Take a look at Penn State’s schedule since coach Cael Sanderson took over the program in April 2009.
What did you see?
Every season, the Nittany Lions compete against at least on of the smaller Division I schools.
They’ve included Bloomsburg for three years, Lock Haven for seven of the eight years Sanderson has been in Happy Valley, and Clarion. Sanderson looks at those duals as more time on the mats for his wrestlers.
“It’s not like we are doing anybody a favor,” Sanderson said earlier this week. “We are just competing and they are competing. Ultimately, progressing toward getting ready for the national championship. That’s what its all about.”
Bloomsburg and Lock Haven have something in common with Penn State’s next opponent, Binghamton.
All of the teams have a connection to the Nittany Lions’ program.
For the Bald Eagles, coach Scott Moore wrestled for Penn State in 2002 and 2003. For the Huskies, current assistant coach Russ Hughes wrestled for the Nittany Lions from 1995-1998. He also coached Zain Retherford throughout his entire high school career at Benton High School.
The Bearcats, who are making their first trip to Happy Valley, will have the closest connection to Sanderson’s staff when they come to town on Sunday for their 2 p.m. match inside Rec Hall.
Head coach Matt Dernlan makes his first return to the Nittany Lions since leaving the program in 2011. He left to take over head coaching duties at Clarion before being hired at Binghamton in 2012.
Dernlan was head assistant coach and director of recruiting for Penn State from 2005 to 2009. During that time, he accumulated three straight top-four recruiting classes that helped propel the Nittany Lions to a third-place finish in the 2008 NCAA championships.
When Sanderson was hired, Dernlan was named the director of operations until his departure. He also was the head coach for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, where he helped several wrestlers train for the 2012 Olympics.
“He was real important in our transition,” Sanderson said of Dernlan. “He had a really good relationship with a lot of guys on the team. He did a great job. We’ve stayed in touch with him and that’s how this dual meet was setup.”
The Bearcats come into Sunday’s dual wrestling their third straight match in three days. They opened their dual meet season on Friday night with a 21-11 win over Hofstra. On Saturday, they fell to Princeton 26-13.
Binghamton is led by junior 184-pounder Steve Schneider. Schneider finished fourth in the Cliff Keen Invitational last weekend in a tournament that played host to most of the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 teams. Schneider lost by a 22-7 technical fall to then-No. 2 Ohio State’s Myles Martin in the third-place match.
Schneider will face perhaps the strongest wrestler in Penn State’s lineup right now in now-No. 2 Bo Nickal. Nickal enters the match with a perfect 7-0 record. All of his wins have been pins, with his quickest coming in the season opener against Army in 25 seconds.
Sanderson feels that since Binghamton is “close” to University Park, why not wrestle them?
“They are close to our program,” he said. “Binghamton is four hours up the road. They’ve had some great teams and some good kids. We are just looking to get matches in just like they are.”
Binghamton (1-1) at No. 2 Penn State (3-0)
When: 2 p.m., Sunday
Where: Rec Hall
Radio: WRSC 1390
125: Steve Bulzomi (9-6)
No. 4 Nick Suriano (7-0)
133: Joe Nelson (1-4)
No. 15 Jered Cortez (6-2)
141: Dylan Caruana (7-6)
No. 13 Jimmy Gulibon (5-4)
OR Kade Moss (4-1)
149: Parker Kropman (4-7
No. 1 Zain Retherford (8-0)
157: Tristan Rifanburg (3-3)
No. 1 Jason Nolf (7-0)
165: Vincent DePrez (11-4)
No. 9 Vincenzo Joseph (6-1)
174: Anthony Lombardo (5-6)
Geno Morelli (6-1)
OR No. 14 Shakur Rasheed (5-1)
184: No. 13 Steve Schneider (16-3)
No. 2 Bo Nickal (7-0)
197: Mark Tracy (5-6)
No. 13 Matt McCutcheon (7-0)
285: Connor Calkins (9-5)
No. 8 Nick Nevills (7-0)
Notes: Binghamton wrestlers records reflect before matches with Hofstra and Princeton.