Wrestling Wreport: The Preseason Edition 2011-12

Senior Frank Molinaro leads Penn State into 2011/2012

 

Let's take a break from all the... unpleasantness and talk about something fun... like... oh, I don't know, how about the defending national champs?  While one legend's career has come to an end another legend is just starting to brew.  Head coach Cael Sanderson leads a Penn State Wrestling team that enters the season ranked #1.  For those of you that don't remember me from such other blogs as Linebacker-U and The Nittany Line, I'm a big wrestling fan and have covered it ever since my early blogging days.  For those of you that have read my articles in the past you'll recognize the Wrestling Wreport (clever huh, HUH?!?!).  I'm by no means an expert, just a fan that has watched decades of Wrestling.  When BSD was going through her change of life I was asked to come along and at first declined but after some begging from Chris (literally) I decided to bring my love of the sport here.  I don't think Chris asked me to come along because I'm a good writer, I think he just didn't want to learn what riding time was.  Hopefully I'll inspire you to at least keep an eye on the guys wearing the Blue & White singlet if I can't win you over to the the oldest sport known to man.  So let's do this!

 

Before we get to all the happy-happy-joy-joy stuff I'm contractually obligated to cover the not so fun stuff.  The wrestling team is not without it's demons,  All-American Andrew Long was dismissed from the team in August amid charges of sexual assault. The team and more importantly the coach are saying all the right things when it comes to Long.

The coach also said he doesn't have any regrets about bringing Long onto the team in the first place, adding that Long has yet to complete the legal process and hasn't been declared guilty on his charges.

The third-year coach said he's been in contact with Long since he withdrew from the team, saying that he feels Long needs some support and advice.

Long will have his day in court, and hopefully he learns from his mistakes, but the team moves on without the Big Ten champ and 3rd-place finisher at 133.  Let's first take a look at the results from the intrasquad match.

Wt. Matchup Result
125: #19 Nico Megaludis dec. Jordan Conaway 5-1
133: Derek Reber dec. Cameron Kelly 4-0
141: Sam Sherlock dec. Bryan Pearsall 11-5
149: #1 Frank Molinaro dec. Seth Beitz 8-1
157: #13 Dylan Alton dec. Dirk Cowburn 5-3
165: #1 David Taylor tech fall Nick Fischer 21-6 (TF; 6:38)
174: #2 Ed Ruth dec. Matt Brown 7-4
184: #1 Quentin Wright pinned David Crowell (4:47)
197: #9 Morgan McIntosh maj. dec. Justin Ortega 13-5
285: Nick Ruggear dec. Jon Gingrich 5-3

 

Missing from the lineup are Frank Martellotti at 133 and Cameron Wade at 285.  Martellotti is out because of academic issues and Wade is still nursing a knee injury he suffered in last season's NCAA championships.  Sanderson said Wade could have wrestled in the intrasquad match but was kept out for precautionary reasons.  Wade will be in the lineup for the opener Sunday, Martellotti won't be eligible until the spring semester, if he can get his grades up.  Let's take a quick look at the starting lineup for the season.  I work for a large multinational company so we'll do this as if we're setting up business goals for the year.  Please don't make me use any Six Sigma Black Belt tools for this, mmkay?

125 #18 Nico Megaludis

Cael Sanderson is a proponent of redshirting  true freshman wrestlers to allow them to adjust to college both on and off the mat.  To see a true freshman in the lineup means there's a lack of talent or the kid is just plain good.  In Megaludis' case, it's most definitely the latter.  Nico comes to Penn State a 3-time Pennsylvania champ having lost 1 (not a typo he lost 1) match in his entire high school career.  He was a top-five recruit at any weight class last year and get's ranked 18th even before stepping on the college mat.

Reasonable Goal: NCAA berth

Stretch Goal: All-American (top 8 finish)

Weight compared to last season: While losing Brad Pataky  will hurt, Nico should be able to match or do better than Brad who was injured all of last season.  Solid +

133 Frank Martellotti

Derek Reber will take Martelloti's place but we'll assume for now that Frank get's his academic house in order.  This is where losing Long will hurt but Martellotti is no giant drop-off.  Frank (who has a very serious official picture) stepped in for an injured Pataky at 125 last season and moved his way up the rankings.  He went 18-3 before dropping out of the lineup with his academic issues.

Reasonable Goal: NCAA berth

Stretch Goal: All-American

Weight compared to last season: Martellotti brings experience to the table but he won't be able to replace Long's absence.  Solid -

141: Sam Sherlock

Sanderson said he hasn't made a decision on who will start at 141,  Sherlock or the more experienced Pearsall.  The two are close when it comes to the wrestling room but we'll just assume Sherlock wins because his name opens up the opportunity for a lot of puns.  Sam was the 16th ranked wrestler coming out of the 2009-10 recruiting class and reshirted last season.  He went 18-5 wrestling unattached in open tournaments last year.  The potential is certainly there and the year of wrestling at the college level should have helped.

