Aiyo, turn me up some.
Penn State Pat Donghia (@pennstatepat) just released the gopsusports Match Notes for the PSU vs Lehigh wrestling match on Sunday at 2p in Rec Hall. In them, he provided the first official confirmation of what was a growing message board rumor-guess: that not only will true Senior 3x All-American and 2x Finalist 125 pounder Nico Megaludis redshirt this wrestling season, but so will true Sophomore 1x AA and returning 5th place finisher at 141 pounds, Zain Retherford. The move affirms coach Cael Sanderson's intent to mortgage an all-out attack on continuing Penn State's recent team title dominance and winning streak by shelving all of his most potent redshirt-eligible firepower, in favor of allowing further development and presumably preparing for a new run at the team title in the 2016 tourney season.
Wrestling redshirts are different than football redshirts in a couple ways. One is that they are more frequently taken during non-freshman years and another is that, given the fewer starter positions that make up the 10 weight classes (as opposed to the 40-50 positions that regularly impact a football team's performance), the timing of their use can have more profound effects on team title chances. It's not uncommon for wrestling coaches to look around the conference and national landscapes, analyze opponent lineups and make roster redshirt decisions accordingly. One similarity with football, however, is the value a collegiate redshirt can provide to true freshman just arriving in the college wrestling rooms. And while it's not uncommon for wrestlers to occasionally use their redshirt in upperclass years, many coaches still prefer to use them on their true Freshmen.
As recently as the 2010 tourney season, this coaching staff's first in State College, coaches Cael, Cody & Casey did both. They used their redshirts on their true freshmen studs David Taylor, Ed Ruth and Jake Kemerer and sat true Sophomore returning AA Quentin Wright. The move allowed for important development to occur--both in wrestling skills and in physical development. David Taylor was still growing--up from his last HS state title at 135 pounds to 157 pounds and some of you may remember his Nittany Lion debut at Rec Hall, when Sanderson's younger brother Cyler, a 5th-year Senior, manhandled Taylor 11-4. The extra growth time and prep allowed Taylor to hit the competition ground running the following year, when we went undefeated all the way to the national final. The moves also allowed Iowa's veteran lineup to use much of their remaining eligibility, and Penn State went on to win the next four team championships.
This past tourney season, it was Ohio State's turn to pull the move, as they redshirted top true Freshmen recruits Bo Jordan and Nathan Tomassello and even true Junior 2x AA Hunter Stieber. With Taylor & Ruth now having expired their eligibility and Ohio State not only bringing those three off redshirt, but starting true Freshman Junior World Champion Kyle Snyder, along with returning 3x Champ Logan Stieber, the Buckeyes look primed and ready to challenge for their first ever team national championship.
I'm not gonna lie; I was hoping Cael might say 'to hell with future team title chances--let's keep this amazing streak alive' and go for it with all our firepower, but with this confirmed news of the plan, I've accepted it and have adjusted my interests in watching Penn State this coming season. And while I really don't see Ohio State stumbling in March, it must also be admitted: Penn State can still very much contend for a fifth straight title with this new lineup. Lots would have to go right, but many, many crazy things can and do happen at the national tournament, and this Penn State lineup could still very realistically have 5 or 6 or even 7 All-Americans again this year. We have a lot to watch for; let's check it out.
