was 1954. But this intra-state rivalry got a big shot in the arm with Saturday's dramatic finish, in front of a raucous 2,010 at the Palestra. After the No. 10 Quakers (1-0) built a 16-0 lead, No. 20 Penn State (0-3) rallied to bring the score to within three points. With Penn up 19-16 and one match to go, the spotlight fell solely on the freshman Giuricich, who was facing Betz, the No. 13 wrestler in the country at 141 pounds. Giuricich took the offensive in the first period, scoring a takedown, but Betz got back the two points with an escape and a technical violation by Giuricich at the end of the period. With the bout tied 2-2 in the second period, Giuricich scored back points on Betz, nearly pinning the three-time NCAA qualifier and bringing the crowd to a frenzy. But Betz, who is renowned for his on-the-mat ability, came back with a reversal. A Giuricich escape and another Betz takedown left the match tied 6-6 with one period to go. Giuricich got an escape to go up 7-6, and managed to withstand a furious late charge from Betz to grab the victory, 8-6, his last point coming from a riding time advantage. But like any good rivalry, the match had its fair share of controversy. Betz very nearly had Giuricich turned around in the last 0:15 of the third period, but the referee made no signal. The no-call left a large Penn State contingent at the Palestra reeling and Penn State coach Troy Sunderland up in arms. "That's the second time this year that he's cost us the match," Sunderland said, referring to the Nittany Lions' encounter with the same referee in a 19-16 loss to No. 11 Lehigh earlier this season. "It shouldn't happen," said a visibly frustrated Sunderland. "Our guys work too hard to let it in the hands of some referee." For Sunderland and Penn State, it has been a frustrating haul so far in 1999. After starting the year ranked No. 11, the Nittany Lions have seen their ranking slip nine spots after dropping close matches to Lehigh and No. 13 Edinboro. And with Penn State's loss to the Quakers, last year's top Eastern finisher at the NCAA Championships has now lost three matches to teams in its own state. But for the Red and Blue, the match serves as another step in the right direction for a team that went undefeated in its dual meet competition last year, posting a 10-0-2 mark. The victory also solidifies Penn's growing reputation as one of the top programs this side of the Mississippi. "We've been in the shadow of Penn State for so long, so winning the match shows what Penn wrestling is all about and how we are the most dominant team on the East Coast," Penn tri-captain Brett Matter said. Matter, ranked No. 3 nationally at 157 pounds, was part of an early flurry of dominant performances for the Quakers. Penn senior Jonathan Gough (149 pounds) started off the dual meet with an impressive 12-4 major decision win over Penn State freshman Brent Narkiewicz. Matter followed with a 9-0 drubbing of freshman Nate Wachter. Yoshi Nakamura saw his first action of the season, beating Penn State junior Bill Dubler at 165 pounds, for Penn's third straight major decision. Penn tri-captain Rick Springman (174) gave the Quakers a commanding 16-0 lead with his 10-1 major decision over Mark Becks. But right before intermission, Penn State stopped the bleeding, as sophomore Jeff Knupp major decisioned Penn sophomore Craig Melcher, 12-3. Amazingly enough, Penn State had not even scored a takedown until Knupp's match. Coming out of the break, Penn junior Mike Fickell, ranked No. 10, lost a close 4-3 match to Penn State captain Russ Thatcher, ranked No. 15. At heavyweight, Bandele Adeniyi-Bada exacted revenge on Penn State's Mark Janus in a 10-5 win. Adeniyi-Bada, currently ranked No. 3, lost to Janus, currently ranked No. 15, at last year's Penn State Open in overtime. But this year, tri-captain Adeniyi-Bada was in control throughout the match. His win put the Quakers up 19-7 with three bouts remaining. Nittany Lions ace Jeremy Hunter, the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 125 pounds, proved too much for Penn sophomore Kevin Rucci. Hunter pinned Rucci at 4:28, getting six important team points for Penn State and making the score 19-13. The 133-pound match saw two freshmen competing -- Penn's Brett Vanderveer and Penn State's Scott Moore. A close, 6-5 win for Moore pulled the Lions to within three points of Penn, and set up Giuricich's heroics. "[Vanderveer] was in on the shot against Moore, but he didn't go to finish the takedown and score," Penn coach Roger Reina said. "He just tried to hang on to the win, and that's not how you win college matches." The dominant performances by the team's veterans and the inspiring performances by the team's freshmen bode well for Penn, which next sees action at the prestigious Midlands Tournament, December 29-30 at Northwestern University. The Quakers finished sixth out of 52 teams at the Midlands last year.Comments powered by Disqus
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