Reasonable Goal: Steady improvement over the season

Stretch Goal: NCAA berth

Weight compared to last season: Comparing Sherlock to pinning machine Andrew Alton (who redshirts this season) is totally unfair.  Alton is a strange blend of quickness and strength that you don't usually see.  Sherlock will have his work cut out filling Andrew's shoes.  Solid -

149 #1 Frank Molinaro

Frank lost to 2-time NCAA champ Kyle Dake in the finals last season.  The rankings went something like this: #1 Dake a bit of a drop off to Molinaro and then 'the rest'.  In other words, with Dake moving up to 157, it's Frank's weight to take.  No one in the Big Ten's even scored a single point on Frank last year.  Next to David Taylor, Frank is about as sure a thing there is in Penn State's lineup.

Reasonable Goal: National champion

Stretch Goal: undefeated season

Weight compared to last season: push

157 #12 Dylan Alton

With brother Andrew sitting out a season waiting for Frank's weight to open up, Dylan gets a crack at the spot David Taylor had last season.  During his redshirt season Dylan went 17-2 with 5 pins wrestling unattached.  His high school resume is nothing short of amazing.  He was a 3-time PIAA state champ finishing with a record of 178-5.  A year in the wrestling room has him a step ahead of where his brother was wrestling as a true freshman.

Reasonable Goal: deep into the NCAA's

Stretch Goal: All-American

Weight compared to last season:  Just like Sherlock, comparing Dylan to last year's starter at this weight is unfair.  Taylor is a freak and almost went the season undefeated.  Solid -

165 #1 David Taylor

Taylor moves up a weight and it's smooth sailing for the redshirt sophomore.  David should have gone undefeated but lost his only match of the season in the finals to none other than erstwhile Lion Bubba Jenkins getting caught and pinned.  Side note: don't punch a load-bearing pole no matter how upset you are at a match outcome.  They tend to break bones. With the lone exception of Jenkins, Taylor was heads and shoulders above everyone else and 165 is even weaker than 157.  Taylor's goal last season was to beat the best at his weight, his goal this season is to dominate the best at his weight.

Reasonable Goal: National champion

Stretch Goal: undefeated season

Weight compared to last season: considering Penn State had no representative at this weight in nationals this is a HUGE uptick.  Massive +

174 #2 Ed Ruth

It's hard to call a 3rd-place finish a disappointment but I think Ed had higher aspirations going into last year's tourny.  Ruth was upset by Nick Amuchastegui of Stanford who was the 7th-seed when Ed was seeded 2nd.  Ed returns ranked 2nd behind the same Amuchastegui and will be looking for more this season.  Ed was a superb 38-2 last season after a redshirt freshman campaign.  Ruth should have a smooth road to NCAA's.

Reasonable Goal: NCAA finals

Stretch Goal: NCAA champion

Weight compared to last season: with a year under his belt, Ed should be even better.  Slight +

184 #1 Quentin Wright

There wasn't a better story for Penn State then that of Quentin Wright.  After a terrible end to the season which saw Q losing his last 3 matches, Wright took off in the post season.  He started in the Big Ten tournament ranked 8th and went 4-0 to take the championship.  He followed that up by going 5-0 in nationals and winning Penn State's only individual championship.  His pin of Iowa's Grant Gambrall in the semi-finals was one of the best matches I've watched in my lifetime.  It was an amazing run and he's easily become a crowd favorite not only for his heart on the mat but he's also a local boy coming from Bald Eagle Area.

Reasonable Goal: Repeat Champion

Stretch Goal: More consistency during the season.

Weight compared to last season: Push

197 #10 Morgan McIntosh

Last season Penn State had no answer at 197: enter Morgan McIntosh.  Like I wrote about Megaludis, McIntosh is starting as a true freshman and unlike Megaludis there is a hole at 197 but don't let that fool you, Morgan is the real deal.  McIntosh comes in ranked as the top recruit at any weight last season.  He won 3 state titles in California had a 189-5 career record with a terrifying 128 pins (NOT a typo either).  Morgan is so hyped that he gets ranked in the top 10 even before stepping on the mat.

Reasonable Goal: Big Ten Champ

Stretch Goal: All-American

Weight compared to last season: Monstrous +

285 #5 Cameron Wade

This is it for Cameron, his last chance at All-American honors.  Wade was injured in the quarterfinals of the NCAA's and finished just 1 win shy of becoming an All-American.  Wade has all the tools necessary to beat anyone in his weight class but hasn't put it all together yet. A strong rider, if he can get more aggressive on his feet he can beat anyone.  Unfortunately I've been saying that for 3 years.

Reasonable Goal: Big Ten Champ - Minnesota's Tony Nelson is the only Big Ten wrestler ranked 1 spot ahead of him

Stretch Goal: All-American

Weight compared to last season: Push

 

Team

So overall, this team is weight for weight more complete than last season.  Are they good enough to repeat?  Certainly but a lot can happen between now and March when Big Ten's start.  If they stay healthy this team could get several wrestlers deep into the NCAA bracket and that's how they won it all last season.  Taylor and Molinaro are locks for the finals, I'll be surprised if they lose at all this season.  There's a lot of inexperience in the lineup but there is no lack of talent.

Reasonable Goal: Repeat champs

Stretch Goal: undefeated dual meet season

Weight compared to last season: Push

Check back in for my preview of Penn State's first dual when they welcome Bloomsburg to Rec Hall this Sunday at 2PM.

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