On Friday, Penn State wrestling will hop on a bus and head east on I-80, passing through District 11 on their way to a showdown with Big Ten newcomer Rutgers. Strangely, no one on the Penn State bus will point in the direction of Easton, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Bethlehem Catholic, or any other D11 power, and say to a teammate, 'that's where I wrestled'. After six seasons in State College, District 11 remains the lone island, amid the archipelago of wrestling talent that is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which the brothers Sanderson have not successfully conquered.
Not that being shut out has materially impacted their results, of course. Four national titles in your first five years is pretty good. Let's call it a solid "B+".
Date/Time: Friday, Jan 16th, 7pm EASTERN
Video: BTN Plus web stream
Audio: Ironhead Byers, via 20+ over-the-air radio stations, and the $9.99/mo "PSU All Access" stream.
Location: "The RAC", Piscataway, NJ
Last Meeting: Penn State 34, Rutgers 0, circa February 2013, Cael's 100th career coaching victory. 5,000 fans packed the RAC that afternoon, while less than half of that watched the National Duals final in Minnesota, featuring the Gophers. Seven wrestlers from the two current squads competed in that fight - 4 for Penn State (Conaway, D.Alton, Hulk Hands, LawDog), and three for Rutgers (Dellafave, Theobold, Smith).
#8 Jordan Conaway (PSU, Jr, 14-3, Abbottstown, PA) vs. UR Sean McCabe (RU, So, 11-4, Ronkonkoma, NY)
McCabe's a good match up for Jordan. He's more of a grinder than a splashy, lightning quick guy. McCabe's suffered bonus point losses to #3 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) and #4 Thomas Gilman (Iowa), plus two decision losses to WVU's superfrosh Zeke Moisey (who, coincidentally, starred at BeCa in D11). This is an opportunity for Jordan to show some first period aggression, and work towards bonus in the 2nd and 3rd periods.
Line: Conaway by DEC (PSU 3, RU 0)
#8 Jimmy Gulibon (PSU, So, 14-2, Latrobe, PA) vs. UR Scott DelVecchio (RU, So, 13-4, South Plainfield, NJ)
//checks Intermat rankings
////refreshes Intermat rankings
So DelVecchio is not currently ranked for some reason. He's surrendered zero bonus point losses, and come up just short of the upset in matches against #2 Cody Brewer (Oklahoma), #18 Kevin Norstrem (VaTech), and #5 Zane Richards (Illinois). Jimmy's going to have a tough match in this one. On DelVecchio's side? His high school - South Plainfield - will be wrestling a dual on the RAC's mat before he runs out there. (That's a really cool promotion by Coach Goodale, a former high school coach himself, by the way).
Line: Gulibon by DEC (PSU 6, RU 0)
UR Kade Moss (PSU, Fr, 15-8, S.Jordan, UT) vs. #7 Anthony Ashnault (RU, Fr, 15-3, South Plainfield, NJ)
This is gonna be a good one. Ashnault's the real deal. He's very athletic, and creates a ton of motion from neutral before firing low singles. Once he gets a lead, however, he'll create a ton of motion from neutral before firing more low singles - Ashnault's tallied bonus in 7 of his 15 wins. Prepare for fireworks.
Speed, which Ashnault has in spades, has been a bit of a challenge for Kade at times, whose most comfortable position is - probably - locked up looking for greco throws. But with the way Kade has been coming on the last few weeks - how about those head inside singles to his opponent's right leg, huh? - he's more than capable of pulling a major upset here.
Line: Ashnault by DEC (PSU 6, RU 3)
#17 Zack Beitz (PSU, So, 9-5, Mifflintown, PA) vs. UR Ken Theobold (RU, Jr, 15-4, Toms River, NJ)
Theobold strong. Like bull. And, he whips out the legs for a tough ride from top - an area (bottom) where Zack is still continuing to improve. Theobold also took a good victory from Minnesota's Jake Short last week, so Zack will have his work cut out for him in this one. But I also like Zack's go-go-Gadget arms to snatch an ankle or two from neutral.
Line: Beitz by DEC (PSU 9, RU 3)
#7 Dylan Alton (PSU, Sr, 7-2, Mill Hall, PA) vs. #18 Anthony Perrotti (RU, Jr, 12-5, Roseland, NJ)
Perrotti raised more than a few eyebrows at NCAAs last year, as he made the podium in a loaded weight class from an unseeded start. He became Rutgers' first All-American in - well, let's just call it a long time.
