Andrew Alton said shortly after his return to dual-meet action last weekend that he and his Penn State teammates had made a statement with their 52-0 shellacking of Indiana.
“As a team, we always like to score points and put as many points on the scoreboard as possible,” Alton said. “That’s what our team does.”
Sure enough, indeed.
It turned out to be the second widest margin of victory ever for the Penn State wrestling team, one the No. 1 Nittany Lions (3-0, 1-0) have a good shot at surpassing today when Lock Haven (1-1) visits Rec Hall for a 2 p.m. dual.
While Indiana sent two ranked grapplers into action last weekend — No. 18 Ryan LeBlanc and No. 8 Adam Chalfant combined to surrender just one bonus point to keep Penn State from surpassing it’s all-time largest win margin — Lock Haven is a youthful bunch with no wrestlers ranked in InterMat’s individual rankings.
The Bald Eagles are expected to send six underclassmen to the mat today. All-in-all, Lock Haven’s 10 projected starters are 114-67 with most of those bouts coming in open tournaments.
“Every individual on the team tries to go out there and get the most points or get the fall. So that’s what we focus on and the team score takes care of itself,” Penn State senior Quentin Wright said. “In that aspect, we don’t think of it as a team score. We want every individual to come out with a win and if they can, a technical fall or a pin.”
Penn State is expected to start all of its regulars with the heavyweight spot being the only question mark. Either sophomores Jon Gingrich or No. 15 Jimmy Lawson will get the start.
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson is hoping to select a full-time starter for the 285-pound weight class as soon as possible. Gingrich and Lawson are 1-1 in head-to-head matches.
“I’d like to get the guy and get him in there and get him as many matches as we can and get him as much exposure, and for us to see what we need to work on,” Sanderson said. “It just hasn’t worked out that way. ... To be continued.”
That continuation will likely take place in Chattanooga, Tenn., where both Gingrich and Lawson, and fellow Penn State heavyweight Nick Ruggear will enter the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1.
Despite wrestling an lackluster schedule up to this point with dual wins against Lehigh, West Virginia and Indiana, Sanderson isn’t all that worried about his team’s preparation heading into the Lock Haven dual and the Scuffle.
Last year at this time, Penn State was benefiting from a tough dual loss to Minnesota. Sanderson held a practice that was regarded by his wrestlers as one of the most grueling sessions they’d had since Sanderson came on board.
It proved to be a jumping-off point for Penn State, which went on to win its second straight national title, leaving Minnesota in the dust at the NCAA tournament.
“It depends on the team and year, and I don’t think there are usually many surprises,” Sanderson said. “There weren’t many surprises last year in that dual meet. Things that we were aware that could be exposed were exposed, and it gave us a chance to work on and correct it.”
Then, the Nittany Lions were young, starting two true freshman and four other underclassmen. While Penn State has as many underclassmen in its starting lineup this season, only Lawson is in his first season as a collegiate wrestler.
And he played football for two years at Monmouth, so he’s no rookie when it comes to preparation for collegiate competition.
“We’re right in the mix. We also have a more experienced team. A young team, two seniors, but it’s an experienced team,” Sanderson said of his team not being tested yet. “We’ll find out. If things don’t go well for us it’s not the end of the world. We can refocus. It’s a different kind of a challenge to have a great year without any setbacks. Whatever comes, we’ll be ready for it.”
Penn State will show its appreciation for the United States’ armed forces today by wearing blue, white and grey digital-camouflage singlets.
“(Cody Sanderson)’s been playing with the idea for a little bit,” Sanderson said. “We got a singlet we really liked and it’s an opportunity for us to show a little gratitude for our military.”