After a statement victory over a solid Purdue squad on Friday, Cael Sanderson’s team heads south to take on former Penn State standout Kerry McCoy’s young Terrapin team. The Maryland wrestling squad boasts only one senior in its starting lineup and four freshman, and only one ranked wrestler - heavyweight Youssif Hemida, a shaved bear with only one loss on his season.
On the part of the Lions, there’s some questions headed into the dual meet; on Friday, with transfer Carson Kuhn still not certified and both roster wrestlers down due to illness, Penn State was forced to forfeit at 125. On the almost flip side, there are too many options for the coaching staff at 197, where Shakur Rasheed was named the Purdue dual’s outstanding wrestler after a pin, despite not being the team’s first starter earlier the season; whether the Lions will again split the weekend and have Anthony Cassar wrestle in College Park may determine the margin of victory this Sunday. Though, of course, I predicted the same last Sunday, and Cassar proved me foolish.
This dual meet is technically an away meet, but Maryland athletics moves Penn State wrestling duals and women’s volleyball matches out of their normal gym venue and into the basketball home of the Comcast Center due to the sheer number of PSU faithful that show up.
Things to watch out for (or listen out for) in this dual meet are notorious sports heckler Robin Ficker, who years ago traded his Washington Bullets/Wizards fandom in for a pair of Maryland wrestling shoes, and yours truly, who’ll be there in full PSU grappler regalia.
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State vs Maryland
Where: Comcast Center, College Park, MD
When: Sunday, 1/21, 4pm
Audio: Free, Jeff "Ironhead" Byers, via GoPSUSports
Video: BTN+ ($$$)
|No. 1 Penn State||WT||Maryland|
|No. 1 Penn State||WT||Maryland|
|Devin Schnupp (Fr., Lititz, PA)||125||Brandon Cray (Fr., Steinart, NJ)|
|Corey Keener (Sr., Schuylkill Haven, PA)||133||Danny Bertoni (Fr., Jefferson, MD)|
|#7 Nick Lee (Fr., Evansville, IN) OR Jered Cortez (Jr., Carol Stream, IL)||141||Ryan Diehl (Jr., Berkeley Springs, WV)|
|#1 - Zain Retherford (Sr., Benton, PA)||149||Alfred Bannister (Jr., La Plata, MD)|
|#1 - Jason Nolf (Jr., Yatesboro, PA)||157||Justin Alexander (Sr., Pittsburgh, PA)|
|#1 - Vincenzo Joseph (So., Pittsburgh, PA)||165||Brendan Burnham (So, Gibsonia, PA)|
|#2 - Mark Hall (So., Apple Valley, MN)||174||Josh Ugalde (So., Bound Brook, NJ)|
|#1 - Bo Nickal (Jr., Allen, TX)||184||Nico Cappello (Fr., Cranford, NJ)|
|Anthony Cassar (So., Rocky Hill, NJ) OR #10 Shakur Rasheed (Jr., Coram, NY) OR Matt McCutcheon (Sr., Apollo, PA)||197||Mansur Abdul-Malik (Fr., Laurel, MD)|
|#8 - Nick Nevills (Jr., Clovis, CA)||285||#6 Youssif Hemida (Jr., Mamaroneck, NY)|
As with most dual meets this season, the Nittany Lions will start with their weakest weight. If Kuhn is certified by Sunday, this may be a different story and the Lions could surprise me. On the complete opposite side, Devin Schnupp could still be ill and PSU could forfeit, giving Maryland six points. Cray could use it; he’s has a few decent wins (including over Stanford’s Connor Schram), but he’s been absolutely destroyed by the elite competition he’s faced as both former Lion-now-Knight Nick Suriano and Buckeye Nathan Tomasello both tech-falled him. I’m splitting the difference, really.
Prediction: Cray by Decision
Cari loudness level: 6. It’s hard for me to get vocal when I have lowered expectations.
Score: PSU 0, Maryland 3
Keener had a great win on Friday, over a likely NCAA qualifier. His opponent this time hasn’t had many great wins, but isn’t a pushover. Keener, if he wants to move into the rankings and push into the postseason, has to make a statement here.
Prediction: Keener by Major Decision
Cari loudness level: 8. Cory needs our support, and I’ll give it to him.
