Penn State's wrestling team returned to the mat Saturday to finish off the Virginia Duals. Unfortunately they were unable to keep the momentum going from Friday and finished the day 0 - 2 falling to fourth place. It was a quick painful reminder that Penn State has a long hill to climb to get back into the upper echelon of elite programs.
Penn State kicked off the morning session taking on #4 Oklahoma State it was a match that on paper going in it looked like Penn State had little to no chance to win and that turned out to be the case. The match was basically over when Pataky dropped the first bout at 125, it was a toss up that Penn State needed to win to have a chance. They also needed to limit the bonus points given up and that was gone in the next two bouts with a major decision and a fall for Oklahoma State at 133 and 141. The final score ended up 24 13 as Penn State was able to pick up a few wins in the middle weights to keep it somewhat respectable. Although anything more than 10 points is pretty lopsided when it comes to college wrestling.
Penn State then dropped to the 3rd place match to take on #10 Oklahoma this was another bout where the matchups really didn't favor Penn State going in and they were going to need win the close bouts and limit bonus points given up. It again didn't take long for both of those to fall by the way side with a pin at 133 and a major at 141, and then the dagger came at 149 where Frank Molinaro dropped his first match of the year a 5 2 loss to 4th ranked Kyle Terry. Penn State again rebounded in the middle weights to tighten the score but a pin at 197 sealed the deal for Oklahoma.
All in all it was a pretty good weekend for Penn State while it would have been nice to get a big upset in the final two bouts they managed to finish one spot ahead of seed which is always good. But Penn State still continues to struggle in close bouts, it's good that they normally win the bouts they are expected to win, but come the Big Ten's and NCAA's guys are going to need to start knocking off guys that are close to them in the rankings. Penn State also still has some glaring holes in the lineup 133 and 141 especially. Those two weights gave up 20 team points combined in the final two matches that is far too much. Granted they were going against decent wrestlers but that is unacceptable at a program like Penn State to have two weight classes that are that poor.
Brad Pataky had a pretty good weekend overall he started with a huge win over Garnett from Virginia Tech. A few weeks ago Garnett was beating Pataky pretty bad before pinning him at the Nittany Lion open this time Brad absolutely dominated from start to finish en route to a 6 2 win. But what kept it from being a great weekend was the loss to Oklahoma State in a match Penn State had to have Brad trailing by a point inexplicably didn't take a single shot from neutral the final 45 seconds of the match. Later he said he thought he was winning, mental lapses like that still seem to happen far often with him for my liking. And as Cael explained to him after the match he didn't care if he thought he was up by ten he wanted Brad to continue shooting. In the end it didn't cost the team much although the momentum of a late win might have helped some the outcome would have likely been the same. Brad still seems to be fairly inconsistent when he's wrestling he looks brilliant at times and well frankly horrible at others. I think a large part of the problem is he still isn't wrestling smart. He continues to try and force moves that aren't there especially the cement mixer he likes to use. It's a great move if it's unexpected but everyone knows it's coming now and if it's not there frankly it's not something you can't force. I still believe he has the talent to be a national champion he just needs to keep his head for a full match every match and he'll be in great shape.
Brian Pearsall wrestled every match this weekend at 133 for Penn State which apparently led to some unhappy wrestlers in the wrestling room, more on that later. There's not much to say about his 0 for 4 performance other than that it was terrible. He's now 2 and 14 on the year, and frankly not that Tyler Saltsman has been much better but I really have to question why Pearsall was out there for all four matches this past weekend.
Things at 141 weren't much better, with Colby Pisani quiting the team Adam Lynch is the man now at 41. He got a huge key pin in Penn State's win over Kent State, but the rest of his weekend was rather forgettable. The ten points given up against Oklahoma and Ok State really ended any chance Penn State had of winning those bouts. He needs to do a much better job staying off his back and giving up big points to top wrestlers.
Frank Molinaro had another solid weekend, obviously winning the bout against 4th ranked Kyle Terry would have been great, but it was a competitive bout, Frank just made one small mistake that cost him the match. I think Frank has now proved he can compete with everyone at this weight he now needs to take the next step to prove he can beat everyone at this weight.
Cyler Sanderson had a good weekend but lost a bad match against 7th ranked Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech in the first round. Cyler got ridden out the entire final period and continues to look horrible from the bottom position. He's going to need to improve that dramatically if he wants to have a chance to finish high at nationals. This is a fairly weak weight class now that Burroughs is out so he's definitely still in it but his wrestling from bottom has a long way to go to even be considered decent. It's gotten to the point now also where it seems it might be wise for him to take neutral instead of bottom when he gets his choice. I think that was a costly mistake in the match with Dong.
Dan Vallimont looked absolutely terrible in his first match against Virginia Tech, and then bounced back some what in the match against Kent State but still seemed to wear down late in the match. Jeff Byers the wrestling announcer said the coaches are working with him on how he goes about cutting weight because they feel he's not giving himself a chance to rehydrate in time. This is a problem Dan had last year at 157 and I hoped was behind him, hopefully they can get it straightened out, as I'd hate to see something like that keep him from doing well in the post season. He came back strong on day two and got two wins against ranked opponents, although he still didn't seem up to his normal level of energy. I still think he can be a factor at this weight in march so it will be interesting to see how he finishes out his career at Penn State.
