Penn State’s Cael Sanderson declined to offer a definitive update Tuesday on two of his injured starting wrestlers — Vincenzo Joseph (165) and Corey Keener (133) — but he did say that “things are looking pretty good right now” ahead of Sunday’s dual meet with Indiana.
“They’re getting ready, and they’re both looking good,” the Nittany Lions coach added, while Joseph wrestled behind him at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex. “Sometimes, it just takes time.”
Joseph and Keener both missed the Lehigh dual on Dec. 3 due to apparent injuries, which Sanderson previously described as “bumps and bruises.” Due to Joseph’s absence, Sanderson said he even toyed with the idea of moving both Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf up a weight class against the Mountain Hawks.
Ultimately, he decided against it — and the non-move paid off with a 23-19 Nittany Lions victory.
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“We were definitely entertaining that idea, but we haven’t really done that much in the past,” Sanderson said. “We just want to line up our weight class against theirs and kind of see where we’re at. But it was certainly tempting to move those guys up. No doubt.”
Whether Joseph or Keener compete this weekend against Indiana remains unknown — Sanderson said they’d wrestle if they’re “ready to go” — but the longtime Penn State coach said he’s preached one mantra to his team the past few weeks. Be ready.
If Joseph can’t go, it may not just be fans who are in the dark in the days leading up to the match. Sanderson said that Bo Pipher didn’t realize he was taking over for Joseph against Lehigh until the last minute. Pipher lost, in a major decision to No. 15 Gordon Wolf, but it was still important for Pipher to be prepared for the unexpected.
“That’s a message these guys have been getting every day, every week — you have to be ready,” Sanderson said. “You don’t know when your chance is going to come. And if it comes, you have to be ready for it. Or it’s a missed opportunity.”
Neither Joseph nor Keener were made available to the media Tuesday. Due to finals, only Anthony Cassar (195) — who overcame two injuries to reach this point in his career — addressed reporters. He said any Penn State injuries don’t directly impact the individuals, so they try not to focus on what they can’t control.
He’s spoken to injured teammates, he said, and has preached patience. But when it comes time for a match, “I try to focus on myself as much as possible.”
Joseph remains ranked No. 1 in the Intermat NCAA Division I rankings, while Keener dropped to No. 19. Joseph was injured prior to the Keystone Classic on Nov. 19, while Keener injury-defaulted during the Classic.
If they are ready to go, Sanderson said he won’t hold them back.
“I wouldn’t say you pick and choose based on your opponent,” he said. “You’ll wrestle your guys when they’re ready to go. So if they’re ready to go, they’re going to wrestle on Sunday.”