In a completely shocking turn of events [sarcasm emoji], Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions are preseason No. 1 in Intermat‘s rankings. Penn State is returning seven All-Americans and three individual champions from last season’s national champions. The Nittany Lions also landed the number one recruiting class in the nation per FloWrestling for 2018.
Here are the individual rankings for each Penn State wrestler at their respective weight on Intermat:
- 125 pounds – no PSU wrestler ranked*
- 133 pounds – no PSU wrestler ranked*
- 141 pounds – No. 4 Nick Lee
- 149 pounds – No. 16 Brady Berge
- 157 pounds – No. 1 Jason Nolf
- 165 pounds – No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph
- 174 pounds – No. 2 Mark Hall
- 184 pounds – No. 4 Shakur Rasheed
- 197 pounds – No. 1 Bo Nickal
- 285 pounds – No. 2 Nick Nevills
*Penn State does not have anyone ranked at 125 or 133 because rankings are treated as a results-based measure, not projection-based. Since Penn State is projected to have true freshmen starters at 125 and 133, neither starter has faced collegiate competition. As a result, Intermat and other rankings will not rank those wrestlers until they get some college wins under their belt.
The Nittany Lions appear to be the runaway favorite for a fourth consecutive NCAA team title, given the depth of the lineup. Starting at 141 pounds with Nick Lee, Sanderson has wrestlers at seven weight classes ranked No. 4 or better. Bo Nickal, Vincenzo Joseph and Jason Nolf are all strong candidates to repeat their individual titles, and it would not be unheard of for Penn State to have as many as five or six finalists at NCAAs again.
Unfortunately, the Nittany Lions will no longer have Zain Retherford in their starting lineup, but No. 16 Brady Berge figures to be one of the dark horses of the 149 pound class that is wide open. Fresh off of a junior world bronze medal, Berge has the skills to compete with the best in this class and it would not be surprising to see him in the final or win the national title. Despite there being a lot of talent here, Matt Kolodzik (Princeton), Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) and Micah Jordan (Ohio State) have all had moments where they look vulnerable every season. While Berge does not have a lengthy college resume, there is no denying his talent.
The projected starters at 125 and 133 are Gavin Teasdale and Roman Bravo-Young, respectively. They are both super talented wrestlers at loaded weight classes. Teasdale’s a frequent shooter, but at times can be an inconsistent finisher. If he can put it together this season, he has every opportunity to be on the podium at 125. Bravo-Young could make some real noise at 133, and he’s got the talent to compete with a lot of the top of this class. 133 is going to be a heck of a fight though, with Seth Gross (South Dakota St.), Stevan Micic (Michigan) and Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) being the most likely title favorites. Still, Bravo-Young has the talent to end up on the podium as well.
The only other question in Penn State’s lineup is the move from Anthony Cassar up to 285 pounds. Cassar and Nick Nevills will be fighting it out for the starting spot, and even though Nevills is starting off No. 2, we very well could be seeing this starting battle come down to the wire this season. Cassar will be quick on his feet and more agile than almost every other heavyweight, but he’ll give up a lot of size. Nevills has the size of all the heavyweights, but he does not have the agility, so it’s a real clash of styles here. May the best man win, both have been great representatives for Dear Old State.