The season kicks off this Sunday at 2pm in a sold out Rec Hall. If you haven't already, check out Jtothep's excellent fanpost, covering preseason and Cael's media day this week. The biggest news in Penn State wrestling this week was, of course, the confirmation of the program's intention to redshirt returning all-Americans Nico Megaludis (125 lbs) and Zain Retherford (141 lbs); Nico's shirt, in particular, was long rumored as a possibility, as Jordan Conaway stepped in admirably for a few duals before the tourney season last year (insert obligatory eff Jesse Delgado comment). As for Z-Pain, some were surprised that he wrestled his true freshman year last year--less so, of course, after his epic win over Ohio State's Logan Stieber in the dual against the Buckeyes (incidentally, the first dual I'd seen in person in the Cael era--you're welcome, Logie Bear). This year's break will give Zain time to develop, and allow Stieber to exhaust his eligibility at the collegiate level, setting up three years of Retherford dominance come fall 2015.
Onto this week's dual! Last year, PSU started the season with a two-dual road trip, culminating with a 22-12 victory over Lehigh on the road. This year might be more of a battle because of the talent on the Hawks' roster, though I'm still picking PSU to come out on top.
We've said it before, but this is truly an historic in-state wrestling rivalry, with the to programs meeting 102 times before this weekend. Penn State leads all time, 65-34-3, and is on a four-deal win streak. Lehigh just beat Hofstra 27-9 on Thursday in their first dual of the season.
#12 Jordan Conaway vs. FR Scott Parker (Sellersville, PA/Pennridge)
Conaway looked good in limited action last year, and Cael's showing a lot of confidence in him this year. Plus, he's up against a true freshman--one who took silver this past year at 120 in the PIAAs notwithstanding.
Line: Jordan by MD
#8 Jimmy Gulibon vs. #2 JR Mason Beckman (Transfer, PA/Reynolds)
Last year, this was a really close bout, with Beckman coming out on top. Jimmy's better this year, but the problem? So is Mason, who was an All-American in 2014 after falling to Minnesota's David Thorn in the fifth place bout at last year's NCAA tournament. Jimmy should keep it close--this is one of the few weights without an OR at it this early in the season, and that's saying something--but Beckman's just too good right now.
Line: Mason Beckman by D
Kade Moss OR Michael Waters vs. SO Randy Cruz (Bethlehem, PA/Bethlehem Catholic)
I'm betting that Moss gets the call on this one, by nothing more than intuition; neither him nor Waters has seen much action in the blue and white. Not much is known about Cruz, either, though he did fall to Hofstra's Jamel Hudson in a decision earlier this week.
Line: Pick 'em
#16 Zack Beitz OR Luke Frey vs. SO Will Switzer (Severna Park, MD) OR FR Drew Longo (Ardsley, NY)
Beitz was very close to being really good last year, just couldn't put it all together, and with the way Cael talked him up in the presser, he should get the go ahead Sunday. Drew Longo got pinned on Thursday night by Hofstra's Cody Ruggirello, so he'll likely face Switzer. Regardless, it looks good for Penn State at this weight.
Line: Zack by D
Cody Law vs. JR Michael Stepien (Berkeley Heights, NJ)
The official match notes still list Dylan Alton (preseason #9) as an OR at this weight, but Cael's media day confirmed that they're keeping him on the sideline. Regardless, all the signs from the training room are that Cody has been competing very well, and he did well on the circuit last year--this should be a good performance for him tomorrow.
Line: Cody by D
Garett Hammond vs. SR Santiago Martinez (Oviedo, FL) OR SR Marshall Peppelman (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin)
Garett's supposed to score a lot. Which is nice, because that's what we're used to at 165. As JP said, though, Martinez (if that's who the Hawks put forth at this weight) is also fairly offensive minded, and this could be an exciting, high-scoring bout.
Line: Pick 'em
#3 Matt Brown vs. SR Marshall Peppelman (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin) OR JR Ben Haas (Little Valley, NY)
Hulk Hands had a disappointing end to last season. That doesn't bode well for whomever Lehigh fields.
Line: Brown by TF
Matt McCutcheon OR Wes Phipps vs. #3 JR Nate Brown (Lewisburg, PA/Lewisburg)
Wes Phipps stepped in admirably to start off last season while RUUUTH was on the bench, but Matt McCutcheon gets the nod here. Regardless, Nate Brown is a phenomenal wrestler and is coming off a tech fall on Thursday night. If Matt keeps it close, this could work out to be a strong weight for PSU down the stretch.
Line: Nate Brown by MD
#4 Morgan McIntosh vs. #18 JR Elliot Riddick (Allenton, PA/Bethlehem Catholic) OR JR John Bolich (Willow Grove, PA/Upper Moreland)
Last year, Morgan majored Bolich. Riddick didn't wrestle on Thursday, so this week will likely end up like 2013 version 2.0.
Line: Morg by MD
#7 Jon Gingrich OR Jimmy Lawson OR Nick Ruggear vs. JR Doug Vollaro (Oviedo, FL)
I really want to see how Jon does this year. Jimmy was off to a good start before injury derailed him last year, but Gingrich finished really strong, including beating Adam Coon at the B1Gs--and that gives him this year's ranking in arguably the conference's strongest weight. Last year, he had a (relatively, for the bears) easy decision against Vollaro, and it should be similar this year.
Line: Jon by D
Overall vs Lehigh
For my first prediction, I'm going with one PSU TF, two PSU MDs, three PSU Ds, two pick 'ems, one Lehigh MD and one Lehigh D. So, that brings it to...PSU 25, Lehigh 10