The 2-time defending National Champions and 2012-2013 pre-season #1 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions Wrestling team opens up its season this weekend with a pair of matches against longtime regional foes. Friday night at 7pm, from the friendly confines of Rec Hall, the Lions host #24 Lehigh. Then they'll pack a gym bag and head down to Morgantown, WV, to stomp on the long-haired Moutaineers. Let's take a look at both matchups.
Friday 16th 7pm at Rec Hall - vs. #24 Lehigh
#24 Lehigh opened their season last week with a 23-16 win over a tough Binghamton squad, taking 6 of 10 matches. They got bonus points from three wrestlers: Joey Napoli at 157; Eric Hess at 165; and Robert Hamlin at 184. Lehigh has three ranked wrestlers at this point in the season, but could have as many as 5 or 6 by season's end. However, they only have 2 seniors in their lineup, which also features 4 freshman. They lose two studs from last year to graduation, HWT Zach Rey and 197 Joe Kennedy. They also lost 141 Stephen Dutton, who transferred to Michigan. So they're a young squad, with Hamlin at 184 the lone returning All-American. That's not good news for the Mountain Hawks entering Rec Hall.
Lehigh Projected Lineup
125 - JR Alex Abreu (Highlands Ranch, CO), finished 8th in EIWA last year. Did not qualify for NCAAs.
Prediction: #2 Nico by Tech Fall. PSU 5, Lehigh 0
133 - TRFR Laike Gardner (Bigerville). Gardner is a 3-time PIAA place winner, so he's talented. He's also a true freshman.
Prediction: Jordan Conaway opens the season for PSU at this weight. Gettysburg always beats Biglerville. Conaway by decision. PSU 8, Lehigh 0
141 - SO Anthony Salupo (St. Edward, OH). Salupo was part of a 3-man rotation at this weight last year, finishing (16 - 8).
Prediction: This is the type of match PSU's Pearsall needs to win to set the tone in his senior season. Pearsall by decision. PSU 11, Lehigh 0
149 - SR #19 Shane Welsh (Burrell) dropped a really close 5-7 decision to #2 Donnie Vinson to start his season.
Prediction: This should be a tough test for #7 Andrew Alton, if he gets the start on a healing ankle. If he doesn't, look for SR Jim English to take his place in the lineup. English isn't as explosive as Andrew, but he's still awfully tough. English by decision. PSU 14, Lehigh 0
157 - JR Joey Napoli (Cumberland Valley) redshirted last season. He starts the year unranked - but won't stay that way for long.
Prediciton: #2 Dylan Alton gets another early season test, after beating #3 Jason Welch at the All-Star open. Dylan pulls out another victory here by decision. PSU 17, Lehigh 0
165 - RSFR Eric Hess (Benton) is one tough kid. After defeating former PSU recruit Dirk Cowburn in the PIAA state championship, he contracted Hodgkins', and has been out of competition for the last two seasons. He scored a first period pinfall victory in his return to the mat in the Hawks' opener last week.
Prediction: Unfortunately for Hess, he faces super stud #2 David Taylor. Taylor gets a tech fall in under 6 minutes. PSU 22, Lehigh 0
174 - SO #19 Nathaniel Brown (Lewisburg) finished 4th in EIWA last season as true freshman, but got jobbed on a dirty move in the semi-finals and couldn't compete at the NCAA's.
Prediction: #4 Matt Brown announces his presence with a major decision. PSU 26, Lehigh 0
184 - SR #3 Robert Hamlin (somewhere in Vermont) is a 2x NCAA All-American, finishing 2nd in 2011 and 4th in 2012. 'The Vermonster' is a lock to earn his third AA honor this season, though he's hoping for that elusive national title.
Prediction: This is #1 Ed Ruth's world, and we're all just living in it - including the Vermonster. Ruth gets the decision. PSU 29, Lehigh 0
197 - RSFR John Bolich (Willow Grove, PA) went 14-12 in his redshirt season.
