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Why the Southern Scuffle is just part of the process for Penn State wrestling

Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson talks Southern Scuffle

Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson talks about the Southern Scuffle.
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Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson talks about the Southern Scuffle.

In past years, the Southern Scuffle has been the toughest tournament in the country.

Penn State has won seven team titles in its last seven trips to Chattanooga, Tenn. The Nittany Lions may not have a problem winning their eighth as this year’s 25-team field is rather weak.

“(A) few years ago, it was very loaded,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said during Friday’s media day. “You’re looking at strong individual(s) in each weight class, but some strong teams, obviously, Oklahoma State is a title contender and as good a team as anybody. It’ll be a fun team race, but more important than that, we’re just looking for effort, hustle and just progress.”

Oklahoma State and Iowa State are the only other teams that pop out, both of which are sending their full teams. Virginia Tech and Lock Haven will be there, too, but their teams aren’t nearly as deep as the Nittany Lions, Cowboys and Cyclones.

Yes, Lehigh and North Carolina State are going to be there, but they are only sending a handful of wrestlers.

“We just want to see our team wrestle as a team,” Sanderson said. “Obviously, we want to see our individuals wrestle with a little bit of enthusiasm. Just like any team tournament, bonus points are a big part of it and wrestling for one another. We see them step up in big moments and big dual meets. They like wrestling as a team and being the best team they can be. We’re excited to see what they do in a tough team tournament like this.”

It might not be as tough as Sanderson thinks. The pre-seeds were released on Sunday, and Sanderson’s squad received seven of the 10 top seeds -- with the top two seeds at heavyweight.

Anthony Cassar and Nick Nevills are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at heavyweight. From 157 to 197 pounds, Penn State has the top guys in Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, Shakur Rasheed and Bo Nickal. Nick Lee is the other top seed at 141 pounds.

“It’s a little different, because nationals is obviously the top 20 guys in the country,” said Nolf comparing the Scuffle and the NCAA Championships. “The Scuffle you only got a couple ranked guy(s) in your weight class. But it’s still good competition. Everyone in your weight class wrestles hard. I think all over the country, anywhere you go, somebody’s going to wrestle you hard, so, it’s good.”

True freshman Roman Bravo-Young received the next highest pre-seed at No. 3 at 133 pounds, which is probably the deepest weight class in the country. Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix and Iowa State’s Austin Gomez are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively in Bravo-Young’s weight.

However, Bravo-Young couldn’t care less where he is in his bracket.

“I just wrestle whoever’s in front of me,” he said. “(I’m just wanting to push) the pace and scoring points, and doing the best I can. I (want to) see where I’m at with better dudes like Daton or Austin, and just go from there.”

Penn State has entered three wrestlers at 149 pounds in Brady Berge, Jarod Verkleeren and Luke Gardner. Berge and Verkleeren were pre-seeded Nos. 4 and 6, respectively.

Devin Schnupp and Brody Teske were each entered at 125 pounds with Teske wrestling unattached. Neither received a pre-seed, but Sanderson couldn’t care. He’s more worried about his team progression and being ready for March. The Southern Scuffle is just another step in that process, and winning or losing is it, is just a result.

“We still have two and a half months, so not going to get overly excited or upset either way,” Sanderson said. “Regardless of how things would go, our job is always to be the best we can today, and move forward from there. Regardless of what happens, we want to compete well.

“The best indicator of what we’re going to do tomorrow is what we’re doing today. This tournament gives you a lot of information on your team, how your guys are going to compete tournament-wise. It’s important to us, but like anything else it’s part of the process and trying to improve everyday.”

Follow Nate Cobler on Twitter for Southern Scuffle updates and more

Southern Scuffle

When: Tuesday, 10 a.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m.

Where: McKenzie Arena, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Radio: 1450 AM

Online: Flowrestling.com (paid subscription)

Nittany Lions competing (as of Monday):
125: Devin Schnupp (4-4), Brody Teske (unattached, 0-0)
133: No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young (7-0)
141: No. 4 Nick Lee (9-0), Dominic Giannangeli (3-4)
149: No. 10 Brady Berge (6-0), Jarod Verkleeren (6-2), Luke Gardner (9-4)
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (8-0), Bo Pipher (6-5)
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (8-0), Mason Manville (3-2)
174: No. 1 Mark Hall (8-0)
184: No. 3 Shakur Rasheed (8-0), Francisco Bisono (2-3)
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal (7-0)
285: No. 5 Anthony Cassar (7-0), Nick Nevills (3-1)
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