Sanderson optimistic about PSU

UNIVERSITY PARK — With the top-ranked Penn State wrestling team’s biggest challenge to date on the horizon, coach Cael Sanderson sounded hopeful Tuesday that the Nittany Lions will be at full strength.

No. 4 Michigan, fresh off an upset of then-No. 2 Ohio State, comes to Happy Valley for a 7 p.m. Friday dual meet in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Three Nittany Lion starters were missing from the lineup during last weekend’s road swing through Indiana — 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young, 149-pounder Brady Berge and 184-pounder Shakur Rasheed.

Sanderson said Tuesday in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex that one of those three, Berge, will definitely return, while the other two may be recovered enough from undisclosed injuries to compete.

“We just wanted to give (Berge) a weekend off; there’s nothing wrong with him at all. Shak, we’re optimistic that we’ll see him on Friday also,” he said. Rasheed hasn’t wrestled since Jan. 13.

Bravo-Young sustained an apparent right knee injury against Purdue on Friday in an upset loss. He was held out of Sunday’s match at Indiana and Penn State forfeited.

“We’re optimistic we’ll see him on Friday; we’ll know more on Friday,” Sanderson said. “He has to be ready to go and be able to wrestle well and be able to defend himself. We want him in the lineup. The more matches he gets, the more experience, the better.”

Bravo-Young would face his stiffest challenge of the season if he returns to the lineup. Wolverine redshirt junior 133-pounder Stevan Micic, an NCAA runner-up last year and fourth-place finisher the year before, is ranked No. 1.

“Friday with Micic … he’s very, very good and that’s a guy we’d like him to get a feel for. We’re not gonna throw somebody out there that’s not ready to go, either … not at this point. Some kids get better and heal faster than others and he’s really responded very well and he’s going pretty darn good, actually.”

As Sanderson addressed a swarm of reporters, Bravo-Young walked into the Lorezno Wreslting Complex without a limp, but was later seen sitting against a wall in the hallway sporting a brace on his right knee.

Micic is one of seven ranked wrestlers in the Wolverines’ starting lineup. Others include: No. 3 174-pounder Myles Amine, No. 5 141-pounder Kanen Storr, No. 6 165-pounder Logan Massa, No. 8 285-pounder Mason Parris, No. 10 157-pounder Alec Pantaleo and No. 16 125-pounder Drew Mattin.

“(It’s) a great match-up with Michigan; they have a really strong team and they’re wrestling really, really well and I think everything just kind of adds up to a great event,” Sanderson said. “You just have a lot of very good, experienced wrestlers in the lineup. I just think coach (first-year Michigan coach Sean) Bormet — I’ve known him a long time and I think he’s a great coach — and there gonna be ready to go. They had a big win last week and I’m sure they’re happy with where they’re at and it just makes things a little more exciting.

“They’re coming in here to kick our butts and that makes it more fun for everybody.”

Sanderson admitted that wrestling in the BJC, which has more than twice the capacity than Rec Hall, is “something that we look forward to. It’s an opportunity that more people can get in and watch the team.”

However, he said he prefers the cozy confines of Rec Hall.

“We like wrestling in the BJC. There’s something about Rec Hall that it will be hard to get us out of here. This is our home base. This is where we train; the locker room’s here,” he said. “The BJC is still our home field but there’s something about Rec Hall with the closeness and intimacy there that we really enjoy.”

Unlike his coach, 174-pounder Mark Hall seems to prefer the BJC.

“I think it’s awesome wrestling in the BJC; I wish we could do it more. Just having all the people there. I think no matter where we wrestle, we have pretty good fan support,” he said. “It always fun wrestling in BJC; it’s like a show.”

Devin Schnupp, who picked up his first Big Ten victory on Sunday, will experience the BJC atmosphere for the first time as a competitor on Friday.

“I think it’s gonna be cool in front of the crowd,” he said. “I’ll take a second just to breathe and get familiar with the surroundings.”

Sanderson said that while he and the team approach every day and every practice the same, opponents like Michigan produce a little more buzz.

“I think naturally there’s a little bit more excitement with a bigger match with a competitive opponent. The nerves are gonna be there a little bit more. What you do with those is very important and you’re either gonna compete a little bit better or a little bit worse based on how you take that in and focus. I think this team, the bigger the match, the better they’re gonna compete,” he said. “We like to compete and the bigger the matches, it’s a little more exciting. You go up and down the lineup and every match is important; every point is important. Those are the matches that make my job fun. I’m excited and hopefully the team is.”