With four duals and one tournament in the books, nine of Penn State’s 10 starting wrestlers are still undefeated. To return from the Jan. 1-2 Southern Scuffle with that same status intact indeed would be a long shot.
What makes sports so enjoyable and at the same time so frustrating to follow is that, every now and then, long shots do hit.
So what are the odds that that could happen? What are the odds that Roman Bravo-Young could knock off Daton Fix and Austin Gomez at 133? That Brady Berge could maneuver past four other ranked wrestlers at 149? That Anthony Cassar will survive a Chattanooga, Tennessee, minefield heavyweight class also with four ranked wrestlers as well as a highly respected teammate?
This two-day tournament Tuesday and Wednesday isn’t nearly as loaded as it used to be. Penn State has won the Scuffle in each of its seven previous appearances and is a heavy favorite over Oklahoma State to capture its eighth.
And while the aforementioned scenario, along with numerous other weight-class questions, is unquestionably a long shot, it’s not out of the realm to say that the Nittany Lions have a shot.
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson was not asked about that specifically on Friday at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex and likely would have scoffed at such a concept. He’s just in search of a team effort.
“We just want to see our team wrestle as a team,” he said. “We want our individuals to wrestle with a little bit of enthusiasm. Just like any team tournament, bonus points are a big part of it … wrestling for one another.
“We want to see those things. I think our team likes that, you see them kind of step up in big moments, in big dual meets, and they like wrestling as a team and being the best team they can be. We’re excited to see what they can do in a tough team tournament like this.”
Sanderson will take the 10 starters who last wrestled Dec. 14 against Arizona State and eight more: Brody Teske at 125, Dom Giannangeli at 141, Jarod Verkleeren and Luke Gardner at 149, Bo Pipher at 157, Mason Manville at 165, Francisco Bisono at 184 and Nick Nevills at heavyweight. Teske will compete unattached.
With the annual Midlands Tournament and teams such as North Carolina State, Cornell and Lehigh opting to attend the surging South Beach Duals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Scuffle doesn’t have quite the punch it once did.
“A few years ago it was very loaded but (there is) still a lot of great competition; you’re looking at strong individuals in each weight class,” Sanderson said. “But with some strong teams, obviously; a team like Oklahoma State is a national title contender and is as good a team as anybody.
“It will be a fun team race but more important than that we’re looking for effort and hustle and progress. You’re coming off a couple of weeks where you’ve not competed so hopefully we’ll be ready to go so … we’ll find out soon,” he said.
Here is a weight-by-weight breakdown:
125: This weight class pairs with 184 as the two weakest brackets in the tournament. Oklahoma State’s fourth-ranked Nick Piccininni would be the overwhelming favorite. The only other ranked wrestler according to the Scuffle entry list published on Flo is No. 20 Fabian Gutierrez of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Penn State will enter regular Devon Schnupp as well as the freshman redshirt Teske.
133: This is the test Roman Bravo-Young has been waiting for, since he is one of five ranked wrestlers lining up at 133. Potential bouts with No. 5 Daton Fix of Oklahoma State, No. 10 Austin Gomez of Iowa State, No. 14 Korbin Myers (Boiling Springs) of Virginia Tech and No. 20 Sean Nickell of Cal State Bakersfield await No. 15 Bravo-Young, who entered the rankings after defeating Ryan Millhof, who bumped up from 125 during the Arizona State match. “I want to see how my shape is. See where I am at with the best dudes, if I have to wrestle Daton (Fix) or Austin (Gomez) and go from there,” Bravo-Young said Friday.
141: Penn State’s fourth-ranked Nick Lee looms as the favorite and a potential match against two-time All-America Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State, now ranked 12th, is appealing. Penn State is also entering Dom Giannangeli and Lock Haven is sending Kyle Shoop of Boiling Springs.
149: Another interesting bracket with wrestlers ranked 6, 7, 10, 12 and 17 ready to roll, and an excellent opportunity for Penn State’s 10th-ranked Brady Berge to show how he compares to No. 6 Mitch Finesilver of Duke, No. 7 Jarret Degan of Iowa State, No. 12 Kaden Gfeller of Oklahoma State and No. 17 Jared Prince of Navy. Teammates Jarod Verkleeren and Luke Gardner also will compete. Lock Haven is entering Jon Ross of Northern and Brock Port of Bellefonte. Penn State transfer Gary Dinmore of Rider also is in the field.
157: The attraction here, of course, is a few thousand fans being able to watch Penn State’s Jason Nolf compete. The two-time NCAA champ and three-time finalist most likely will set the school record for most falls during the tournament, and a potential match with Iowa State redshirt David Carr could be an interesting pairing. Alex Klucker of East Pennsboro is Lock Haven’s entry. Penn State’s Bo Pipher is the Lions’ second entry. Tyler Marinelli of Gardner-Webb and Andrew Shomers of Oklahoma State are No. 12 and No. 19, respectively.
