Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed is not afraid of the spotlight. In fact, he relishes it.
The junior business management and theater major says he has dreams of someday becoming an actor. But for now, he’s happy performing on the wrestling mat.
“I love to entertain; I just want to be out in the spotlight and do what I do best,” he said at practice Tuesday in Rec Hall. “I kind of just have a good attitude, and whenever I get to wrestle, I make the best of it.”
Rasheed, who has not been in the Nittany Lions’ starting lineup yet this season, got his chance in the spotlight at the annual Southern Scuffle tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., in the beginning of January. And he certainly did make the most of it.
Entering the tournament unseeded, the Coram, N.Y. native dominated his competition, earning bonus points in every bout, including three pins against ranked wrestlers in less than a minute each to win the Scuffle title at 197 pounds and the distinction of most Outstanding Wrestler.
His commanding performance, which head coach Cael Sanderson said should not have been a surprise to anyone, impressed many — including teammate Mark Hall, who was last year’s Outstanding Wrestler in the Scuffle.
“He wrestled awesome; he had such a good tournament,” Hall said of Rasheed. “I think you get to crunch time, with some people, that’s how they mold themselves. He’s a gamer, he has a lot of fun wrestling, and you can tell. Some of his matches were like 30 seconds so, he just goes out there and does his thing. There’s nothing really stopping him from doing that.”
Now that Rasheed is up wrestling at his full weight, he agrees. He finally feels like himself on the mat.
He spent most of his freshman season battling for the starting spot at 165 pounds, and spent the next year again duking it out with Geno Morelli, now at 174, until Hall’s redshirt was lifted in the later part of the season. Shakur’s stamina was an issue at those weights; he felt as if he could barely stand in some of his longer bouts.
He’s listed this season on the roster at 184/197 pounds, and says he’s feeling much more comfortable at his natural, higher weight.
“It was hell going 165,” he said. “I’d never been so drained in my life. I’d get done with a match, and feel like I couldn’t even walk. It was pretty bad. But now I feel light on my feet. Everything’s fun now. I can give it my all and not look at it like that was not me out there.”
Rasheed said his confidence has grown as a result of his success. But, despite his dominating Scuffle performance, whether Rasheed will crack Penn State’s starting lineup remains up in the air.
Currently ranked No. 10 in the nation at 197 by InterMat, Rasheed is battling for that spot with two-time NCAA qualifier senior Matt McCutcheon and sophomore Anthony Cassar (12-2), who’s started every dual so far this season for the Nittany Lions.
McCutcheon started the season ranked No. 4 in the country but has been battling injuries. He injury defaulted out of the Scuffle, while Cassar finished third after a narrow overtime loss.
“All three of those guys are great, and they’re all All-American contenders,” Sanderson said Tuesday. “So, yeah, we’ve got to figure that weight class out as we move forward, but that’s something we’ll work on.”
“We’re open for suggestions,” Sanderson added, jokingly.
Sanderson said all three wrestlers will be traveling with the team this weekend as the No. 1 Nittany Lions go on the road to take on No. 8 Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Sunday.
“We’re all brothers, we’re going to make each other better, and whoever ends up on top, hopefully they’ll win it,” Rasheed said. “But I’m not really focused on that; I’m focused on a national title. I don’t want to worry about getting the spot. Whatever happens happens.”
Having to battle for the starting spot is nothing new for Rasheed, though. After initially getting the start at 165 his freshman year, weight issues and injury held him back. But now that those issues are behind him, the junior has a new perspective.
“Now that I’m healthy, I just want to live it up. I don’t even get nervous that much before matches anymore,” he said. “I’m just like, ‘This is about to be awesome.’
“I’m getting out there and I’m going to put on a show.”