Justin Ortega continues to struggle to score points, there's not much more to say at this point other than he needs to crank up the aggression. He did nearly knock off the number 8 guy in the country in the Oklahoma bout which would have been huge for Penn State but a takedown was waived off, incorrectly according to Jeff Byers, that would have given him the match. So he's clearly capable of wrestling with good wrestlers he just needs to get his offense going.
David Erwin seems to still be improving and getting more comfortable at this weight but he has a ways to go. He took on 4th ranked Dustin Kilgore of Kent State in the second match, about 30 seconds into the match it looked like Erwin was gonna get run out of the gym, but he settled in and made it a good match. I should say Kilgore didn't really impress me his strategy seemed to be to come out of the gate like a bull in a china shop and hope to get the pin. When that didn't happen he seemed to slow down and wear down late in the match. Some of that is a credit to Erwin who settled in and wrestled a good match in the last two periods he just dug himself way to big of a hole. That has been one of his problems since he got to Penn State. He seems to come out a tad to amped up for big matches and doesn't wrestle smart and ends up giving up a big move. He needs to learn to wrestle under control in the first period like he does in the final two and he'll be fine.
Clay Steadman and Dave Crowell split time at 197 over the weekend and neither did anything noteworthy. No matter who gets the start he this is going to be up with 133 and 141 in terms of weak spots for Penn State.
Cameron Wade actually had a pretty good weekend, he beat two ranked wrestlers who were both ranked ahead of him and managed to keep it close with Rosholt the Oklahoma State heavyweight who is ranked 2nd in the country. While he was never really in the Rosholt match he kept it to a decision and was able to prevent bonus points something many of his teammates weren't able to do. He like Ortega really needs to just start getting after it, the talent is there, he's just simply not aggressive enough at this level.
Penn State has the week off to like their wounds and get ready for the gauntlet that is the Big Ten dual meet schedule they start with a very beatable Illinois team coming to rec hall next weekend. With the week off I expected it to be a fairly quiet week news wise, that was not the case.
First came the news that Sam Sherlock a high school senior who had committed to Penn State tore his ACL in a December tournament and will be out for the remainder of the year. He had surgery this week and is looking at 6 months to a year of rehab before he gets back on the mat. Tough break for a really good wrestler. Many thought he would be an exception Cael's redshirting of all freshman rule, as he would easily be the best 133 lber they have next year, but with the injury there's a good chance he won't be ready in time. As this tribune article highlights there should be no question if he's Penn State material or will be tough enough to put up with Cael's training.
The match at the Beast of the East tournament wasn't Sherlock's final match. He wrestled in the Trinity Duals on Saturday and weighed in at 145 pounds to pick up some possible forfeits. But when West Mifflin had a chance to defeat Bethel Park, Sherlock took the mat and pinned his opponent.
"I probably could have wrestled at 145 pounds and still won a state title," Sherlock said. "I was able to practice; I just had trouble bending the knee.
And as often as I rag on the Collegian for their terrible wrestling reporting I have to give them credit as they broke two pretty big stories today. The first one, found here, is about Tyler Saltsman leaving the team. He wasn't satisfied with the time he was getting as a starter so he took his 3 - 5 record and walked out the door. I understand some of the frustration because frankly Pearsall wasn't doing much better and I'm not sure why he's been wrestling so much. But at the same time Saltsman hasn't been setting the world on fire as his record indicates. It leaves Penn State incredibly thin at 133 and 141 as there are basically no back ups there at this point. And with Sherlock's injury it could remain a problem for next year as well. A lot of people are expecting Andrew Alton to come in and go at 141 next year, but I'm not confident he'll be able to make that weight next year which could be a big problem for Penn State.
The other story is a strange one that had been rumored around the internet for weeks but many people including myself dismissed it because it seemed incredibly unlikely. Jared Platt a former top recruit who was dismissed for a violation of team rules in 2008 has enrolled at Penn State and is taking classes. Platt would have been the equivalent of a five star recruit in football coming out of high school, but never saw the mat at Penn State. He redshirted his freshman year at Penn State as he sat behind Phil Davis, but all the talk around the program was that he was giving Phil all he could handle, and that was the year Phil went on to win a National title. Hope was extremely high for this kid but then came a quiet late friday afternoon press release stating that he along with Garrett Scott and Dave Rella had been dismissed from the team. As the article states he's not back on the team at this point just back in class. But that fact that Cael is commenting on leads me to believe that there is a good chance he'll be back on the team next year, as a junior. And I'm fairly confident they probably have him rolling around at the Nittany Lion wrestling club to keep him in shape. He would be a big boost to the lineup although I'm not sure exactly where he would fit in. The plan was to move Quintin Wright to 197, so Platt could move to heavyweight as he would likely be a big upgrade over Wade. Or he could go at 97 and Wright and Ruth could shift down although I'm not sure if Ruth can still get to 174. Either way too many quality guys is a problem I'm sure the Penn State coaches will be happy to have.
In other former Nittany Lion news, another former top recruit Tim Darling is now wrestling at Kutztown. He was dismissed from the program last spring after being caught changing prescriptions. He recently majored the number 8 guy in the country in Division 2 at 184 lbs. The 184 pound part is a surprise as he was fairly chubby at 157 last year for Penn State. Good to see him catch on somewhere though, he was a great talent hopefully he has his life in order now.
As for people who clearly don't have their life in order former Nittany Lion Garret Scott showed up on the CDT police blotter this week as he waived a preliminary hearing for several minor offenses. That story is a real shame that kid had all the talent in the world and could have very well have won multiple national titles, but it has been one problem after another for him since high school.