165: An interesting opening two weeks of January is looming for Penn State’s top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph. It’s possible that he could face Lock Haven’s third-ranked Chance Marsteller, a four-time PIAA champ from Kennard-Dale who transferred from Oklahoma State, in the Scuffle finals and then No. 2-ranked Evan Wick of Wisconsin in the Lions-Badgers dual meet Jan 13. Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers most likely will tangle with Marsteller in the semifinals. Mason Manville is Penn State’s other entry.
174: Penn State’s Mark Hall is one of four top-ranked Nittany Lions who are in the Scuffle brackets and a potential match against Virginia Tech’s David McFadden would highlight this weight class. Oklahoma State’s Jacobe Smith is ranked seventh and Joe Smith, son of OSU coach John Smith, bumped up to 174 this season and will compete as well. Ebed Jarrell of Drexel is No. 16 and Matt Finesilver, one of four Finesilvers in the Duke lineup, is No. 19. Trent Hidlay of Mifflin County will compete unattached for North Carolina State.
184: Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed has inched up to No. 3 in the InterMat rankings and it’s unlikely he’ll be tested in this tournament, given that no other ranked wrestlers appear on the entry list. No Zach Zavatsky (Latrobe) of Virginia Tech and no Cory Hazel (Penns Valley) of Lock Haven. Oklahoma State’s entry is Bear Hughes. Francisco Bisono is Penn State’s second entry.
197: An interesting weight class…until you realize that Penn State’s Bo Nickal and his 50-bout winning streak will be the top seed. But, two other wrestlers in ranked in the top 10 and three more among the top 20 are in the field that is led by No. 5 Willie Miklus of Iowa State and No. 8 Nathan Trexler of Stanford. Edinboro transfer Dakota Geer, now at Oklahoma State, is No. 11 and Stephen Loiseau (Lancaster Catholic) of Drexel checks in at No. 17. Oklahoma State is also entering Andrew Marsden and Lock Haven is sending Luke McGonigal of Clearfield.
285: Penn State fans will cast close looks at Teske at 125 and Berge at 149 to see how they fare against stronger competition, but the heavyweight class will give the Lions’ fifth-ranked Anthony Cassar a chance to be under the microscope. This bracket will do just that with No. 3 Derek White of Oklahoma State, No. 7 Billy Miller of Virginia Tech (Edinboro transfer), No. 10 Thomas Haines (Solanco) of Lock Haven (Ohio State transfer) and No. 17 Joey Goodhart (Hempfield) of Drexel. Penn State’s Nick Nevills, a two-time All-America who was this year’s preseason No. 2 prior to losing the lineup spot to Cassar, also will compete, as will Iowa State redshirt Francis Duggan who, prior to transferring to Iowa City West High in Iowa for his senior season, also wrestled for Cedar Cliff, North Allegheny and Cumberland Valley.
SCUFFLE NOTES: While seven of Penn State’s eight additional wrestlers entered are traveling on the University’s dime, Teske as a redshirt is on his own as far as travel and expenses, Sanderson said. “He’s excited to wrestle and the plan was to have him wrestle a few tournaments before this but it just hasn’t worked out for whatever reasons. I know he’s anxious and excited to compete,” Sanderson said about Teske. … “We want to see these guys competing against tough competition and give us the best information we can to make a good, strong decision (at 125),” Sanderson added. “Schnupp’s been wrestling well and (Gavin) Teasdale’s still working and trying to get things rolling again. There’s a lot of moving parts there, just like before, time’s ticking … but we’re gonna be patient.” Sanderson said Teasdale, who withdrew from school in the fall because of health reasons, is still training with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club but has yet to re-enroll for the spring semester that begins Jan. 7.
THEY SAID IT: “When I watch him in the room, I’m worried about making sure he doesn’t hurt himself because he likes to move a lot of weight around, he’s very strong. … I know every time I wrestle with him, something feels broken.”–Penn State coach Cael Sanderson on Anthony Cassar’s overall strength.
“I show him up. He’s not very strong. I lift a lot more than him. (A lot more reps). Yeah, a lot more weight, too.”– Penn State’s Jason Nolf (with tongue in cheek) on Anthony Cassar’s overall strength.
“I’m not doing a lot of sets of everything but I’m still keeping it heavy. But smart, I’m not going crazy but heavy enough to where I feel it. As you can see, when I go out, the heavyweights feel a little bit lighter. So it helps out a lot for me.” – Penn State’s Anthony Cassar on Anthony Cassar’s overall strength.