They have six NCAA championships, all since 2011.
Their coach was 159-0 as a collegiate wrestler and a four-time NCAA Outstanding Wrestler.
They’ve been the No. 1 ranked team all season. They go into the weekend sporting a 9-0, 5-0 B1G record as they host Minnesota on Friday before heading east Sunday on Route 80 to wrestle Rutgers at the RAC beginning at 2:00 pm. The match has been announced as a sellout....and I expect a lot of blue in the stands.
Penn State under head coach Cael Sanderson hasn’t equaled the 23 titles won by Iowa over 35 years. But they are putting together a program that will be in the thick of the title fight for the foreseeable future.
Like Rutgers, PSU has seven ranked wrestlers, using the Intermat rankings. The big difference is what those individual rankings are: PSU has four number ones and a number two. They are a combined 86-0 on the season. That is powerful stuff.
Regardless of rankings, the match everyone on both sides will be watching is at 125 where this week’s new No. 1 wrestler, Nick Suriano, will take the mat for the Knights. Suriano was, of course, Penn State’s 125 pounder last season, and might have won a Big Ten title had it not been for an injury. His transfer to Rutgers over the summer caused some angst across the Delaware River and brought a changed tone in the RU wrestling room. And his success has gotten the attention more than just diehard fans. The Bergen Catholic grad has spawned headlines around the state, especially back home.
“I think Nick deserves to be number one,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “That’s the way he feels, the way he trains and prepares and lives his life. Nothing will change in his approach. We know it’s a big weekend for him, and it’s Penn State, but he can only wrestle one match. He’s gotta focus - and he’s so good at it - on his job and his job only.”
Video Source: Brian Fonseca via YouTube
Ranked Wrestlers / Possible Matchups
125: No. 1 Nick Suriano
133: No. 19 Scott Delvecchio
141: No. 7 Nick Lee (PSU)
149: No. 13 Eleazar Deluca vs. No. 1 Zain Retherford (PSU)
157: No. 17 John Van Brill vs. No. 1 Jason Nolf (PSU)
165: No. 11 Richie Lewis vs. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (PSU)
174: No. 2 Mark Hall (PSU)
184: No. 12 Nicholas Gravina vs. No. 1 Bo Nickal (PSU)
197: No. 10 Shakur Rasheed (PSU)
285: No. 6 Nick Nevills (PSU)
At 197, Rasheed is the No. 10 wrestler, but he has not wrestled since the Midlands at the end of December.
The Open Mat has Corey Keener (Sr. 16-7) at No. 20 at 125, so there is another potential ranked matchup.
“it’s obviously going to be a great atmosphere,” said Goodale. “Forget the wins and losses, it’s an opportunity for us to wrestle extremely hard and show not only the country but our fan base we’re taking steps to getting better.”
Penn State is on a 40-match dual winning streak going back to the 2014-15 season. The only common opponent this season is Maryland; the Lions beat them last Sunday, 47-3 while Rutgers topped the Terps outdoors at High Point Solutions Stadium in November, 27-9.
Penn State will be wrestling on Friday night at home against No. 14 Minnesota. If Rutgers has any advantage, it is that they will get an extra day of rest being off on Friday while the Lions will see action.
Around the Big Ten
As the weekend rolls around, we find ourselves just six weeks from the Big Ten Wrestling Championships at Michigan State on March 3-4. Crunch time is here as teams and individuals position themselves for end of season tournaments.
Of Rutgers’ remaining six matches, five are conference matches, all against ranked foes. This is what the Big Ten schedule looks like this weekend.