A week after 125-pound wrestler Nick Suriano rolled his ankle against Oklahoma State, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson called him a “game-day decision” for the upcoming Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
“It’s coming along, it’s improving,” Sanderson said Monday of the injury.” Not gonna talk much about it obviously. It will be kind of a game-day decision on Saturday.”
For those who caught Suriano’s match last weekend against Oklahoma State, they gasped.
The standout true freshman rolled his left ankle trying to escape from the Cowboys’ Nick Piccininni. It was so severe that Suriano couldn’t finish the match and had to injury default.
On Monday, Suriano was not spotted by the media in or near Penn State’s wrestling room. And it’s unknown if he’ll be near 100 percent in time for the 125-pound bout Saturday at the opening day of the Big Ten tournament.
Even if he’s unable to complete a full match, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Suriano take part in the beginning and then injury default so he rest up for the NCAA tournament, which takes place March 16-18 in St. Louis, Mo.
According to an NCAA spokesperson, if Suriano didn’t qualify for nationals by finishing within the top seven in the Big Ten, he could still receive an at-large bid. Those bids are based on winning percentage, RPI and coaches’ rankings — and an injury default would look better to seeding committee members than a straight-up forfeit.
Either way, though, Suriano will still be in the tournament.
Suriano is in a rare position. A situation like this hasn’t happened since 2010, when Minnesota’s Dustin Schlatter was unable to compete at Big Tens due to injuries.
Schlatter ended up receiving a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament — thanks to an at-large bid — but couldn’t even wrestle there because of the injuries.
It sounds like Suriano won’t suffer the same fate as Schlatter.
“Physically he’s just a monster; he’s recovering quickly,” Sanderson said. “Mentally, he’s fine. He’s a tough kid, obviously extremely tough. He’s put a lot of time in — hours — and (trainer Dan Monthly has) been putting a lot of time in with him. We’re optimistic.”
Pre-seeds announced for Big Ten Tourney
The Big Ten released the pre-seeds for this weekend’s tournament and Penn State has three No. 1s.
Nothing is official until Friday, but Zain Retherford (149 pounds), Jason Nolf (157) and Bo Nickal (184) all are on the top line.
A surprising sight to see was that the Nittany Lions were going with Triston Law at 133 pounds over George Carpenter. Law got the No. 14 seed.
As the NCAA released the automatic qualifications, the Big Ten received nine spots at 133 pounds. It could be big for Penn State if Law gets one of those spots and is able to get all 10 wrestlers to St. Louis.
“(1)33 we have to wrestle,” Sanderson said. “We haven’t won a match in the Big Ten so that weight is a challenge. We’re optimistic too. We’re hoping to get 10 through. The more important part is getting guys through who are gonna score the big points. Individuals have a chance to score a lot of points at the national tournament. You don’t necessarily need 10 guys to win.”
The Nittany Lions also picked up a trio of No. 2 seeds in Suriano (125), Jimmy Gulibon (141) and Mark Hall (174).
Other seeds included: Nick Nevills (No. 3, 285), Vincenzo Joseph (No. 4, 165) and Matt McCutcheon (No. 4, 197).