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Penn State Wrestling Weekly

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Frank Molinaro, Junior Nationals, and recruiting news.

There's a ton of news to discuss this week, and half of it is crap.  So grab a shovel, and we'll start chucking the manure pile into the spreader.  Head down, keep shoveling - we'll be through it before you know it.

We Begin In Mongolia

So this one stinks.  Frank Molinaro travelled to Mongolia to finish punching his ticket to the Rio Olympics.  He won his opener, and then faced World #2-ranked (at 70kg) Yakup Gor (Turkey) in the second round.  Gor won Bronze and Silver in the last two Worlds.  He's pretty good.

Frank hit a high crotch on Gor but got stuffed in his original finish.  No worries - Frank scrambled to complete the takedown, and had a 2-1 lead after the 1st period.  Gor scored a pushout in the 2nd period to knot the score at 2 each.  But because of his earlier takedown, Frank still led (on criteria).

Thanks to a second shot clock point, Gor took the lead 3-2.  Then, with about 20 seconds remaining...I don't know what you call it.  Frank's working on a pushout, Gor counters at the edge, Frank scrambles, they go out of bounds - and it would have seemed that Frank only gave up a push-out.  Instead, Gor is awarded a takedown.  Frank's side challenges the call, and it's upheld - so Frank gives up another point for losing the challenge.  Suddenly trailing 2-6, but with only 15 seconds remaining, Frank scores another takedown, and runs out of time.   Watch for yourself.

To make matters worse, Gor got smoked in the semi-finals, so Frank was eliminated (only those wrestlers who lost to finalists get into the wrestlebacks).  But it gets even better (and by better, I mean worse).  The guy Gor lost to?  Adam Batirov - a (former) Russian National Team member who this year, somehow, represents Bahrain for the 2016 Olympics.  Ain't that great (and by great, I mean horrible).

All of this means that Frank's down to his last chance to make the Olympics.  Next month, in Turkey, he'll have to make the finals.  But he can get it done.

...Keep Digging...

When you get rushed to the emergency room, one of the first questions they ask you (if you're conscious) is to rate your pain on a 1 - 10 scale.  Given the limitless range of traumas that might bring you to an emergency room, it seems to me that you need to be bleeding pretty heavily to shout the "6" number.  A "7" ought to be reserved for missing appendages (I'm thinking a whole hand, not merely a finger).  Maybe 9 is "well, I got shot in the head, so yeah, this one stings pretty good."

With that as our guideline, I'd rate the pain on this next piece of news as a 4 - it's clearly not a gunshot wound, but maybe a splitting maul or hatchet accident.  "I missed the log, but found my tibia."  Something like that.  In other words, if you've been offline for the last seven days, you might want to take a seat, and bite down on a thick piece of leather before reading any further, because you're going to feel a bit of pain.

Spencer Lee, a guy we've been talking about here at BSD for at least two years, who wrestles at Franklin Regional (Nico's old high school), and is (or will be) the consensus #1 ranked recruit for the 2017 class, chose Iowa over Dear Old State.  And so did his developing phenom friend, Gavin Teasdale (a 2018 lightweight croot).

Now, the grown-up's take is that this is actually "good for wrestling", because, presumably, if Spencer (and Gavin) had committed to Penn State, then the blue-and-white domination would have no discernible end.  Penn State would continue winning national title after national title, until everyone simply got bored.  Thus, Iowa getting a top recruit - even if they're from PA - keeps things "interesting" in collegiate wrestling, and "betters the sport" somehow, through, I don't know, team competition, or some crap like that.


It stings, is the honest answer.  Spencer's probably a career 125-lber, which is, by itself, like finding a pot 'o gold.  He's a PA kid.  And in addition to that Cadet World Gold medal we wrote about two years ago and linked above, he also won Junior Worlds last year.  As a 16 year old.  With a torn labrum.  By tech-falling the entire planet.  In a combined score of 55-4.  So he's pretty good (on and off the mat, actually).  For reference/context, here's the full list of Americans, besides Spencer, who also won Junior World gold medals in the last three years:

Kyle Snyder

...and that's the list.  So yes, this one wasn't fun, and we're back to taking a look at the situation we wrote about 20 months ago - what do we do about 125lbs moving forward?