The writing has been on the wall for a Nico redshirt this year ever since Cael wrestled Jordan Conaway at 125 in the Michigan State and Michigan duals at the end of January (both convincing wins). Cael talked again this summer about getting Nico a mental break from competition and setting him up for a run at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He lost a controversial 1-0 decision to Tony Ramos in the finals of the challenge bracket of the U.S. World Team Trials and is really in contention for a spot on the World & Olympic teams these next two years. He'll likely qualify for the NCAA-allowed 'Olympic Redshirt' during the 2016 tourney season, which would be Conaway's last year of eligibility. If he does earn and take that, with this schedule, we're set to see Conaway man the spot in the 2015 & 2016 tourneys and have Nico come back in for the 2017 tourney. Incidentally, that season will be HS Sophomore super-stud Spencer Lee's final year of HS, making him available for the 2018 tourney if he chooses to COME TO PENN SCHTAATE! Other options at this weight this year include two 2013 North Carolina HS state champs, Kenneth Yanovich and George Carpenter. Yanovich went 3-2 at the Clarion Open this past weekend, while Carpenter went 1-2. Also, Nico had this to add:
As of now the plan is for me to redshirt, but if they need me at all this season, I will be ready to go and pull out of redshirt!— Nico Megaludis (@babyflo_nico) November 4, 2014
Jeff 'Ironvoice' Byers apparently sounded very excited for Jimmy Gulibon's season at this weight, on his radio show last night. Cael talked a few times last year about Gulibon struggling with confidence and weight management at different points in his redshirt Freshman season. This year, according to Byers, he has his weight under control, has put on muscle to become a 'huge 133 pounder' and is more mentally prepared for the competition grind. Byers expects a huge year and wouldn't that just be nice! Gulibon gets a huge test right out the gates, as he faces #2-ranked Mason Beckman in the Lehigh dual on Sunday. It looks like the backup options for Gulibon include Conaway and another North Carolinean, Junior Michael Waters.
With Retherford now confirmed to be redshirting, this appears to be a fairly tight battle between 4x Utah state champ Kade Moss and Waters. This is Waters' third year in the room and he went 10-7 in open tourneys last year. Moss is married and has returned from his 2-year Mormon mission. In May, he entered his first wrestling tournament in 3-4 years and won University Nationals in Greco Roman! Zach Beitz is also listed at 141 on the Penn State Wrestling Club's website, but conventional wisdom says that even though he may have certified at that weight, his physical growth has put him long past it.
We're all familiar at this point with the sad new injury & subsequent surgery (knee) suffered by Andrew Alton a few weeks ago. His recovery and reappearance seems like a longshot, although Cael has said that that is up to him and that it depends on his attitude and optimism, among other things. This is Andrew's last season of eligibility and, as such, I wouldn't be surprised to see him give the return an honest try (like he did last year, coming back from the first of his two shoulder surgeries). We'll all certainly be rooting for him, as he has had a real hard-luck go of it in his collegiate career and his ceiling is a very exciting height.
Until probably at least February, this weight will be a competition between redshirt Sophomore Zach Beitz and redshirt Junior Luke Frey. Frey has had his own share of bad luck with injuries and the last time we saw him compete was at the Southern Scuffle in January, when he went 6-3 (including a win over Beitz) and had to injury default out. Beitz had a much more promising season, going 11-9 before bowing to All-American James English in the February wrestle-offs. His 11 wins included decisions over then-number 19-ranked Ian Paddock of Ohio State and Caleb Ervin of Illinois, and suffered very close decision losses to eventual champ and finalist Jason Tsirtsis and Josh Kindig, along with an absolute rip-off of an SV loss to then-#3 Nick Dardanes. If he can beat out Frey and earn the starting spot, I'm very excited to learn his upside at this weight. The battle for the March tourney spot might not be decided until after the Southern Scuffle, where the two could meet again.
2012 3rd-place AA Dylan Alton has had his fair share of injuries as well, enduring separate shoulder surgeries each of the past two years. Cael said in September that Dylan had been medically cleared and that he was 'ready to go,' but he'll likely need these two months this fall to get back to full strength--both physically and mentally. Mat room rumors this week insinuated that he recently lost a wrestle-off to redshirt Freshman Cody Law, who went 13-3 in open tournaments last season. I wouldn't be surprised if Dylan doesn't see any live competition action until the Nittany Lion Open on December 7th. Or later, actually, although I'd guess he'll be given legitimate testing chances at the Southern Scuffle over New Year's. In the meantime, we get to watch to see what we've got in Law, likely versus Lehigh, Pitt & Clarion. This is also the weight we can begin mentioning true Freshman top recruit, 3x PA champ Jason Nolf. Mat room rumors indicated that he had minor meniscus surgery earlier this Fall, but that he has been steadily working back from that. It's unclear at this juncture what weight Nolf will go at this year as he redshirts, or even what weight he will end up at by the time next season rolls around, but I guarantee it will be fun to watch and listen for. He was initially rumored to have been competing in the Clarion Open this past week, but didn't ultimately. Casey Cunningham's email to PSWC members today indicated the following:
This upcoming weekend several of our guys will also wrestle at the Binghamton Open. Next weekend there is another tournament at East Stroudsburg where I would expect our freshmen and several of our upper classmen will be competing so that should be a fun one to go watch as well.
