With two duals already in the books this season, some questions about this year’s Penn State wrestling team have been answered. But after those two matches, new questions have been raised.
Every Tuesday, Penn State wrestling beat writer Nate Cobler or I will answer your questions — which can be sent via email or Twitter — about everything and anything Nittany Lions wrestling. So here goes our second installment of the Penn State wrestling mailbag:
What can Penn State do at 125 lbs? Is Schnupp going to be there all season? — jrpsuer99 on email
In college wrestling, there’s always opportunities for new guys to earn spots in the starting lineup. Part of what makes makes the wrestlers so competitive is vying against their teammates each week in intrasquad wrestle-offs and against others at open tournaments for that coveted starting spot. Penn State has several options to fill 125, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see at least one other wrestler get a chance there before Big Ten season is in full swing. Other options besides Devin Schnupp for the Nittany Lions at 125 include freshmen Austin Clabaugh and Justin Lopez, and junior Kenny Yanovich. It’s the junior who has the most credentials, with a 18-16 record in open competition. Clabaugh, who’s reportedly redshirting, has gone 1-2 in open competition this year, and Lopez 0-2. After Schnupps’s 3-1 loss to Bucknell’s Jake Campbell, where he looked undersized and overpowered, Cael Sanderson said the major things he needed to work on were gaining experience and conditioning. “He’s got to believe in himself, because he can wrestle,” Sanderson said. We’ll see how the season plays out.
Several All-American candidates, returning champions. Where does this group rank with previous PSU teams who started their season ranked No. 1? — @theoriginalduff on Twitter
When looking back on some of the best teams in Penn State wrestling history — 1953, the early ’70s (1970-74), 1986-87, and in the Cael Sanderson years (2012 and 2016) — this year’s team has the potential to reign among the top. The 2017-18 squad is returning from last season with more hardware under their belts — an undefeated dual season, a National Duals Championship title, an NCAA team title and five individual champions — than any other team in Penn State’s history (and possibly NCAA wrestling history), but whether that will translate into success this year remains to be seen. Penn State is going to have a tough time this year beating Ohio State in both the dual meet and at NCAAs in March. I think seeing what we saw last year repeat itself again this year is unlikely. But back to comparing this year’s team with others, I think the 2016-17 squad will sit atop the list of most successful teams for awhile — and if you’ll remember, Penn State wasn’t even ranked at No. 1 until it defeated Oklahoma State at the National Duals Championship at the end of the season in February.
Should Penn State have a ‘Fight Night’ (like Iowa State, Iowa and UNI)? — William, @Dunkej01 on Twitter
For those who don’t know, Iowa wrestling programs such as Iowa State, Iowa, Northern Iowa and Grandview hold a “Fight Night” each year, where representatives of each program get together to talk up their programs — and dish out some trash talk on the others in front of fans and media. This year, the ever-animated Thomas Gilman (whom Iowa coach Tom Brands sent in his stead), certainly delivered on the trash-talk aspect. But aside from the chance to spar with representatives and coaches from other programs, Fight Night does help bring more attention to the sport of wrestling by giving these coaches a platform on which to speak. If Penn State were to start its own version of Fight Night, with let’s say Lock Haven, Lehigh, Edinboro, Drexel and Pitt, I don’t think it would have the same spark as Iowa’s. I just don’t think there’s enough intrastate rivalry or history there. But getting all the state’s Division I programs together for an annual event to promote the sport would certainly not be the worst idea. And even though he’s no Gilman, Penn State could get Nico Megaludis to come stir things up a bit.