Penn State coach Cael Sanderson was asked about a month ago whether this season was one of the toughest since taking over.
Outside of a little more traveling, he felt it was the same as all the other seasons.
“I think we’ve had some tough duals the last month and a half,” Sanderson said Monday. “Most of them have been on the road, so that’s fun. It’s nice to get home this week, two home matches and then the championship dual two weeks from yesterday.”
More than half of Penn State’s wins this season have come on the road.
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The most impressive road win came just recently over No. 4 Ohio State. The Nittany Lions rolled into Columbus, quickly silenced a record-crowd of 15,338 and rolled back out of town with a 32-12 win.
After the teams split the first two bouts, Penn State rattled off six straight wins — four with bonus points. A match once tied at 5-5 and looked to be a battle to the end, turned into a 32-5 Nittany Lion lead and a domination of a rival.
Also, during the season, Penn State was unable to make the trip to the Reno Tournament of Champions in December. It caused a layoff of almost a month since the Nittany Lions were on the mat competitively.
They responded by opening the Big Ten portion of their schedule with road wins over Minnesota (33-6) and Nebraska (27-14). At this point in the season, one could argue that the Cornhuskers might have been the toughest test Penn State faced.
With the postseason nearing, Sanderson can’t believe it’s here.
“I kind of forgot it was Senior Day,” he said in regards to the Nittany Lions’ regular-season finale Sunday with Maryland. “This season is moving right along.”
Penn State has taken care of every opponent it has faced this season. If it continues that trend, the Nittany Lions will have finished their second straight undefeated regular season. They will also be on a 29-match win streak.
If all holds suit, Penn State will travel to Oklahoma State for a Feb. 19 dual in the championship match of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series. The teams faced off in the inaugural title tilt last season with the Nittany Lions winning 29-18.
Sanderson feels his team is right where it needs to be for this point in the year.
“I think our guys are wrestling well,” he said. “They’ve certainly been tested with the best. We have little things we can improve upon and that’s always our focus individually and as a team. We are always trying to focus on the positives. If you’re focusing on the things we’re not doing right, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
“I think we are doing things really well right now. Overall, we’re pleased.”
Most dominant wrestler?
At the 2012 championships, the NCAA handed out awards to the most dominant wrestler, the wrestler with the most pins and the wrestler with the most technical falls in all three of college wrestling’s divisions.
In this week’s release standings, Penn State has three of the top four wrestlers in the dominant wrestler category. Wrestlers are awarded points based on the kinds of wins they’ve had all season. The total points they’ve scored in those matches is then divided by the number of matches they’ve had.
Zain Retherford leads the way with a 5.56 team point mark. Jason Nolf follows him with an average of 5.44 points. Bo Nickal comes in at No. 4 at 5.33. Cornell’s Gabe Dean separates the Nittany Lions from sweeping the top three spots at a 5.43 average.
Mark Hall is also in the top 10 at No. 9 with an average of 4.35 points.
Going through the ranks
At the top: Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157)
Staying put: Nick Suriano (No. 2, 125), Jimmy Gulibon (No. 11, 141), Vincenzo Joseph (No. 4, 165), Mark Hall (No. 7, 174), Bo Nickal (No. 2, 184), Matt McCutcheon (No. 9, 197) and Nick Nevills (No. 3, 285)