Score: PSU 4, Maryland 3
Jered Cortez is still listed in the lineup, but this weight is all Nick Lee for the rest of the season. And with his early season tentativeness hopefully behind him, Nick will look to score big, fast and consistently; in matches like this, it’ll be the differential that should give us a better idea of how far up the podium the true freshman will finish come March.
Prediction: Lee by Major Decision
Cari loudness level: 9. Lee will look for turns, and that’ll get the crowd riled up.
Score: PSU 8, Maryland 3
We’re so blessed to be able to have had four years of Zain Retherford.
Prediction: Zain by Pin
Cari loudness level: 10, all after the first period pin.
Score: PSU 14, Maryland 3
The last few matches have seen Jason Nolf come out slowly before turning it on and winning decisively. Is he trying to lull his victims into a false sense of security before showing them who he really is? Perhaps. But Nolf is fun to watch either way, and it’s just a question of what type of style he decides to use that day to beat his opponent. Alexander didn’t wrestle against Ohio State, instead opting to give Micah Jordan the free six points two weeks ago, and he hasn’t been on the mat since. If he is the one to go, it should be a similar result.
Prediction: Nolf by Pin
Cari loudness level: 8. We’re so spoiled, this will feel ho-hum.
Score: PSU 20, Maryland 3
The middle of the “insert whatever adjective here” five also, no matter what happens, appears to be the most unheralded, silently but surely taking down all in front of him. He had a great weekend last week when wrestling top five Logan Massa, and will surely look forward to Ohio State in a few weeks. Before then, though, he has three more matches; his opponent on Sunday isn’t foreign to getting put on his back this season, and Cenzo should be able to do the same.
Prediction: Cenzo by Pin
Cari loudness level: 10. Cenzo’s so nonchalant and having fun out there - how can you not go all-in?
Score: PSU 26, Maryland 3
Ugalde is having a better season than last year’s redshirt freshman campaign, and he’s young and hungry. But he’s still a year older than Mark Hall, who’s a phenom and on another level. Hall can hit creative moves and counters at a moment’s notice, able to set up his shots and seemingly able to see his opponents’ moves ahead of time. Ugalde hasn’t really been giving up a ton of points, though, so I don’t see it being as big a victory as many might expect - though being caught by a big move by Hall is something always to be aware of.
Prediction: Hall by Major Decision
Cari loudness level: 8. Hall is so sneaky, and has the potential to bring out a big move at any time.
Score: PSU 30, Maryland 3
It appears to be all or nothing with Bo, either pinning his opponents early or letting the match drag on in a fashion closer than many fans might like to see, often winning on a controversial call or noncall. This weekend will be more of the former rather than the latter, as his opponent only has one win on the year as a freshman. This Sunday won’t be his second.
Prediction: Bo by Pin
Cari loudness level: 10, just because he’s my favorite.
Score: PSU 36, Maryland 3
With McCutcheon appearing to still be injured, this weight comes down to either Cassar or Rasheed; selfishly, I’d like to see Shakur get the start here, as I haven’t seen him wrestle in person in a few years. Maryland’s wrestler at this weight has been prone to being put on his back this year, so the former 165-er seems to have a better shot of continuing that tradition, though even if Cassar goes, I’d expect it would be by bonus.
Prediction: Rasheed by Pin
Cari loudness level: 10
Score: PSU 42, Maryland 3
Nick Nevills had a big win on Friday over a ranked wrestler, but his foe on Sunday is even better. Hemida is the cream of Maryland’s crop, and boasts a pretty good resume so far this year - including a fall over Nevills’ brother, Seth, a Penn State commit. Welp. Nevills’ season hasn’t been to whelming so far this year, and a big win on the road against a quality opponent would help. But that may be too tall a task, and Hemida will likely bookend the meet with Maryland victories.
Prediction: Hemida by Decision
Cari loudness level: 10, mostly urging Nick on in getting out from underneath Hemida’s ride.
Score: PSU 42, Maryland 6
*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; in those rankings, Penn State is #2 . It’s either that or Flo’s rankings (BTN has an exclusive contract), but I must be internet illiterate because I can’t find a link to updated Flo rankings. I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because, a) this happens to be a dual meet, and b) it’s a better ranking for the Nittany Lions.