Maryland wrestling (4-9, 0-7 Big Ten) faced an uphill battle Sunday against Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten), the No. 1 team in the country and two time defending NCAA champions.
The Terps entered the matchup with just one ranked wrestler, No. 6 Youssif Hemida, while the Nittany Lions boasted eight ranked wrestlers in their lineup, four of which are ranked No.1 in their weight class.
While coach Kerry McCoy said he asked his team to not focus on its high-ranked opponents and instead fight to the best of its ability, Penn State cruised to a 47-3 victory. Maryland is still searching for its first conference win this season.
“The focus was we’ve got nothing to lose…we just got to go out there and wrestle,” McCoy said.
One surprise on the afternoon was the 125 weight class, where 125 pounder-Brandon Cray started the meet strong for Maryland, earning a 4-2 decision over Penn State’s Devin Schnupp after three periods.
The win was Cray’s fourth in a row and his first conference victory.
“We wrestle a tough schedule, so to put four wins together in a row is building my confidence, and I am taking that and rolling off of that for my next matches,” Cray said.
However, Maryland’s lead didn’t last. Corey Keener defeated Terp Jhared Simmons by fall in the second period of the 133 bout to give Penn State a 6-3 advantage. 141-pounder Ryan Diehl then fell to Penn State’s No. 7 Nick Lee by decision, 22-10.
In next four bouts, Maryland couldn’t make it past the first periods. No.1 Zain Retherford defeated Alfred Bannister by pin in the 149 weight class and No.1 Jason Nolf pinned Kyle Cochran in the 157 weight class. The Terps lost the next two by falls, first 165-pounder Brendan Burnham to No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph and then Jahi Jones to Penn State’s No. 2 Mark Hall in the 174 matchup.
Maryland continued to struggle in the 184 and 197 weight classes, trailing 44-3 going into the final weight class.
While Maryland was outmatched for most of the day, the heavyweight class promised to be tightly contested as No. 6 Hemida took on Penn State’s No. 8 Nick Nevills.
Hemida was only able to earn one point for an escape through the first two periods and entered the third period down 3-1. Nevills rode Hemida for the majority of the third, with Hemida unable to generate offense throughout. Nevills won by a 4-1 decision.
McCoy said that he thinks Hemida had the talent to beat Nevills but got caught up in the emotions of facing an opponent who beat him last year.
“Youssif was just a little bit flat,” McCoy said. “He said he was emotionally drained before the match, and that’s just some of the things that happen.”
The Terps will travel to Illinois for a Jan. 28 dual against the Fighting Illini (3-3, 2-2 Big Ten). McCoy hopes to see a turnaround during that bout.
“I don’t feel good about the match and the result, but I feel good knowing that we can still get better,” McCoy said. “And we will continue to get better by the end of the year.”