The Nittany Lions continue to weather challenging season
UNIVERSITY PARK — With 10 days left in its regular season and less than a month before the Big Ten tournament, the No. 3 Penn State wrestling team is still searching for answers.
When will it wrestle its next dual meet?
Can the Nittany Lions who will be wrestling in the postseason get to the four-match cutoff?
Who will be the starter at 125 pounds?
Who will be the starter at 149?
“Our guys are going to get their opportunity,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said via Zoom earlier this week. “They’re ready to go. I think this is a team that’s just gonna compete better every match. We just want to get out there and compete. But it is what it is and it’s just kind the way things are right now.”
The postponement of the Friday night dual against No. 1 Iowa is the fourth missed opportunity for the Nittany Lions. Sanderson said he knows the clock is ticking on this truncated season and that he and the administration are working to schedule duals.
“We’re trying to compete this weekend, coordinate something and set it up with Michigan State and Michigan. That’s what we’re working on right now,” he said.
“We just don’t have a lot of weeks left. The Big Ten tournament and the nationals are coming up. So, we’re hoping to get as many matches as we can in between now and the end.”
The Nittany Lions were able to schedule a dual against Michigan on Sunday, which will take place at 11 a.m. in Ann Arbor.
Penn State has not had a 125-pounder compete yet. Penns Valley graduate Baylor Shunk and blue-chip recruit Robbie Howard had been listed as potential starters.
“It was just bad timing, and that’s just not a weight that you can bump somebody up,” Sanderson said. “You’re just kind of at a loss there unfortunately. We should have more than one guy available for this weekend. We’re back in the green light.”
Penn State found the opposite problem at 149. Instead of no wrestlers medically cleared, the Nittany Lions have a logjam of candidates. Jarod Verkleeren, Terrell Barraclough and Luke Garder have all competed. And, Sanderson has hinted that highly touted freshman Beau Bartlett might get a look.
“We have several student-athletes who are capable of scoring points. We just need to look for somebody to really step up and be somebody that we can count on.,” Sanderson said.
“I think we’re a little closer than we were. We still are going to let things kind of play out as we compete. I would say you’ll probably continue to see multiple people in the lineup there.”
In yet more news about the starting lineup, Sanderson said that the much anticipated debut of heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet probably won’t happen until the fall.
“If he were available, he’d be wrestling,” Sanderson said. “But we’re not expecting to get him back this year, unfortunately.”
Penn State is fortunate that sophomore Seth Nevills, last year’s starter, has been available and is off to a 3-0 start and ranked No. 7.
“It’s Nevills’ opportunity to step up and get things done,” Sanderson said.
NOTES: Penn State and USA Wrestling announced Monday that the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, originally scheduled for April 4-5 at the Bryce Jordan Center, would not be held as planned. Penn State will host the trials in 2024. On Thursday, USA Wrestling announced that the trials will be held instead at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. … In talking about the move, Sanderson said that the BJC is currently limited to 500 people, and that with competitors, officials and volunteers, the trials would exceed that limit. He did say, however, that Penn State has every intention of hosting the 2021 Big Ten Championships on March 6-7.