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Penn State wrestling: Vincenzo Joseph vs. Josh Shields, Arizona State

In seven matches so far this season, Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph has spent an average of 3 minutes, 29 seconds on the mat.

That statistic isn’t necessarily striking for the Nittany Lions, which are used to guys like Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal going on and off the mat before getting a chance to break a sweat. However, with six pins and one technical fall, Joseph is the only Nittany Lion yet to wrestle a full seven minutes in a match this season.

Those six pins are also only one less than the total number of pins the redshirt junior had in his first two seasons combined at Penn State.

“Hopefully I can keep it going a bit,” he said on Tuesday. “Everyone on the team, guys get pins a lot, and it just inspires you, kind of amps you up a little bit like ‘Oh, man, I want to do that.’ ”

That sentiment certainly appeared to be true at the Keystone Classic in November, when Nolf, Joseph, Nickal, Mark Hall, Shakur Rasheed and Anthony Cassar each picked up pins in their second matches of the tournament — five coming within the first period, including Joseph’s in just 31 seconds.

With a 100 percent bonus rate so far, Joseph even came in at fifth place on FloWrestling.org’s first Hodge Trophy rankings of the season, with teammates Nickal and Nolf at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Although he said he didn’t specifically set out to increase his pinning rate this season, it was a little bit of “good peer pressure” from teammates like Nolf and Nickal that has encouraged him to do so.

“I’d say I’ve been wrestling harder,” Joseph said, “getting guys more tired and eventually being able to capitalize and get a pin, or whatever it is, instead of, I don’t want to say I would wait around whenever I would wrestle, but just being more active in my matches.”

But the two-time national champ might just have to “settle” for a decision Friday, when his toughest test of the season comes in the form of Young Guns teammate Josh Shields, Arizona State’s fellow 165-pounder.

With a 9-1 record, Shields is ranked fifth by InterMat, his lone loss coming to No. 2 Evan Wick, of Wisconsin. And Joseph is focused on winning; unsurprisingly, he didn’t mention pins at all when previewing the match.

“I’m definitely excited for that one,” Joseph said. “I haven’t wrestled with Josh in a few years, though we would work out over breaks and stuff at home. He’s another guy I grew up wrestling with, a good friend of mine.”

Added coach Cael Sanderson: “Josh Shields is a great wrestler. … It’s good to see him be successful, and he will be a nice opponent for Vincenzo with the (Southern) Scuffle right around the corner.”

Although Shields will likely put No. 1 Joseph’s perfect bonus rate to the test, a big win from Joseph could also be the perfect amount of “peer pressure” to give his teammate Hall an extra boost in his 174-pound bout with top-ranked Zahid Valencia.

That’s a match even an early Hodge candidate can’t miss.

“I’ve definitely been looking forward to it,” Joseph said. “Most of the guys on our team haven’t had a ton of competition so far, so it will be a good first test.”

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