Prediction: #3 Quentin Wright scores the pinfall that this meet has lacked to this point. PSU 35, Lehigh 0
285 - RSFR Jack Delia (Lebanon, NJ) went 32-12 in his redshirt season.
Prediction: Jon Gingrich starts over Jimmy Lawson, and Gingrich finishes the Penn State shutout, starting the squad's journey for its 3rd consecutive National Championship in style.
FINAL: Penn State 38, Lehigh 0
Sunday 18th, 2pm, at Morgantown WV
The Moutaineers squad probably falls somewhere between #26 and #35, or just outside the top ranked teams. They return 0 All-Americans (to my knowledge), and sport just two pre-season ranked wrestlers. They opened their season against #15 Maryland, and dropped the match 10 - 24. In other words, the 'Eers ain't likely to win this one against #1 Penn State. But whatever - let's preview the individual matches.
West Virginia Projected Lineup
125 - SR #20 Shane Young took a medical forfeit last week against Maryland. I haven't seen any reports as to how or why, or whether he'll start this Sunday against Nico. The reason? Because Vegas doesn't put odds on college wrestling, that's why. And that, my friends, is a damn shame.
Prediction: Young is a former WPIAL stud like Nico, and they know each other. Nico pulled out a hard fought decision against Young last season. This season it's a more comfortable decision. PSU 3, WVU 0
133 - JR Colin Johnston (Eighty-Four) was a medical redshirt last season, and also redshirted the season before that. Way back in 2009, he was ranked as high as #18 at one point, majoring PSU's Pearsall 13-4 that year.
Prediction: Two years is a long time ago. Conaway by decision. PSU 6, WVU 0
141 - JR #19 Nathan Pennesi (Latrobe) went 29 - 10 last season, and qualified for the NCAAs for the second time.
Prediction: What a great early season test for Pearsall. But wanting Pearsall to win, and predicting he'll win are two different things. Pearsall drops a decision because he still doesn't have great neutral offense. PSU 6, WVU 3.
149 - SO Brutus Scheffel (Oakland, MD) finished his freshman season 18 - 15, and sixth in the EWL.
Prediction: I'm betting English wrestles the whole weekend, and finishes it with a major decision here. PSU 10, WVU 3
157 - SO Dominic Prezzia (St. Clairsville, OH) went 17 - 18 last season, finishing 5th in the EWL.
Prediction: Dylan Alton needs to score bonus - not for the team, but for himself. He does, getting a major. PSU 14, WVU 3
165 - RSFR Ross Renzi (Burke, VA). I don't know.
Prediction: It doesn't matter that I don't know Ross Renzi. Taylor by pinfall. PSU 20, WVU 3
174 - RSFR Bubba Scheffel (Oakland, MD) redshirted at Virginia Tech last season.
Prediction: Matt Brown makes it two falls in a row. PSU 26, WVU 3
184 - JR Lance Bryson (Shoaf, PA) went 25 - 16 last season and was team captain. But that was at 174.
Prediction: Cross. Face. Cradle. Ruth by pinfall. PSU 32, WVU 3
197 - TRFR AJ Vizcarrondo (Wyoming Seminary). Without looking it up, I'm pretty sure he was a 2x PIAA place winner, but I don't think he took home gold.
Prediction: Quentin took home gold twice at PIAAs. Oh - and he's a 3x NCAA All-American, ranked #2. AJ should beware the left underhook. Q by pinfall. PSU 38, WVU 3
285 - SR Phil Mandzik (Bradenton, FL) stands all of 5' 11". And he's wrestling heavyweight. God loves shaved bears, doesn't he?
Prediction: Gingrich by decision - because all heavyweigt bouts are decisions.
FINAL: PSU 41, WVU 3
It's finally wrestling season you hogs! Let the rumblin' begin!
PROGRAMMING NOTE, if you've actually made it this far. We're planning on doing open thread / live-result blogging this season for PSU matches and tournaments. But not this weekend. So you know.....see you on the tubes *soon*.
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