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Conaway's comeback paces Lions

The near heroic efforts of Jordan Conaway electrified the sellout crowd of 6,515 as the No.1 ranked Penn State men’s wrestling team (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) continued its domination with a 36-6 blowout win against No. 19 Wisconsin on Friday night at Rec Hall.

Jordan Conaway and the Nittany Lions stayed undefeated with a romp of Wisconsin on Friday.

Conaway, a redshirt freshman, wrestled in the third bout of the night, at 133 pounds. His opponent, Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff, was the No.3 ranked wrestler in the weight class. Conaway was a decisive underdog.

Conaway was taken down three times in the first two periods and entered the third trailing 7-3. Then the improbable comeback started.

“I had some work to do,” said Conaway. “I knew he was kind of getting tired and slowing down a little, so I kept the pressure on.”

Conaway notched two takedowns of Graff in the last 30 seconds to tie the match 8-8 and send it into sudden-victory overtime. Late in the overtime period, Conaway scored another takedown to win the bout 10-8. The Nittany Lion faithful erupted to the tune of Zombie Nation.

“That’s probably the biggest win of his career,” said junior All-American David Taylor. “It’s one of the biggest I’ve seen since I’ve been here in three years in Rec Hall.”

Penn State started the match falling behind 3-0, with a loss in the heavyweight bout. John Gingrich, No. 16 at 285, lost by a 6-3 decision to Wisconsin’s No. 11 Connor Medbery. Penn State then regained the lead, 4-3, when sophomore All-American Nico Megaludis made easy work of Wisconsin’s Matt Cavallaris, 22-7, at 125. Conaway’s overtime thriller came next and extended the Nittany Lions' lead to 7-3. They would lead the rest of the night.

“He’s one of those guys that’s very special to the team,” said coach Cael Sanderson of Conaway. “To have a big win like that it was very special for everybody.”

Somewhat overshadowed in this dual by Conaway’s performance was the accomplishment of senior Quentin Wright. Wright, the No. 3 ranked wrestler at 197, competed in the final bout of the night against Wisconsin’s No. 20 Jackson Heim. At the 1:24 mark of the first period, Wright pinned Heim to seal the match and his 100th career victory with an exclamation point.

“He’s looking to be a two time national champion and four time All-American, that’s just one of the steps along the way,” said Sanderson of Wright’s achievement. “But it’s exciting I guess to celebrate that.”

Wright, a local product from nearby Wingate, Pa., could not have been more excited to reach this milestone in front of the home crowd.

“It’s awesome to get it in front of the home crowd,” said Wright. “They’ve been with me here for four years watching me and following me. It’s great to achieve moments with your family.”

If there is a negative to take from this dual for Penn State it’s the case of the Alton twins. Andrew Alton, No. 3 at 149, and Dylan Alton, No. 6 at 157, who were cited for disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and harassment in late December; continue to remain sidelined at least for competition this weekend. It has not been announced when they will return.

The Nittany Lions take to the mats again Sunday at Purdue to begin a stretch of six of their final eight duals on the road to close the season. Taylor says the stretch will really test the mettle of this two-time defending national championship squad.

“This year we’re definitely going to be tested,” said Taylor. “Going to Iowa, wrestling a really strong Illinois team, going to Ohio State, and wrestling a Pitt team at home. Those are four straight duals in a row that’s going to be challenging. … It’s just part of the sport. It’s part of any sport; you have road trips.”

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