The Penn State Nittany Lions gave us a season to remember. A 6th national championship in the last 7 years, behind a school-record team point total (146.5), bonus point total (32.5), which also featured 5 national finalists, all of whom won. They cleared the 2nd place squad by 36.5 points, a 33% margin. But wait - there’s more.
They were also Dual Team Champions, finishing a second consecutive unbeaten season, having won at least 7 of the 10 bouts in every single dual. They wrestled six top 15 opponents on the road - including at #2, at #3, at #4, at #6 - and whooped them by a combined 178 - 67. They also got three top 10 opponents at home - and won 97 - 28.
Ninety-seven to twenty-eight.
Did I mention they did all of that despite multiple injuries? They lost 10% of their lineup at the start of December, and another 10% just before the post-season. Then the remaining 80% lit the rest of the field on fire, anyhow. Incredible.
Cael took the reigns of the Penn State program beginning with the 2010 season. He redshirted most of the squad his first year, and since then, here are what the NCAA tournament stats look like (NOTE: if you’re not a PSU fan, you should quickly look away).
NCAA All-Americans, 2011 - 2017
|2011 - 2017||Champions||Finalists||Top 5 Placers||All-Americans||Team Titles|
Here’s something else that’s striking about PSU’s 16 individual national champions the last 7 seasons: 11 different Nittany Lions earned those titles. That compares to 12 individuals - total - between Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State.
Did I mention that 15 Lions were named Academic All Big Ten. Friends, PSU fandom does not get any better than this. Thank you, PSU Wrestling.
Speaking of World Domination
As you know, Penn State returns 142 of its school-record 146.5 team points. The Lions also return the 20% of its starting lineup that sat out the post-season due to injury. Thus, unlike 2017, when most ranking agencies started Penn State 6th (what on Earth were they thinking anyhow?), your Lions will begin 2018 as the consensus favorite.
Based on recruiting rumblings, there’s a definite chance the winning continues beyond 2018, too. In fact, as BSD Clay noted last week, the 2018 recruiting class could finish as the top recruiting class of all time, for any school, in any sport. Cael’s already received verbal commitments from - depending upon ranking agency - #2 (Cadet freestyle national champ Gavin Teasdale), #3 (Cadet World Bronze Travis Wittlake), and #4 (Cadet World team member Roman Bravo-Young) nationally.
Not bad. But in case you think Cael should keep working, here’s a recent picture of the still available #5 guy, California heavyweight Seth Nevills, younger brother of Nick:
Pretty good looking recruit, eh? Let’s hope Cael can pull him to State College.
Your Wrestling Calendar
The Penn State Wrestling Club Awards banquet is April 9th. But if you don’t already have your tickets, you’re out of luck. It’s sold out, just like all of the home duals. That’s no reason not to join the Club, though.
The US Open will be held in Las Vegas, April 27 - 29th. The “Last Chance” Qualifier is May 19th. Cadet and University Nationals are June 1st - June 4th. And the World Team Trials (WTT) are June 8th - 10th. Here’s a quick rundown on how this works.
- There are 4 mostly age-based groups: Cadet (16 and under), Junior (20 and under), University (no more than 1 year removed from college), and Senior (hairy faced grown ups).
- If you were on a World/Olympic team last year (2016), you’re invited to compete at the WTT in June.
- If you won an individual NCAA national title a week ago, you’re invited.
- If you won the Bill Farrell Invitational last December, like Nico Megaludis did - you’re invited.
- If you won the Dave Schultz Memorial this past February, you’re invited.
- Those winners form the bulk of the top invites to the World Team Trials (WTT), at the senior level. Here’s a handy list of who those guys are, courtesy of USA Wrestling.
- If you’re not one of those guys, then you still need to qualify. That’s what the US Open is for. The top 7 placers - not already on the list - at the US Open will get an invitation to the WTT.
- Let’s say you go to the US Open and place 8th. Are you done? Nope. There’s also the Last Chance Qualifier, on May 19th. Win that, and you’ll earn your spot at WTT.
- Last, of course - win the WTT, and you’re an honest to goodness Team USA member, representing the stars and stripes.
Now, this being wrestling, it’s not that simple. So here are two monkey wrenches. First, if you won an Olympic/World medal last year, then you automatically advance to the final of the WTT, which is a best-of-three fight, rather than a 1-match deal. So, Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Snyder will be waiting on the WTT “challenge” bracket winner in the final, and if that’s you, then you’ll have to beat him twice to take his spot in the Team USA lineup. Second, if your weight class - say 57kg - does not have a World/Olympic medalist from 2016 in it, then the winner of the US Open automatically advances to the final of the WTT. Therefore, since Team USA holds just 3 medals from the 8 weight classifications (Snyder - gold at 97kg; J’Den Cox - bronze at 86kg; and Logan Stieber - gold at 61kg), the other 5 weights should be fully loaded for bear at the US Open, because that’s a crazy good ticket.
- There’s also a Masters/Veterans, for old men, if you’re feeling frisky. But those guys are crazy. Who has the knees, shoulders, back, and hips for that? (Yes, this includes PSU’s John Hanrahan, who won the world title at 85kg / 187lbs. Certified crazy.)
- The Juniors (20 and under) run parallel with the Seniors. So everything above is about the same for them. Juniors generally includes young PSUers like Cenzo Joseph (4th at 74kg in 2016) and Mark Hall, last year’s Junior World Gold medalist, as well as incoming recruits (2017’s Nick Lee, who placed 7th at Junior Nationals, with a 12-2 tech fall over Josh Terao - who was the 11-seed at NCAAs a week ago). Junior Nationals / Team Trials are like a sneak peek at who’s gonna be good next year at NCAAs.
- Cadets, then, is a sneak peek at who you want Cael to recruit.
- Last, the “University” class is usually made up of the guys who are too old for Juniors, but not quite ready to be the best guy in the US at the Senior level. Past members include David Taylor, Ed Ruth. Lots of good action there, as well.
This has been a lot of writing. There’ll be a lot more to come. Nothing beats NCAA Friday, with quarters, semi-finals, and blood round. But freestyle nationals and world team trials aren’t too far behind. It’ll be a fun couple of months this summer.