The second half of the collegiate wrestling season has officially begun.
The Nittany Lions are out in Chattanooga, Tenn., competing in a field of nearly 50 ranked wrestlers in the Southern Scuffle, and will then launch into streak of eight dual meets — six against ranked opponents — in the span of about a month.
As we embark on what promises to be the most exciting part of the Nittany Lions’ season — capped off by the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments in March — let’s open our first Penn State wrestling mailbag of 2018.
With the Southern Scuffle underway, what are the chances Penn State makes any lineup changes based upon the results of individual wrestlers?
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I’d say there’s certainly a chance Penn State could make some lineup changes after the Scuffle — but they won’t be based upon Scuffle results alone. Mark Hall said Friday that the decision last year to lift his redshirt not long after his “Outstanding Wrestler” performance at the Scuffle was also based upon how he was producing in the wrestling room.
But on the first day of the annual tournament Monday, the Nittany Lions saw their 141-pound starter Jered Cortez go down with an ankle injury. He medically forfeited out of the tournament, while his teammate, current redshirt Nick Lee, sailed through the competition, racking up bonus points and setting up a semifinal match Tuesday with No. 1 seed Josh Alber, of Northern Iowa. Unfortunately, we won’t publicly get to see the much-anticipated matchup between Cortez and Lee that many were hoping for this tournament. But the injury could put the rest of Cortez’s season in jeopardy. And if Lee beats his final two opponents Tuesday, it’d be hard for Penn State to justify continuing to start a less than healthy Cortez over the Southern Scuffle champ.
If you had to pick the next freshmen for Penn State to win a national championship, who would it be? Who is the next Mark Hall? — jaypsu85 via email
If Penn State does pull Nick Lee’s redshirt, we’ll have a chance to see if he could be the “next Mark Hall.” Unfortunately, his road to a national championship in the 141 weight class would not be easy. Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis is one of the hottest wrestlers in Division I right now, and two-time national champ Dean Heil has won 55 of his past 56 matches. But that’s not to say it’s impossible. Hall, as the No. 5 seed, did knock off undefeated No. 1 seed Zahid Valencia and Big Ten champion and No. 3 seed Bo Jordan last year. I think Lee would have a chance to be a champion as a true freshman, but he’d have an uphill battle for sure.
Fortunately for Penn State fans, if Lee is unable to make it happen this year, they’ll have a prime crop of freshmen — Gavin Teasdale, Joe Lee, Michael Beard, Seth Nevills and Roman Bravo Young — who can make a run at it the next year. The one with the best shot as a true freshman, in my opinion, is Teasdale. The Jefferson-Morgan product will likely be able to wrestle right away for the Nittany Lions at 125 in a weight class that’ll lose Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello and Lehigh’s reigning national champ Darian Cruz. He’d still have to get by Rutgers’ Nick Suriano and Iowa’s Spencer Lee, though.
Teasdale did take a hit this week, as he suffered his first career loss Saturday to Wyoming Seminary’s Beau Bartlett at the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament. But one career loss still isn’t bad. My projection is that Teasdale will at least give his friend and fellow Pennsylvania wrestling superstar Spencer Lee a run for his money, were he to wrestle right away at Penn State.
Who wins: Zain blindfolded, Nickal with one hand tied behind his back, or Nolf on one leg? — @dunkej01 via Twitter
Wait, so Zain has access to all of his limbs? Once he finds them, the other two are toast. I’d think Bo Nickal, with a hand tied behind his back, would have the most trouble. It’d be difficult to lock in a cradle or wrap up for a takedown with the use of only one hand. Although, not impossible, as proven by Red Land High School’s Ryan Ressler. I could see Nickal having some success with ankle picks, especially against Jason Nolf, with only one leg. Nolf, sans a leg, would still be pretty deadly. Anthony Robles proved national championships can be won with one leg. And if anyone can figure out how to still be one of the most dangerous wrestlers in the nation while down a leg, it’s Nolf.
However, with the full use of all of his limbs, I think that once Retherford with his blindfold figures out how to get on top of Nolf or Nickal, they’re not getting out. My picks would be: Retherford over both Nickal and Nolf, and Nolf over Nickal.