Nearly a week later, and Carson Kuhn still can’t forget about his first experience in Rec Hall.
The atmosphere itself seemed like a series of snapshots, the 125-pound wrestler said, as the crowd mostly melted away when he focused on his opponent. Still, the feeling of being back on the mat, of finally earning a start, brought a smile to Kuhn nearly a week afterward.
“I wrestled on a lot of cool stages but nothing like that,” Kuhn said Thursday during a break in practice. “It’s completely different. I think the fans are very educated, with the way they react to the calls the refs make, to the moves that the wrestlers are doing — so it’s just awesome.”
Kuhn’s debut was a long time coming — and it’s given fans an injection of excitement at 125 pounds.
Although coach Cael Sanderson has consistently stood behind the previous starter, Devin Schnupp, it’s clear the Nittany Lions were looking for a change. Scnhupp managed just a 1-14 record while surrendering 23 takedowns and having just a pair himself.
By comparison, Kuhn had three takedowns against No. 4 Nathan Tomasello in just the first period last Saturday against Ohio State. The newest member of the Nittany Lions may have lost by major decision, 21-12, but he hung with one of the country’s best for half the bout — not too shabby for a transfer whose most recent match before that was on Dec. 20, 2016.
“You saw from his first match that he goes out there and lets it fly,” teammate Bo Nickal said. “So I’m really excited to see his next match that’s coming up, and the rest of the season as well.”
Sanderson attempted to get Kuhn into the university last semester but, due to credit-transfer issues and other red tape, the Utah native wasn’t able to call himself a Nittany Lion until Jan. 9. Then, he had to deal with a hydration test and other issues to actually qualify.
It wasn’t a short road, or an easy one, but it finally led Kuhn to the Rec Hall mat — and to the stage at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday night. He could’ve taken last weekend off, to shake off the rust at the Edinboro Open as an unattached wrestler, but he was set on competing with his team.
And he didn’t disappoint.
Both the Centre Daily Times and FloWrestling had a combined four analysts who projected a Tomsaello fall over Schnupp. Instead, Kuhn’s two-point swing — allowing a four-point major decision over a six-point fall — turned out to be a major difference in the Nittany Lions’ 19-18 victory.
“I had a blast,” Kuhn added Thursday. “I know I didn’t step off the mat with the ‘W,’ but there were lots of positive things to take from it.”
Stamina was an issue with Kuhn’s prolonged time away from the sport, due in part to injury and because Boise State discontinued its program. But both he and Sanderson said he would only improve later in matches the more he competes.
Against Tomasello last Saturday, Kuhn led 8-7 about midway through the second period when it started to look as if energy was becoming an issue. He won’t have an easier time Saturday night against No. 3 Spencer Lee of the Hawkeyes.
But he’s more confident than he was a week ago, and he’s still a bit of a wild card to fans wondering how high his ceiling extends.
“He’s an exciting wrestler,” Nickal added. “We’re really glad he was able to make it out here and make it on the mat for us.”