I agree with him that those tourneys should be fun (Casey's alwasy struck me as one of those guys it's probably best to agree with), but I cannot make any of them, so if any yinzers make it to any of them, please take awesome play-by-play notes and bring them back here to report, ok? Thanks. While it will certainly be exciting to watch our starters in attached duals this Fall, it should also be pretty interesting to see which of our redshirting stars show up to wrestle unattached at which other events. Wouldn't it be interesting to see Nico or zPain show up to one of these and just take names?
Hey, do you guys remember David Taylor? You do? Well, yeah, he's not allowed to compete anymore. Fortunately for the rest of the team, he's decided to buy a house in State College and compete with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club as a resident athlete in their Olympic Regional Training Center. So hopefully he has imparted some knowledge to this weight's presumed initial starter, the 717's own Garett Hammond, a 2x PA state champ from Chambersburg. Hammond's scouting report says he's offense-minded, can score in bunches, but is inconsistent and can drop ones he maybe shouldn't. Last year while redshirting, he went 29-7, with 24 Bonus Point wins. He got majored by 2x AA Nick Sulzer and by Ohio State superfrosh Bo Jordan, but the other five losses were close decisions. He's also one of triplets, so presumably he's been wrestling since the womb. Hammond will be backed up by Junior Rex Lutz, who went 15-5 in open tournaments last year, and top recruit Shakur 'Corey' Rasheed, who plans to 'major in Theatre and Business to become a legend.' He also likes Slick Rick, which means I very much like him already.
Hey, lookie here! An actual known commodity. Matt Brown comes back for his last chance at a national title, after finishing 2nd and 5th the past two years. Gone are last year's finalists Chris Perry and Andrew Howe, but returning are the other superstuds from this class, #1 Logan Storley (3rd last year), #2 Robert Kokesh (4th), Mike Evans (6th) and Tyler Wilps (7th). We pretty much know what we've got here with Brown, but versus this field, all results are probably toss-ups. Dude could finish anywhere from 5th to Champ. Backups here include true Freshman stud Bo Nickal, who placed first at the Clarion Open on Sunday after going 4-0. Check out his celebration photo:
It was also pointed out to me that during the Nittany Lion Context section of my All Star Classic Preview, I failed to note that at the Freestyle Fila Juniors in May, Bo wrestled #1 Gabe Dean to a 3-2 decision and he tech-falled #2 Jack Dechow of Old Dominion 10-0. Wes Phipps, a redshirt Sophomore, is listed here, but is probably more a 184 pounder. He went 5-4 last year, including a R16 finish at the Scuffle. Also at 174 is true Freshman Devon Van Cura, who went 0-2 at the Clarion Open last week.
Redshirt Freshman Matt McCutcheon, a 2x PA state champ and 2x Super 32 champ, is expected to replace Ed Ruth at this weight and will likely be the starter versus Lehigh on Sunday. Mat room rumors indicate we'll be in pretty good shape here this year, and Jeff Byers is really high on McCutcheon as well. He noted that although he may struggle a little bit early, his mental ability and work ethic will bring him success by the end of the year and that a strong tourney finish is a decent possibility. McCutcheon went 14-5 while redshirting last year, including a close loss to AA Lorenzo Thomas and a R12 finish at the Scuffle. Backing him up are true Freshman Nicolas Weldon, who went 0-2 at the Clarion Open, and possibly Nickal as he experiments with the best weight class fit this redshirt season.
