That’s what so many of us will say as we say goodbye to this crop of Penn State wrestlers: we were blessed, and so incredibly lucky, to be fans of such stellar athletes, students, and people.
This isn’t the first time that we PSU fans have said this; in 2014, when Ed Ruth and David Taylor (and, of course, James English) were exhausting their eligibility with the program, we were saddened; happy, no doubt, and thankful for the years they had given us, but sad to see such talented and awesome wrestlers graduate from their Penn State singlet.
And opposing fans were almost gleeful, sure that the fledgling PSU dynasty would soon come crashing down around us. And they were even more sure after the next season - when, while redshirting four future national champions, the Nittany Lions finished the season in a solid sixth place.
The haters were gonna hate, hate, hate. And we Penn Staters? Well, however confident we could be, there would still be that ever-lingering doubt, that patented Penn State pessimism, that would make us wonder if our best wrestling days were behind us.
Lo, how we naysayers were wrong.
Immediately as the next season began, Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, and Nick Nevills came out with a bang. What we had missed the previous season was evident on the mat; and it wasn’t just the freshmen who could feel it. Returning wrestlers like Morgan McIntosh, Nico Megaludis, and Zain Retherford fed off the energy of the team, and all, at times, sparked it themselves.
And if anyone thought it was a joy to watch Penn State wrestle between 2011 and 2014, that class has nothing on 2016 through now.
There are five seniors from this class who have started significant matches for Penn State; combined, those five starters are 390 - 39 over the course of the past four years. That’s ten wins for every loss - an amazing record for any wrestler. And we have five of them, in this class alone.
Of course, two of those five are hoping to be granted additional years of eligibility by the NCAA (Shakur Rasheed is hoping for one, while Anthony Cassar is petitioning for two). And if you take their records out, the remaining three starters who’ll be wearing their last PSU singlet this month have a combined record of 291-23.
That’s just NUTS. And we’ve been here to watch it, and to cheer it on.
There are, god willing, five more days of wrestling in the blue and white for us to see these seniors (save Nevills, who’s been the ultimate team wrestler this season), and it’ll be, once again, bittersweet to watch them take the mat for the last time.
But at least this time, while we can revel in the sheer joy of watching Nolf play with his food before he eats it, or Bo stick the best of opponents within the first period, we know what we’ll see in the future. With Cael Sanderson in charge of the program, recruiting at the level he is and coaching those top-tier recruits to be the best they can be - and, above all, have fun - we’ll continue to compete with the best. And be the best.
I can’t wait to sit here and enjoy the ride.
Cari’s favorite matches of the five seniors in this piece:
Breaking a streak, and paving the way for one young Vincenzo Joseph the next season.
There are many to choose from (this year’s against Moore, for one), but this is just so beautiful - as is watching the faces of the crowd.
Yes, it’s a loss. No, I don’t care...I’m not sure a match could more epitomize Nevills’ journey here, and it made his team win.
We should’ve known back then...even at a lanky 165 pounds, Shak’s a master of big moves.
Before he became a starter (and got to actually eat), Cassar shocked the wrestling world and willed his team to a win.
Special shout out to Scott Stossel. You didn’t start most of the time here, but you made the most of it when you did - and you picked up a Big Ten win in your last match in a PSU singlet. Wrestlers like you are what make Penn State a great program, not just a team.