Penn State in for big weekend
UNIVERSITY PARK — History will be the theme for the Penn State wrestling team this weekend.
The No. 1 Nittany Lions will take a trip to Lewisburg Friday for a dual meet with Bucknell, their first-ever visit to that campus, before returning home for a Sunday dual with their oldest rival, Lehigh.
“Actually, this is going to be a fun weekend. We really like both these teams. Bucknell and Lehigh… in-state teams which we try to get on our schedule because we think it’s important to get out there and see those guys,” said associate head coach Cody Sanderson, who was subbing for his brother, Cael Sanderson, who was traveling. “From what we understand, Bucknell is sold out. It’s gonna be a fun arena and those guys are scrappy and it’s a great match for our guys to get the first dual meet on the road. Then, of course, Lehigh has a bunch of ranked wrestlers. They gave us one heck of a battle last year and we’re expecting that again on Sunday. Those are the kind of matches we look forward to this time of year.”
The dual will mark a milestone for the Bison. For the first time since the program was re-established for the 2006-07 season, Bucknell will compete in front of a sold-out Sojka Pavilion crowd.
“I think that’s huge for programs to be able to sell that out and know that there’s a product they can put on the mat and people are excited about,” Sanderson said.
“Considering the generous situation we have at Penn State and the following we have, it’s important to us to try to help some of those programs. We’ve done that several times in the past and we’ll continue to do that in the future.”
Anthony Cassar, the current starter at 285 pounds, said he thinks the Penn States of the wrestling world have an obligation to help support the sport.
“I think Penn State and other top schools have a responsibility to build those other schools up and build the wrestling community up because it’s not the biggest community. We all support each other so I think it’s a good option for us to compete against each other,” Cassar said. “We’re going to travel the same day, wrestle and come back, so it’s basically a home match.”
No starters for Penn State for the three teams have been released yet, but Sanderson did give a hint at who Nittany Lion fans will probably see at two of their contested weights — 149 and 285.
Freshman Brady Berge edged redshirt freshman Jarod Verkleeren, 3-2, at the Keystone Classic on Nov. 18. During that semifinal bout, Berge apparently injured his left knee, causing him to medically forfeit his finals bout.
“He’s been on the mat at the end of last week and again yesterday, and there’s a good chance he’ll be in one or both matches this weekend,” Sanderson said of Berge.
As for 285, Cassar dominated the incumbent, two-time All-American Nick Nevills, 7-2, in the semifinals of the Keystone Classic.
“This is always a kind of game-day decision right before we go out there, but I would say it’s looking like Anthony will have both matches,” Sanderson said.
On Nov. 20, Penn State freshman 125-pounder Gavin Teasdale, the four-time PIAA champion from Jefferson Morgan, announced via Twitter “I have left Penn State this fall semester for health issues. I will be returning to Penn State University this January at full capacity.”
According to Sanderson, when Teasdale is ready to return, he will be welcomed.
“With Gavin, you guys have a statement he sent out by his Twitter and we’re expecting him to come back and we’re looking forward to welcoming him back. Just at this point we’re just expecting him and we’ll welcome him when he’s here,” Sanderson said.