The Good News

The immediate remedy for Nittany Lion fans is already signed, and his name is Nick Suriano, whom Sports Illustrated wrote about last week.  He's special.   And, if you believe Nick can hold 125lbs for more than a year or two, then, along with last off-season's pickup of Jered Cortez, Penn State's on perfectly sound footing at the lightweights.  Actually, scratch that - we're in great, great shape.

But, if Nick can't hold 125, things are less settled.  We of course have Kenny Yanovich, who's been making incredible progress, and won a match at the Scuffle last year during his RSFR campaign.  And we're bringing in three more tough PA kids this summer: Brian Friery (Lewisburg), Devin Schnupp (Warwick), and Mason Lindenmuth (Brockway). Hopefully one (or more) of those four takes some big steps forward.

Failing those potentialities, however, then Cael might have to start looking around for another 125lber.  Here are a few names to keep track of this weekend:

  • Daton Fix - he's from Oklahoma; pappy wrestled at OKST; and his entire family wears orange, all of the time.  Everyone on the planet assumes he'll be wrestling for John Smith - but he beat Spencer Lee last year (at 121.25 lbs), and Daton has repeatedly said he's "open for business", so you have to make the phone call.  (But he's probably a Poke).
  • Brian Courtney - Athens, PA.  He failed to place at (a loaded) Super32 bracket last summer (Suriano repeated as Champ).  But then - poof.  He won PIAA 126 (2A) last year in a deep/talented field, and followed that up by rolling through the rest of America at FloNationals, including a 14-6 major of #2 Justin Meija (an Iowa recruit).  So he's exploded up the rankings.  But there's a definite sense that he'll grow too big for 125 sooner than later, and that we'd need to pry him away from Cornell, which sits about 30 minutes from his home.
  • Brandon Courtney - the Arizona junior has made some big improvements on the freestyle circuit, and could be a sleeper.

Speaking of Freestyle, Here's More Fun

This weekend brings us Junior Nationals, in Las Vegas (ages 17 - 20).  This is always a blast, because you get to see the top high school recruits, as well as most of the younger collegiate studs.  As of this writing, most of the Penn Staters have yet to register, though we hope to see guys like Jered Cortez, Tristan Law, Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal,  Vincenzo Joseph, and Anthony Cassar.  Top signee Mark Hall is already signed up, as is most of Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State's under 21 crowd (including Myles Martin, at 84KG / 185LBS - so maybe we'll get a Bo vs. Myles rematch?)  Future PSU recruits, brothers Nick (class of 17, at 132.25lbs) and Joe ('18, at 145.5lbs) Lee, from Indiana, have also put their names on the list.  They'll be two of the youngest wrestlers in the field, mixing it up with (mostly) high school seniors and collegians.  Here are your favorites based on current registrants:

50KG (110.25lbs)
Spencer Lee (11th grade - Iowa commit)

55KG (121.25lbs)
Austin Assad (Michigan)
Brandon Courtney (11th)
Daton Fix (11th)
Gavin Teasdale (10th - Iowa commit)
Kris Williams (Nebraska)

60KG (132.25lbs)
Ben Thornton (Purdue)
Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin)
Josh Terao (American)
Mitch McKee (Minnesota)
Nick Lee (11th - Penn State commit)
Stevan Micic (Michigan)
Seth Gross (SDSU)
Yianni Diakomihalis (11th  - Cornell commit)

63KG (138.75lbs)
Triston Law (Penn State)
Zach Davis (Navy)
Sal Profaci (Michigan)

66KG (145.5lbs)
Alec Pantaleo (Michigan)
Cortland Schuyler (Lehigh)
Dominick Demas (11th - Ohio State commit)
Fredy Stroker (Minnesota)
Griffin Parriott (Minnesota)
Jarod Verkleeren (11th)
Joe Lee (10th - Penn State commit)
Matt Kolodzik (Princeton)
Sammy Krivus (UVA)
Vince Turk (Iowa)

