You are looking live (thanks, Brent) at the first installment of this season’s Penn State Wrestling Roundup. We hope to bring you updates on Cael Sanderson and Co. each and every Thursday this season brought you by myself, Garrett, Cari and BScaff. Our aim is to provide the most comprehensive Penn State Wrestling coverage on these here interwebz. So, with just under a month until Penn State starts the season at Army West Point on November 11, let’s get to it.
What We Know:
For starters, we know that Penn State returns seven of the ten wrestlers that represented the team in last year’s postseason and brought home both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. The losses of National Champion Nico Megaludis and All-American’s Jordan Conaway and Morgan McIntosh will definitely hurt, but...
We know that Penn State has some absolute hammers coming in. At the top of the order, replacing Megaludis, will be true freshman Nick Suriano. Suriano did quite literally everything you could ask of him in high school. The four-time New Jersey state champ out of Bergen Catholic went 159-0 in his time in high school. He also won last year’s Super 32 tournament, one of the best in the tournament’s in the country, in an absolutely loaded 126-pound weight class.
Watch Suriano take out super stud recruit Daton Fix in a wild 2014 match at FloWrestling’s “Who’s Number One?” event. (Video via YouTube.com)
We also know that Penn State should be reloading at 133, where Conaway will be replaced by Illinois transfer and former high school stud himself, Jered Cortez. Cortez himself was a four-time state champion in high school, winning four different weight classes in the state of Illinois to do so. Cortez was 12-0 last season competing unattached in open tournaments, including a 5-4 over Conaway in overtime of the finals of the Nittany Lion Open.
We know Jimmy Gulibon will be manning the mat for the Nittany Lions at 141 pounds. After an All-American 2014 season at 133 pounds, Gulibon struggled at times to adjust to the weight bump last year. He did, however, show flashes of the Jimmy G we all know and love, including a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Micah Jordan in the Big Ten Tournament.
We know Zain Retherford is going to rip more arms off. The defending National Champion at 149 pounds, Retherford is unlikely to face any real challenge this season. He goes into the season as one of the favorite for the 16-17 Hodge Trophy for the best wrestler in the nation and should be a massive favorite in his weight class.
We know Jason Nolf will be hungry to get his first title at 157 pounds. Statistically speaking, Nolf was the most dominant wrestler in the country last season, showing off an array of offense that would make David Taylor blush. The now redshirt sophomore went 34-2 last season with his only losses coming to defending champion Isaiah Martinez in the Big Ten and National Championships. Martinez will be wrestling a 165 this season, where he wrestled those last two matches with Nolf (if you catch my drift).
Jason Nolf, cement mixer, 1:21. GOOD GAWD. (Video via YouTube.com)
We know we got some more young blood at 165! Vincenzo Joseph, come on down. Cenzo is a two-time Pennsylvania State Champion with wins over current Iowa Hawkeye Mike Kemerer and current Arizona State Sun Devil Josh Maruca. Joseph also holds an impressive freestyle win over OkState’s Joe Smith. The redshirt freshman went 8-0 in unattached competition last season, with his closest match being a 22-9 major decision over Dylan Painton of Rutgers.
We know Nick Nevills’ body isn’t failing him again at 285. The highly touted class of 2014 recruit has dealt with a slew of injuries in his two years at Penn State, but it appears the third N in the Nickal, Nolf and Nevills trio is finally healthy. It may have taken sacrificing Anthony Cassar to the gods to get there (we’ll get to that later), but it looks like Nevills will finally be the man at 285 for the duration of the season.
What We Don’t Know:
Who will be the man for the Nittany Lions at 174, 184 and 197. Gluttony typically isn’t that bad of a thing, but we seem to have hit an impasse. Young Mr. Bo Nickal, a defending Big Ten Champion and NCAA Runner-Up (that hurts to type), has apparently decided he would like to wrestle at 184 pounds this season. The cut is supposedly easier on him and the weight is close to Nickal freestyle weight of 86 kilograms (189.6 pounds). The move, however, leaves a big, Texas-sized hole in the line up at 174. Will it be filled by former 165-pound wrestler Shakur Rasheed, who flashed brilliance on a number of occasions but (understandably) struggled with his gas tank while cutting a large amount of weight? How about Geno Morelli? Morelli, also up from 165 pounds, was solid if unspectacular last season when he went 21-12 and reached the Round of 12 in the NCAA tournament. Don’t forget about Matt McCutcheon. McCutcheon, who was damn impressive before injuries set him back last season, will wrestle off (supposedly this weekend) with Nickal for the spot at 184 pounds. Word out of the room is that Nickal wins, McCutcheon would begin trying to make the descent. If McCutcheon wins, however, we could well see Nickal go all way up to 197 pounds where...
We don’t know a damn thing. New Jersey native Anthony Cassar looks set to miss time following a second shoulder injury in the offseason. A defending state champion and former junior world team member, Cassar is a bit of an unknown quantity with limitless upside. His potential replacements include Nickal, possibly Rasheed or McCutcheon, and redshirt freshman Kellan Stout. Stout went 12-3 last season while wrestling unattached and was a 38-0 in his senior season at Mt. Lebanon High School on the way to a Pennsylvania state championship.
What We Think We Know:
We think know that Penn State should be pretty damn good again this season, regardless of how things shake out from 174-197. Suriano is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best true freshman in the country who will go this season (sorry, Mark Hall). Cortez is expected to compete for a mid-to-high AA slot in a meat grinder of a division. Gulibon will be looking for redemption in his senior year. Retherford and Nolf will be national champions barring some catastrophe. Cenzo Joseph can wrestle with darn near anybody in the country at 165 pounds, and a healthy Nick Nevills is going to be a beautiful beautiful site.
So there you have our opening salvo for the season. Be sure to check in next Thursday where we’ll be back to give you any potential updates on wrestle-off results, weight change decisions, and a look at the rest of the field as Penn State looks to defend its status as NCAA Team Champions.