One of only four weights without an 'Or' listed in the Match Notes, this weight is Morgan McIntosh's alone, probably for the next two years. He had a disappointing 7th place finish, after losing a 'match he shouldn't have lost' in R2, according to Cael, but he went 32-5 including some nice wins against AAs Scott Schiller and Nathan Burak. He struggled against champ J'Den Cox and AA Kyven Gadson, but has the offense to hang with either of them. Morgan can win it all this year and I won't be terribly surprised if he does. I also won't be surprised if he finishes lower than 5th, although I'd be bummed. Backing him up are Sophomore Josh Rogers, who went 5-9 last year, and true Freshman NJ HS champ Anthony Cassar.
We have three Seniors battling for this starting spot, and it sounds like they are fairly close. Jon Gingrich, Jimmy Lawson and Nick Ruggear will hold down the fort while true Freshman top recruit Nick Nevills redshirts. Mat room rumors have hinted that Lawson hasn't been around much this Fall, but they haven't indicated why or how long that might last. Gingrich is the likely starter on Sunday, but it will be interesting to see how much time Ruggear is granted.
Cael is expected to hold a Media Day press conference this afternoon and it sure will be great to get some live comments from him on this new 2015 lineup. Now that PSU has provided this release, the ranking services will probably adjust their preseason rankings a bit, although it remains to be seen how they'll treat the Alton twins. In any event, I'd expect the new rankings averages to project Penn State to finish something between 5th and 10th to start out. I'll monitor them for you and will put out more regular rankings posts this Winter, but for now, this season's theme is set. Rebuild, develop young talent, preserve top-end firepower for future title runs, both individual and team. And most of all, enjoy watching a bunch of new blood reppin the Penn State singlets.
All Star Classic Results
I'm jamming this in here, too...I had a blast in Philadelphia this weekend! It was great meeting and hanging with SWHA as we hit up that shit-show of a football game, drank some insanely tasty brews at Eulogy, an absolutely killer Belgian beer bar and restaurant, and then took in all the excellent wrestling at the amazing sporting cathedral, The Palestra, which really was as cool as I had imagined. I had a little fun with some of that on twitter:
Success. pic.twitter.com/ModtNsrqnq— Ignatius J. Reilly (@jtothemfp) November 1, 2014
With Honor pic.twitter.com/zRh84asxai— Ignatius J. Reilly (@jtothemfp) November 1, 2014
I dug the barkeep's choice of number for his generic barkeep jersey:
Always pic.twitter.com/eR8JoHRx1b— Ignatius J. Reilly (@jtothemfp) November 1, 2014
OMG! - Drinking a Nostradamus by Brasserie Caracole - http://t.co/AQMwGIzXSb— Ignatius J. Reilly (@jtothemfp) November 1, 2014
Predictions Review, Showcase Matches
So I did alright, I guess. What I said:
These matches are intended to 'showcase' wrestling's variety of competition groups and the Philadelphia area's local talent. Helen Maroulis looks like she'll get a better match than she did last year, when she tech-falled a Venezuelan wrestler and it's tough to guess what will happen in the inter-divisional matches. But Devin Carter & Lorenzo Thomas should mat-wipe their local opponents.
133: Kevin Devoy (Drexel) dec. Alex Gomez (Ithaca) 9-4
141: Jordan Laster (Princeton) dec. Ryan Diehl (Liberty) 10-7
149: Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) dec. C.J. Cobb (Penn) 17-11
184: Lorenzo Thomas (Penn) tech. fall Clint Morrison (Rider) 16-1
Women's freestyle 58 kilos: Helen Maroulis (USA) TF Jillian Gallays (Canada) 10-0, 2:59
Result: pretty much right + Helen Maroulis remains awesome
Main event matches:
165, what I said: 'Dieringer in a convincing Major Decision.' What happened: Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) dec. Nick Sulzer (Virginia), 4-2. Result: Sulzer's way better than I gave him credit for.
174, what I said: 'Kokesh, but only because I'm ignorant about Gutches. My gut tells me this will be a fun match though.' What happened: Robert Kokesh (Nebraska) dec. Brock Gutches (Southern Oregon), 8-2. Result: I was right, this was fun. Gutches came out with an opening takedown, but Kokesh wore him out with superior top riding.