70KG (154.25lbs)
Austin Kraisser (12th - Campbell commit)
Evan Wick (12th - Wisconsin commit)
Josh Marcua (Arizona State)
Kent Lane (Lehigh)
Michael Kemerer (Iowa)
Wyatt Sheets (12th - OKST commit)
Zander Wick (12th - Wisconsin commit)

74KG (163lbs)
Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
Cole Walter (Lehigh)
Fox Baldwin (UVA)
Josh Shields (Arizona State)
Larry Early (Minnesota)
Logan Massa (Michigan)
Mark Hall (12th - Penn State commit)
Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)

84KG (185lbs)
Bobby Steveson (Minnesota)
Myles Martin (Ohio State)
Ryan Christiansen (Wisconsin)
Zahid Valencia (Arizona State)

96KG (211.5 lbs)
Chase Singletary (11th)
Jack Striggow (Michigan)
Jacob Seely (Northern Colorado)
Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
Lance Benick (Arizona State)

120KG (264.5lbs)
Jake Gunning (Bucknell)
James Romero (Missouri)
Joey Goodhart (Drexel)

As mentioned, hopefully we see Nolf, Nickal, Cassar, Nevills, and the rest of the Penn State youngsters.

More Great (Recruiting) News

Guys like Mark Hall and Spencer Lee are special recruits because they've been wrestling - and winning - since they were 8 years old.  But not every kid starts winning states at age 14.  Every now and then, a kid picks up wrestling late, works hard, and gets noticed.  One recent example is Anthony Cassar, who didn't start wrestling until 9th grade, and only made (NJ) states as a senior.  Then he came to Penn State, redshirted, and made the Junior World freestyle team.  That's pretty good.

Penn State may have landed another sleeper (h/t to bveo for the link).  Alex Nicholas is an athletic heavyweight from Salisbury in District 11 (woo-hoo!, a D11 recruit!).  He goes about 225lbs today, but figures he can pack on another 25 - 30lbs or so in the next couple of years.

Salisbury isn't Northampton or Parkland or Bethlehem Catholic or Easton.  In fact, Alex had just one - one - teammate in the room with him, 126lber Zach Adams.  So in addition to learning to wrestle and train and diet, Alex had to put in extra work just to find drilling partners.  But by his senior year, he finished as D11 champ (2A), and placed 4th at PIAAs, with a 33-3 overall record.  That's outstanding, though he wasn't expecting to get a call from Penn State.  And when he did?

"It shocked me a little.   Penn State was a school I wanted to go to even if I wasn't wrestling.  I didn't think you could wrestle in Division 1 if you weren't a state champion.  I'm pretty excited."

We're excited, too, Alex.  Now, prepare yourself to receive some whoopins' in the room.  But hang tough, because there's a payoff.  At Christmas break of your freshman year, you'll go home and be amazed by how easily you beat the tar out of old high school training partners that used to give you fits.  Like night vs day, Alex.  And that's a pretty fun moment.

Around The Lig

  • Our buddies at The Pants are pretty happy with Lee and Teasdale.
  • Pat Popolizzio can build programs from scratch.  He did it at Binghamton.  He did it again with NC State.  And he's keeping the momentum going, by landing #4 overall recruit Nick Reenan, who decommitted from Northwestern a couple of months ago.  Coach Pop now has five top 100 recruits in his 2016 class, including 3 of the top 20.
  • Christian Pyles started a cool off-season feature, looking at top contender lineups.  Here's Oklahoma State, and Iowa.
  • Two weeks ago, he was the 9-seed at the USA Team Trials.  Now J'Den Cox - a true college junior - is an Olympian, after he wrecked the field in Mongolia.  At this juncture, you gotta like his chances to medal in Rio.  He's a beast, and he's wrestling awfully well.
  • Fresno State is adding D1 wrestling, which we've known about for a while.  But one cool new development is the US Wrestling Foundation matching, dollar for dollar, all Fresno State supporter donations.