With an ankle injury to Jered Cortez at 141 pounds, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said Monday he wouldn’t rule out pulling the redshirt off true freshman Nick Lee.
Sanderson declined to offer details of Cortez’s injury, saying only, “I don’t think it’s season ending. It just depends on how quickly he recovers.” Cortez was seen in a walking boot over the weekend, however, and is not expected to return in the near future.
That leaves Sanderson with a decision to make at 141.
He could opt for Luke Gardner, who’s currently listed at 149 and will likely have to cut weight. Or he could conceivably choose from two others who have competed at 141 this season, in Scott Obendorfer (1-2) and Mason Lindenmuth (3-2).
Lee, however, appears to be the best backup plan since he’s already at 141 pounds and he pinned the No. 7 wrestler in the country at the Southern Scuffle.
“We have a couple of guys we’re looking at at that weight class,” Sanderson said. “But certainly, just like from the beginning of the season, we want to put our best team out there. And, if that ends up being Nick, we’ll see. We’ll find out.”
Lee remains the most intriguing option. His redshirt has been a topic of discussion all season, as he’s repeatedly shown his potential for bonus points.
The USAW Junior Freestyle National Champion is 14-3 so far this season — with 14 bonus-point wins. He boasts four major decisions, six technical falls and four pins. He was decisioned twice and pinned once.
At the Southern Scuffle last week, Lee — who competed unattached — fell in the finals to fellow freshman redshirt Kaden Gfeller, who was wrestling unattached for Oklahoma State. But he impressed in the semifinals by pinning then-No. 7 Josh Alber of Northern Iowa in 6:51.
When asked about the factors that go into the decision to lift a redshirt, Sanderson intimated it was more than just leaning on who had the best performance the previous week.
“I think you just got to make sure the kid’s ready to go,” the coach said. “I mean, team is first and foremost. But these are also individuals who are putting their career in your hands, and you got to make a responsible decision — if they’re physically ready, mentally ready, all those kind of things.”
Penn State next takes on Michigan at 9 p.m. Friday and then Michigan State at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both duals are on the road.