As the Penn State wrestling season began, Matt McCutcheon had looked to be back in his usual 184-pound starting spot.
However, he had to earn that spot as Bo Nickal moved up a weight class from 174 pounds.
McCutcheon lost to Nickal in wrestle offs.
It left McCutcheon with a choice to either move to a different weight class or sit on the bench.
He chose the first option.
McCutcheon mentioned in an interview during the Penn State Coaches Show on Wednesday that he thought about dropping the whole way to 174 pounds after beginning the year at 205 pounds. However, he moved up to 197 pounds, where he is the starter after beating out Kellan Stout in wrestle offs.
“They’re big,” McCutcheon said of his new opponents. “I expected that, though. They’re stronger in the tie-up and have stronger hips.”
So, how does McCutcheon plan to make up for the disadvantages?
He says he’ll have to be a little quicker on finishing shots. If he can’t finish the shots, he’ll have to “cut a corner or finish lower to take their hips out.”
Ultimately, he will have to put on some weight — muscle weight.
“I have to get bigger in the weight room and put in more calories,” McCutcheon said. “It’s gonna be a little bit of a process and a learning curve but it’s about what I expected.”
If it is a learning curve, McCutcheon should be receiving an A-plus so far.
In the season opener against Army West Point, he wrestled No. 11-ranked Rocco Caywood. McCutcheon used a first-period takedown, a third-period escape and riding time to secure a 4-2 victory in his weight-class debut.
Against Stanford two days later, McCutcheon again tallied the first points of the match thanks to an early first-period takedown of Josh Marchok. He used an escape and a strong defense to secure a 3-2 win.
The Nittany Lions roll into the Palestra in Philadelphia for the Keystone Classic on Sunday. Last weekend, they swept Army West Point and Stanford. The tournament will have 12 teams in host Penn, Penn State, Rider, Appalachian State, Drexel, Eastern Michigan, Franklin & Marshall, Harvard, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Sacred Heart and VMI.
It comes at a good time for McCutcheon and the rest of the young Nittany Lion lineup. He will be able to get some more experience at the new weight class while the younger guys like Nick Suriano (125), Vincenzo Joseph (149) and Jered Cortez (133) can get more mat time. Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said he thinks it’s going to help McCutcheon.
“I think that’s not a bad thing for Matt,” Sanderson said. “You have kids weighing in earlier, and then they obviously can potentially get bigger throughout the day as he tries to get his weight up. Also, conditioning becomes more of a factor in a tournament when you have more matches in a day. Matt’s going to be in great condition. He’s just figuring out how to wrestle bigger guys right now, which we’ve seen in the last two matches. He beat two solid kids, so Matt is doing nice job.”
Sanderson said that the Nittany Lions will have 19 guys in the tournament. None of those wrestlers will be redshirts.
“It’ll give some guys a second chance or a third chance to wrestle each other,” Sanderson said. “(1)97 will have two guys, obviously. (1)74, Geno (Morelli) and Shakur (Rasheed) will be in the same bracket, but there’s a lot of other good kids too. They (redshirts) certainly have opportunities to compete. It’s not like a lot of sports where if you’re not the starter you don’t see any time.”
Who: Penn (host), Penn State, Rider, Appalachian State, Drexel, Eastern Michigan, Franklin & Marshall, Harvard, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Sacred Heart and VMI
When: 9 a.m., Sunday
Where: The Palestra, Philadelphia
Radio: WRSC 1390