The Penn State wrestling team has started the long journey on the road to the National Championships in Philadelphia. Practice officially got underway on Monday, although the team has had "open" workouts since labor day.
There's already quite a bit of news to report surrounding the program and unfortunately most of it isn't good.
Then just this past week rumors began swirling that sixth year senior Brad Pataky tore his ACL. Luckily it appears the injury is more a minor tear, or sprain. But he's still expected to miss some time at the beginning of the year. Brad came into the season ranked 7th and is a definite All American contender. The backups behind him are no where near as talented as the backups at 149 and Penn State will likely have a pretty big hole in the lineup to start the year. Hopefully he's able to return quickly, not just for the team but for Brad's season as well. Already being his sixth year I find it hard to believe the NCAA would grant him a 7th year due to the injury. Eric Caschera who has seen spot time in the past will likely get the bulk of the starts that Pataky misses.
The schedule took some hits as well before the season started. Penn State turned down an invite to the National Duals for a chance to go back to the Virginia duals again this year. Unfortunately several weeks after Penn State announced that Oklahoma and Oklahoma St two of the top teams there a year ago, both of which beat Penn State, announced that they would not be returning. The remaining field is fairly weak, Lehigh and Michigan will likely provide the biggest competition. Unfortunately Penn State already wrestles both team during the regular season. One highlight is that Arizona St has joined the tournament this year which could set up a match between "Magic Man" David Taylor and former Nittany Lion Bubba Jenkins. Also worth noting Jenkins just received scholar athlete of the month from Arizona St. which is either a sad statement about ASU or a sign Bubba has finally started getting it together. Hopefully the later as I'd like to see him reach his potential even if he did spurn Penn State. For some background on David Taylor you can view this long, slightly disturbing, video of him here.
Penn State's opponents for the Sprawl and Brawl Duals have also been announced. They'll take on Rutgers, West Virginia and Harvard. Nothing to get too excited about but they should provide some solid early season competition. Rutgers, much like their football team, have been a program that's going to take a huge step for the past 5 years, maybe this year will be that year. Harvard and West Virginia won't match up with Penn State team wise but both have solid wrestlers who should create some good individual matches.
Finally the team announced this week that they'll host an intrasquad scrimmage again this year. Unfortunately again this year they've decided to hold it on a Thursday night, which will likely limit the attendance. But if you're in the State College area this could be your first chance to see some of the top young talent Penn State has brought in so I recommend checking it out.