It was just a week ago that the Nittany Lions began their run to a seventh Southern Scuffle title in eight years. As Penn State came away with the crown, there were several questions that came from the performance in the Chattanooga, Tenn., tournament.
Let’s take a peek at what you, the fans, are questioning as Penn State takse part in the busiest month of its schedule:
I’d like to know the status of Shakur Rasheed. Is he as good as he seemed at the Scuffle, or was that just a one-time surprise? — Luke, Happy Valley
Luke, I can say with certainty it wasn’t a one-time surprise. Back in high school, Rasheed was a two-time New York state champion and was in the finals three straight years. He also finished runner-up in the state as a seventh-grader — yes, you read that correctly. He’s had a history of success everywhere he’s gone, even at Penn State. During his redshirt season with the Nittany Lions in 2014-15, he wrestled in just one tournament at 165 pounds and went 4-1. And let’s not forget the very next season; he was the starter at 165 pounds and battled all season long with weight issues and Geno Morelli. He finished the year 17-7 and faced six ranked opponents. He was 4-2 against them — the biggest win was a pin of then-No. 5 Chad Welch, of Purdue.
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One thing that did haunt Rasheed was he didn’t have stamina. If he didn’t finish a match early enough or didn’t have a big enough lead, he lost because he was out of gas. It had to do with cutting weight. After last season was cut short due to an injury, this year he’s just wrestling and not worrying about cutting weight. He is 12-2 and again slaying nationally ranked wrestlers. He took out three ranked opponents in the Scuffle on way to the 197-pound title.
How much could Rasheed’s bonus-point potential tip the scales in Penn State’s favor when it comes to March? — PSUSean, Email
As I mentioned before, Rasheed is 12-2 this year competing in two open tournaments outside of the Scuffle. All 12 of his wins are bonus-point victories. He has nine pins to go with two major decisions and a technical fall. His fastest finish this year was the 27-second pin in the quarterfinals of the Scuffle. Should Rasheed continue his performance from the Scuffle, I don’t see how he can’t get into the starting lineup. If that happens, his ability to lock opponents up in cradles and pin them will definitely help the Nittany Lions keep pace in the weight class come March for the Big Ten and NCAA championships.
Ohio State has Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Kollin Moore, back this year at 197 pounds. He finished third last year at the NCAA championships. Moore has nine bonus-point wins this year in 14 matches. He had a total of 21 bonus-point victories last year. Ultimately, its going to come down to who Cael Sanderson thinks will get the team the most bonus points for the postseason — either Rasheed or Anthony Cassar.
Assuming he gets his redshirt pulled, is Nick Lee a title contender at 141? How many points could Penn State expect from him in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments? How do you think he’ll match up against Ohio State’s Joey McKenna? — PSUSean, Email
To answer the first part of this question, anything can happen when it comes to the NCAA championships — see Vincenzo Joseph’s pin of Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez last year. Lee can be a title contender, but 141 pounds is a stacked weight class and I, for one, wouldn’t want to be wrestling in it. If I got to vote right now for the Outstanding Wrestler of the NCAA Championships, my vote is going for whoever the 141-pound champion is.
That champion will have had to go through any one of the following: Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis, Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith, Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil (reigning champion), North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack or the previously mentioned McKenna. I’m going to answer the other two questions in one. After seeing Lee pin the No. 7 guy in the country in Northern Iowa’s Josh Alber in the Scuffle, I can see him beating McKenna. McKenna is currently ranked No. 6 in the country by Intermat and is the highest-ranked Big Ten wrestler in the weight class. Should Lee’s redshirt get pulled, which I expect it to, I could see him and McKenna giving a preview of the Big Ten 141-pound finals inside Rec Hall on Feb. 3 when the Buckeyes come to town.