It’s that time of year, friends. The wrestling coaching carousel spins out of control. We’re wrestling freestyle now, too - so no more riding time talk. Big hooray for that. Let’s take a quick look around the Penn State and national wrestling landscape.
First order of business: big congratulations to Frank Molinaro, the Gorilla Hulk, who took an assistant coaching job in Blacksburg, VA. Frank, the 2016 Olympian at 65kg, joins Jared Frayer, the 2012 Olympian at 66kg, on new head coach Tony Robie’s first staff, after he took the reins from Kevin Dresser.
Speaking of which...new Iowa State head coach Kevin Dresser, a former Iowa Hawkeye, filled out his new staff with Mike Zadick, Brent Metcalf, and Derek St. John - all prolific ex-Hawkeyes. I suppose it’d be like Kerry McCoy taking the head job at Pitt, and then bringing David Taylor, Quentin Wright, and Molinaro with him. (Do not want.) But it should make that early season rivalry dual a whole lot more interesting. By the way - Iowa State’s school colors are cardinal (red) and gold (yellow), which when mixed, produce Orange.
The Pitt job, as of this writing, remains open. Pitt interviewed most distinguished alum and current Lehigh coach Pat Santoro - but Santoro walked away. Then Pitt interviewed former Penn Stater and current Edinboro coach Tim Flynn - and Tim walked away, too. The latest rumor is that they’re interviewing former Iowa State Cyclone (and Cael teammate) Joe Heskett, who is currently on the athletic department staff in an administrative role at West Virginia.
Now, before you shout, “but Pitt’s a plum job surrounded by wrestling talent” - false. Well, the second part is true, but the first part is false. Pitt administration has done next to nothing with its wrestling program for the better part of 25 years, as best evidenced by their wrestling room. It’s split in half, with a boiler room in the middle, and another part on a balcony. Wrestling’s an afterthought. And given the trail of good coaches saying “thanks, but I’ll pass”, Pitt’s not changing its priorities, either. (Of course, this doesn’t disappoint us too much).
United World Wrestling updated their international freestyle rankings. They’re, umm, inconsistent. The common joke is that the rankings are compiled by a reclusive ex-communist official from Bulgaria who “follows” the action with nothing but a ham radio. Unfortunately, that joke is funny-sad, not funny-haha, because it’s likely too close to the pathetic truth.
For now, though, we only need to concern ourselves with National rankings, and in particular, our Nittany Lion Wrestling Club guys. Since we have a few weeks until the US Open on April 25 - 29 in Las Vegas, we’ll start with the 57kg field, and profile the rest in future editions of this column.
57kg (125.5 lbs)
Our Guy: Nico Megaludis has kicked a ton of behind these last few months. He posted a 3-1 record at the World Club Cup back in Oct/Nov, with his only loss coming to 3 or 4x World/Oly medalist Hassan Rahimi (IRI), 5-2. You read that right: 5 - 2, with those “2” coming via takedown - something no American has done to Rahimi, maybe ever, but at least the last 4 years. Then Nico won Paris Gold, and Bill Farrell Gold, where he broke a Russian. USA Wrestling has Nico slotted 3rd nationally - but if you’re looking for a sleeper / break-thru candidate, you might want to pick him. Follow along @babyflo_nico to get good stuff, like this:
I can't wait for Jackie Moon to wrestle a bear! #flinttropics— Nico Megaludis (@babyflo_nico) March 31, 2017
No one’s heard much from 2016 Oly team member Dan Dennis. He hinted at retirement. But if he enters the tournament, he has a deadly gut wrench.
The guy Dennis gutted in last year’s finals to make the Olympics was 2014 and 2015 team member Tony Ramos. Tony left the Hawkeye Wrestling Club immediately following last year’s final loss, and joined the UNC program with fellow lightweight Coleman Scott. He recently finished 1-3 at the World Cup in Iran. Always tough, but the offense was the question mark in Iran.
USA Wrestling lists Tyler Graff as #2 at 57kg. He’s athletic, quick, and lights up a scoreboard when he’s relaxed out there. Graff took Gold at Cerro Pelado (2-0) and the Dave Schultz (5-0), where he brutalized the field. He’ll be a tough out.
Other Names: Joe Colon and his excellent mustache; Jesse Delgado is back wrestling; Nahshon Garrett was beating Ramos at last year’s trials before a late caution, Nate Tomasello - will he go here, at 125.5? Or at 61kg (134lbs)?