Wrestling season is already here, and we’ve decided to ramp up coverage of Penn State — so you’ll get to see something almost every day. This mailbag is one of those additions.
Every Tuesday, fellow beat writer Lauren Muthler or I will answer your questions — which can be sent via email or Twitter — about everything and anything Nittany Lions wrestling.
The season is now just days away, at 7 p.m. Thursday against Army West Point, so this is our first-ever mailbag. Here we go:
Redshirt Nick Lee or start him? — William, @Dunkej01 on Twitter
When it comes to Nick Lee, I say let him redshirt — for three reasons. The first, Penn State didn’t need a 141-pounder to win the national championship last year. Yes, they had Jimmy Gulibon contribute some points, but he didn’t get far enough to get any placement points for the team title. The second, the Nittany Lions have a capable starter in Jered Cortez. Now, if Cortez does happen to get hurt again or doesn’t seem to be effective, Penn State could pull Lee’s redshirt much like they did with Mark Hall last season. We all know how that decision turned out. The final, Lee has such a solid wrestling background like Zain Retherford. Why not let him be one of the leaders for the next crop of Nittany Lions that are coming into the program over the next several years?
Who is your early prediction for most improved wrestler? — Kid Nittany, on email
I’m going to go Zain Retherford. ... Nah, just kidding. I’m torn between Cortez or Vincenzo Joseph. Now, you’re probably thinking, “How can you go with Joseph when he won a NCAA title?” Yes, he did win a crown, but he was inconsistent at times throughout the year until when it counted the most. Take his match against Stanford’s Keaton Subjeck at the beginning of the season, when Joseph trailed 12-2 early. The final score was 18-12. Was that freshman jitters? It’s hard to say with the way Joseph finished the year. He faced Subjeck in the first round of the NCAA championships and cruised to a 5-1 win. When it comes to Cortez, we just haven’t seen enough of him. Last year in the little bit of time he did wrestle, he looked as if he was going to be a good replacement at 133 pounds after Jordan Conaway graduated — until the third match of the year with Lehigh, when Cortez got injured. This year, look for Cortez to roll out at 141 pounds and with the added weight, it should help keep him healthy for the whole year.
Singlet or fight shorts? — William, @Dunkej01 on Twitter
This is a great question. There have been numerous grumblings that wrestling participation is taking a hit because kids in high school or even younger don’t want to wear a singlet. Some feel the move to fight shorts and a compression T-shirt would draw more to the sport. If I were personally choosing? I’d have to side more on the singlet side on this one. It might just be the old-school in me and the fact that when I wrestled, the concept of anything but a singlet wasn’t around. But I can’t say that I’d rule out the fight shorts idea either. I think whatever an athlete feels more comfortable in, let them decide. As the saying goes, sometimes you just have to embrace change as it might be for the better. Maybe the change to fight shorts will allow the sport to grow more than what it already has.