This season's started rough, however. He's lost every match against a ranked opponent that he's had, and has also lost his last three in a row (#13 Russ Parsons (Army), #15 Mike Kelly (Iowa), and #5 Isiah Martinez (Illinois, by MAJ)). Dylan's been pacing himself in the first period during his return to the mat this year. I think we'll have another low scoring match here, and in a one-takedown match, both wrestlers are only 1 move away from victory (or defeat).
Line: Alton by DEC (PSU 12, RU 3)
UR Garret Hammond (PSU, Fr, 16-6, Chambersburg, PA) vs. UR Nick Gravina (RU, Fr, 7-4, Allendale, NJ)
Gravina's hit a losing skid as he started Big Ten competition. Look for Garret to put up some points in this one, and break a close dual open for our Lions.
Line: Hammond by MAJ (PSU 16, RU 3)
#4 Hulk Hands (PSU, Sr, 14-2, West Valley City, UT) vs. #20 Phil Bakuckus (RU, So, 15-6, Hammondton, NJ)
Bakuckus is athletic, a little bit funky, and looks perfectly content flailing around in scrambles. So, that's the bad news. The good news is that Bakuckus has dropped all of his matches against ranked opponents. When Hulk Hands places his, uh, mighty Hulk Hands upon thy neck, I think Bakuckus will genuflect. However - Bakuckus also hasn't surrendered bonus points in a loss yet, despite wrestling #2 Storley and #3 Evans. Will this be his first?
Line: Yes. Hulk Hands by MAJ (PSU 20, RU 3)
#16 Mighty Mouse (PSU, Fr, 17-7, Apollo, PA) vs. UR Hayden Hrymack (RU, Jr, 9-6, Point Pleasant, NJ)
Mouse gets an opportunity to bounce back after a frustrating loss to Ohio State's #11 Kenny Courts, in a match where Mouse didn't fire a ton of shots from neutral. If shots get fired in this one, my sense is that they'll have to come from Mouse. I think he delivers.
Line: Mouse by DEC (PSU 23, RU 3)
#6 Morgan McIntosh (PSU, Jr, 15-2, Santa Ana, CA) vs. UR Andrew Campolattano (RU, JR, 1-2, Bound Brook, NJ)
Four years ago, these were two of the top high school recruits in the nation. Both wrestled as true freshmen, and because Campo had chosen Ohio State, the pair squared off more than once. Morg won the dual meet, and, if I remember correctly, he also took their match at Big Tens. They faced off a 3rd time that year, at NCAAs, with Campo scoring the win.
While Morg used his redshirt the next season, things went off the rails for Campo, who was dismissed from the team by Buckeye coach Tom Ryan. Andrew appears to have taken advantage of Knights coach Mike Goodale's second chance opportunity. Good for him - that's awesome.
These are two of the most athletic 97's you'll see anywhere. Morg, I think, is going to have to push the pace to create any openings for his shots. It's going to be interesting to see them lock horns again after a 2-year hiatus.
Line: Morg by DEC (PSU 26, RU 3)
#6 LawDog (PSU, Sr, 8-0, Toms River, NJ) OR #6 Jon Gingrich (PSU, Sr, 12-1, Wingate, PA)
vs. #13 Billy Smith (RU, Jr, 9-2, Wantage, NJ)
Who do you suppose Cael will run onto the mat? It was Jimmy in February 2013, getting his hand raised in NJ - again - after two years of playing defensive tackle at Monmouth and three consecutive NJ state titles at heavyweight. But Jimmy wrestled in Penn State's last dual, at Ohio State. So maybe we see Jon in this one?
Line: PSU Heavy by DEC (PSU 29, RU 3)
So - 29 to 3, Penn State? That sounds a bit too homer-ish.. Rutgers is a much improved team from two years ago. They could pull a couple of upsets, and shrink that margin by quite a bit, though the matchup with Penn State is not the most favorable for them. It's clear, however, that Coach Goodale is doing a great job with their program.
Now go away, you silly, Piscataway, k-nigits, or we shall be forced to taunt you a zecond time-uh.