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Is this PSU wrestling team the best in NCAA history? More in this week’s mailbag

Penn State wrestler Brody Teske, a true freshman at 125 pounds, could compete as early as this weekend, according to head coach Cael Sanderson.
Penn State wrestler Brody Teske, a true freshman at 125 pounds, could compete as early as this weekend, according to head coach Cael Sanderson. Centre Daily Times, file

Welcome to our first mailbag of the season!

Lauren Muthler or myself will answer any of your wrestling questions you may have each week. Questions can be submitted for future mailbags via email (ncobler@centredaily.com or lmuthler@centerdaily.com) or Twitter (@byncobler or @lmuth1259).

We are three weeks into the college wrestling regular season, and Penn State hasn’t missed a beat since March.

The Nittany Lions dominated in their season-opening 52-3 win over Kent State. They continued to ride that dominance into Sunday’s Keystone Classic competition.

There are several questions that still loom. So, let’s see what we got this week:

Penn State shouldn’t need to pull (Brody) Teske’s or (Gavin) Teasdale’s redshirts to win NCAAs this year. So, what do they do?

When I looked at this week’s collection of questions, most pertained to the 125-pound weight class. I’m not surprised, to be honest. Here it is, another year where Penn State has a huge question mark at the weight class it was so secured in before with Nico Megaludis around and then Nick Suriano for the one year he was here. Obviously, coach Cael Sanderson and his staff didn’t expect Suriano to leave, but things happen unexpectedly all the time. The departure of Suriano has crippled the Nittany Lions at 125 but with Teske and Teasdale in the wings, they will be OK again soon.

Yes, based on what I’ve seen in the limited sample size, Penn State can win its eighth national title in nine seasons without a 125-pounder, but of course it wouldn’t hurt to have someone there to score more points. Both true freshmen are extremely talented, evidenced, of course, by being four-time state champions. I believe the Nittany Lions should do what they’ve done the past two years. Lift the redshirt on one of them after the Southern Scuffle is completed. It may not be part of the plans for the future, but at least Penn State could have one of these guys to lead the next crop of talented wrestlers down the road.

Is this the best team in NCAA wrestling history?

I’ve only been around the college wrestling scene for the past four years, so I’ve still got a lot to learn. To answer this honestly, this year’s squad has the potential to set the team points mark for the NCAA Championships as long as everyone stays healthy. Health is always the key.

The most points scored in NCAA tournament history was 170 by Iowa in 1997. The closest Penn State has gotten to that was 146.5 in 2017. Now, that Penn State team was special with the five national champions in Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Mark Hall, Vincenzo Joseph and Bo Nickal, but only had six All-Americans. Even last year,with four champions and eight All-Americans, the Nittany Lions only scored 141.5. But those teams weren’t as deep as this year’s squad.

I think if this team is to be the best team in NCAA history, obviously, the Nittany Lions will have to crown at least six champs or set that team points mark. In order for that to happen, they will need 10 wrestlers in Pittsburgh come March, but as it stands right now, only nine are likely to get there unless Teske or Teasdale come out of redshirt. It’s quite possible that even if Penn State only gets nine wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, all of those nine could be All-Americans. Roman Bravo-Young is going to have the hardest time, not because he is a freshman, but because the 133-pound weight class is really deep. I said coming into this year that this Penn State squad may be better than last year’s team, and that’s saying a lot with Retherford not being part of the lineup.

Aside from the three returning national champs, who do you think has the best chance of winning it all this year? Who’s your darkhorse?

When I made my season predictions, I only had Nolf, Hall and Nickal winning titles this year. Joseph has become a little too reliant on that inside trip that he used twice to take out former Illinois great Isaiah Martinez. It came back to bite him a couple of times last season, especially against Iowa’s Alex Marinelli in the Bryce Jordan Center dual.

After seeing what I saw so far this year, I could very easily see Anthony Cassar claiming the heavyweight crown with Kyle Snyder and Adam Coon gone from the class. There aren’t too many studs in the class. Now, Minnesota lifted the redshirt off of Gable Steveson on Sunday and the true freshman took out the No. 3 wrestler in the country in Oklahoma State’s Derek White. Steveson could be a threat to Cassar, but the strength of Cassar could out-do the younger Steveson.

As for a darkhorse, Shakur Rasheed is an animal. I’ll repeat, Shakur Rasheed is an animal. He looks so comfortable at 184 pounds. He’s currently ranked fourth in the country but I could easily see Rasheed beating all of the guys ahead of him in Ohio State’s Myles Martin, Illinois’ Emery Parker and Nebraska’s Taylor Venz. Rasheed is still crushing guys with that cross-face cradle but he’s added some wrinkles this year to his wrestling.

Why no Teske or Teasdale in Philly? Did they not allow unattached wrestlers?

Teske and Teasdale didn’t compete in Philadelphia because they are redshirting and Sanderson and Co. don’t burn redshirts early in the year like other teams tend to do. And, yes, unattached wrestlers don’t get to compete in the Keystone Classic. What I’m more intrigued about is the fact that neither Teske nor Teasdale have wrestled yet at all this year. There have been numerous open tournaments nearby — Clarion Open, Binghamton Bearcat Open — and they weren’t present. I’m just wondering what’s really going on with these two.

Teske is in the wrestling room; I’ve seen him with my own eyes. Teasdale is a different story. Now, he may have a class during our weekly media availability and he does practices with the Penn State Wrestling Club guys. Sanderson brought up Teasdale working hard in the wrestling room on Tuesday, but we, as the media, have yet to see him in the room this season.

Next to the Karelin Lift, what is the most potent move you’ve ever seen?

I’m not going to lie, I had to Google Karelin Lift, because I didn’t know what it was. I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version of what I found:

The Karlein Lift is similar to a suplex, but from the ground. It was named after Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Karelin, who was considered the best Greco-Roman wrestler of all time. He claimed gold medals in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics and a silver in the 2000 Olympics — losing to Rulon Gardner. Karelin would throw his opponents from the ground as they were flattened out to not be turned for exposure points and would get the max five points for a throw. It was an impressive feat, as Karelin wrestled at the heaviest weight and throwing dudes.

The most potent move I’ve seen would have to be Jason Nolf’s Winn Dixie, as he calls it. It’s almost like Nolf baits his opponents into it. Nolf’s opponents get deep into his legs and looking like they are going to score a takedown on the two-time champ, but instead he’s got them locked up in his legs and whips them back for near-fall points. Bo Nickal hit the move in the season-opening win in the dual against Kent State. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the Winn Dixie, Google it, you won’t be disappointed.

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