184, what I said: 'Dean, but in a close and entertaining match.' What happened: Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. Jack Dechow (Old Dominion), 5-2. Result: yep, pretty much. Dechow came out on the attack--dude really likes to open it up. But in the end, Dean was too solid for him.
197, what I said: 'J'Den's too much man. Even for a man like Schiller. It's gonna be reaaal fun.' What happened: Scott Schiller (Minnesota) dec. J'den Cox (Missouri), 5-3 SV. Result: yes indeedy this was fun. Schiller looks in way better shape at this part of the season than Cox and that ended up being the difference maker imo. Here's Schiller on his own conditioning:
"I had a great summer of training," said Schiller. "I credit a lot my success to my great partners I got at Minnesota. I know there's not a room like it in the country for the partners I got and I credit my shape and being ready to wrestle, being focused -- those guys keep me that way every single day in the wrestling room or else I'd get my butt kicked.
Schiller's definitely going to again be around come March. And against loaded Ohio State and Iowa teams, he could end up being the difference-maker in the team title race.
285, what I said: 'This one will be squirrelly, but I'm going with McMullan. Not sure why.' What happened: Mike McMullan (Northwestern) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (N.C. State), 8-4. Result: #nailedit. Squirrely near fall points were the difference.
125, what I said: 'I'm going with the experience and size of Alan Waters here.' What happened: Alan Waters (Missouri) dec. Joey Dance (Virginia Tech), 4-3. Result: on a roll here. Waters' riding experience was the difference. Additionally, Joey Dance, young pup that he is, was particularly ungracious at post-match handshake time. I suppose I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that his lame back-handed faux shake was a frustration manifestation and not some Stefon Diggs / Randy Edsall Thuggery (#ThatsRacist!), I do find that I'll be pulling for Jordan Conaway even more, though, come the December PSU - Va Tech dual in Rec hall.
149, what I said: 'Tsirtsis in a plodding, methodical low-scoring decision.' What happened: Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) dec. Josh Kindig (Oklahoma State), 4-1. Result: yeah. I'm getting a stronger and stronger feeling that Hunter Stieber is gonna run this weight this year.
157, what I said: 'I believe you can tell by now that I expect James Green to win big--by Major Decision.' What happened: James Green (Nebraska) dec. Ian Miller (Kent State) 6-4. Result: this is another one where my bullishness was not rewarded with result. Green's better, he won. But he's not in shape enough to major a dude as athletic and savvy as Miller.
133, what I said: 'Beckman.' What happened: A.J. Schopp (Edinboro) dec. Mason Beckman (Lehigh) 4-2. Result: not counting the showcase matches, which I picked rather ambiguously, I went 7-2, although two of my wins weren't as dramatic as I predicted them. While I was definitely not happy that this snoozer ended up being the final match, I'm pretty happy with my the overall record and it may have been enough to inspire me to do more predictions this season. You're welcome, if true.
141: No Match. So Logan Stieber weighed in, made weight and then was scratched from competition. Information surrounding the scratch is kind of stuck, somewhere between Wrestling wanting to grow its own sport and HIPAA & FERPA laws designed to protect the privacy of student athletes. Ohio State coach Tom Ryan, not one to shy away from lamey excuse-making, indicated on his twitter page that Stieber had to be sent to the ER. Logan's a tough SOB and there's no way that after accepting the invite to wrestle Port, training to that and making weight, that he was ducking or in any way being shady. We certainly hope he gets better and has a healthy season.
However, I feel like the information could have been conveyed much better, especially inside the arena. It wasn't until Beckman & Schopp were intro'd as 'now, in the final bout of the evening' that I had any idea we were gonna miss Stieber-Port. I feel like a simple 'unfortunately our Main Event match has been canceled due to a medical scratch by Ohio State's Logan Stieber' would have been informative without being invasive. I also heard that the Flo guys conveyed the scratch with something like 'a little birdie told me...' The result stunk for a lot of reasons, probably most of all, for Stieber, but oftentimes a little stinkage can be ameliorated with some easy and responsible messaging.