When Penn State and Lehigh met in February, both teams were ranked in the top six in the country.
On Sunday, the teams will battle again in a near top-10 matchup inside the Bryce Jordan Center at noon.
The Mountain Hawks come to Happy Valley at No. 11 in the country in the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 Poll, with the Nittany Lions holding steady at No. 2.
“This will be a great match,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said on Tuesday. “Lehigh has a very good team. There are a lot of intriguing matchups.”
Intriguing is a good way of putting the match into perspective.
There could be up to 15 ranked wrestlers hitting the mat, with every weight class having at least one ranked wrestler. For some Nittany Lions, it will be their first time on the elevated stage.
Nick Nevills is one of those wrestlers.
“I’m just going to take it all in,” he said on Tuesday. “Getting to wrestle in a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center is going to be something that only a handful of people in college get to do in their career, I’m really excited for that and the opportunity.”
This match also has a special place in Nevills’ Penn State career.
Nevills sat out nearly all of last season recovering from a torn pectoral muscle before making his debut at Lehigh in February. He went up against now-graduated Max Wessell and came out firing, taking the lead in the first 27 seconds with a takedown. However, he wasn’t able to come away with a “W.” It has stuck with him since.
“Its something that’s kind of been on my radar for a little bit,” Nevills said about the match. “I didn’t get the win last year at Lehigh so I’ve been wanting to get a win against Lehigh. I’ve got a ranked opponent and really looking forward to wrestling him.”
Nevills, who is No. 7 in the country at 285 pounds, will have his work cut out for him when he faces No. 11 Doug Vollaro. The Mountain Hawk senior is 4-0 on the season, but the record isn’t the challenge. Vollaro is tall and he may have a 20-pound weight advantage. Nevills usually weighs in about 260-265 but with Vollaro, with his tall stature, weighs in near the top.
Penn State’s Caleb Livingston matched up with Vollaro in last season’s Nittany Lion Open. Let’s just say Livingston looked like he was wrestling the Jolly Green Giant.
“I know he’s tall and big,” Nevills said. “I’ve never wrestled him before. I wrestled their other guy last year, not quite sure why he isn’t wrestling, but I’m looking forward to wrestling him.”
The match could very well be decided before Nevills and Vollaro hit the mat. The first three weight classes — assuming they start at 125 — could determine the match.
It will start with true freshman No. 6 Nick Suriano against returning All-American No. 4 Darian Cruz. Next up will be No. 12 Jered Cortez against Scott Parker.
Jimmy Gulibon, who is No. 15 at 141 pounds, is expected to start, but a rough Keystone Classic could shake things up. Kade Moss won the 141-pound tournament title and could see some more time. Whichever wrestler gets the start at 141 on Sunday will go up against No. 3 Randy Cruz.
“The first three weight classes are huge,” Sanderson said. “Usually we start at 125 with Lehigh, so that first match will be exciting.”
No. 11 Lehigh (3-0) at No. 2 Penn State (2-0)
When: Noon, Sunday
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
Radio: WRSC 1390
TV: BTN (55)
125: No. 4 Darian Cruz (4-0)
No. 6 Nick Suriano (6-0)
133: Scott Parker (2-0)
No. 12 Jered Cortez (6-1)
141: No. 3 Randy Cruz (4-0)
No. 15 Jimmy Gulibon (5-3)
OR Kade Moss (4-1)
149: No. 9 Laike Gardner (3-1)
No. 1 Zain Retherford (7-0)
157: No. 14 Jordan Kutler (3-1)
No. 1 Jason Nolf (6-0)
165: Gordon Wolf (6-2)
OR No. 5 Mitch Minotti (0-0)
No. 10 Vincenzo Joseph (5-1)
174: No. 19 Ryan Preisch (4-0)
Geno Morelli (6-1)
OR No. 12 Shakur Rasheed (5-0)
184: Kyle Gentile (0-3)
No. 3 Bo Nickal (6-0)
197: Ben Haas (2-2)
No. 13 Matt McCutcheon (6-0)
285: No. 11 Doug Vollaro (4-0)
No. 7 Nick Nevills (6-0)