Penn State Wrestling

Busy January a ‘blessing’ for Penn State wrestlers

Penn State’s Jason Nolf and his teammates have six duals in January with the first coming at 9 p.m. Friday at Michigan.
Penn State’s Jason Nolf and his teammates have six duals in January with the first coming at 9 p.m. Friday at Michigan. For the CDT, file

It’s the busiest month of the season for the Penn State wrestling team.

Between classes, practices, six duals (four on the road) and a two-day tournament, there’s a lot to balance for the nation’s No. 1 wrestling team. But the Nittany Lions aren’t ones to back down from a challenge.

They relish this.

“We’re looking forward to it,” 165-pound sophomore Vincenzo Joseph said. “You know, it’s challenging. You got a lot of matches and stuff — but it gets you really well-prepared for postseason stuff like the national tournament.”

The Nittany Lions checked off the two-day tournament, the Southern Scuffle, on the first Monday and Tuesday of the month. But Friday kicks off a stretch of six duals in just 17 days — starting with a road match against No. 8 Michigan at 9 p.m. Friday and continuing with a 1 p.m. Sunday dual against Michigan State.

Staying fresh and focused while training and improving is enough of a tall task for the Nittany Lions. But, toss in a full slate of classes and 8 a.m. wakeup calls, and January tends to get a lot tougher.

“I just stay focused on what needs to be done,” 157-pounder Jason Nolf said. “School is a part of being here as well as athletics, so you got to do both things the best you can. If you don’t procrastinate everything, it’s pretty easy.”

Head coach Cael Sanderson opted to look on the bright side.

“The more free time kids have usually the worst they do in school,” he said. “We are grateful to have a busy schedule. I would guess other programs have the same type of deal. Being busy is usually a blessing.”

Sanderson speaks from experience. Last season, when Penn State had six duals in January, it won each by double digits. The year before that, when it faced an identical six-dual run and the Southern Scuffle, it won both the tournament and every dual by at least 14.

Simply being busy hasn’t impacted the Nittany Lions in the past. Still, his month could still prove a little tricky.

They take on Minnesota (No. 14) and Rutgers (No. 17), which would make for matchups with three ranked teams. Friday’s dual will be the toughest one of the month, however, as the Wolverines could put as many as eight ranked wrestlers on the mat.

No. 5 Logan Massa, who would take on Joseph if he’s healthy, hasn’t wrestled since getting injured in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational at the beginning of December. The two squared off in the NCAA Championship semifinals in St. Louis with Joseph earning a 5-4 win.

Nick Nevills is also going to have his hands full with No. 2 Adam Coon — who’s 15-0 this year and looks like a man on a mission to knock Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder from the top of the podium.

The other ranked Michigan wrestlers include Drew Mattin (No. 15, 125), Stevan Micic (No. 6, 133), Alec Pantaleo (No. 5, 157), Myles Amine (No. 6, 174), Domenic Abounader (No. 5, 184) and Kevin Beazley (No. 11, 197).

After Penn State gets through January, yes, things get easier with only three duals left. However, it still has two blue-bloods in Ohio State and Iowa coming to Happy Valley in back-to-back weekends.

But don’t look for the change of pace in competition to affect the Nittany Lions.

“When you start getting into the groove of things, practice picks up,” senior Matt McCutcheon said, “you get a stricter schedule. You know when you got to get things done, so you just do it.

“It’s not very hard, you just time-manage and get things done pretty easily.”

Nate Cobler: 814-231-4609, @ncoblercdt

No. 1 Penn State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 8 Michigan (5-1, 2-0)

When: 9 p.m., Friday

Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.

TV: Big Ten Network (55)

Radio: WRSC 1390

Nittany Lions

vs.

Wolverines

125: Devin Schnupp (1-9)

OR Carson Kuhn (0-0)

vs.

No. 15 Drew Mattin (13-6)

133: Corey Keener (9-2)

vs.

No. 6 Stevan Micic (10-2)

141: Luke Gardner (6-4)

OR Nick Lee (15-3)

vs.

Sal Profaci (9-6)

149: No. 1 Zain Retherford (14-0)

vs.

Malik Amine (10-6)

157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (14-0)

vs.

No. 5 Alec Pantaleo (9-2)

165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (9-0)

vs.

No. 5 Logan Massa (9-1)

OR Reece Hughes(2-2)

174: No. 2 Mark Hall (15-0)

vs.

No. 6 Myles Amine (12-3)

184: No. 1 Bo Nickal (14-0)

vs.

No. 5 Domenic Abounader (13-2)

197: Anthony Cassar (12-2)

OR No. 10 Shakur Rasheed (12-2)

OR Matt McCutcheon (5-3)

vs.

No. 11 Kevin Beazley (11-2)

HWT: No. 8 Nick Nevills (15-2)

vs.

No. 2 Adam Coon (15-0)

No. 1 Penn State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Michigan State (4-4, 0-2)

When: 1 p.m., Sunday

Where: Jenison Field House, East Lansing, Mich.

Radio: WRSC 1390

Nittany Lions

vs.

Spartans

125: Devin Schnupp (1-9)

OR Carson Kuhn (0-0)

vs.

Rayvon Foley (18-5)

133: Corey Keener (9-2)

vs.

Matt Santos (4-6)

141: Luke Gardner (6-4)

OR Nick Lee (15-3)

vs.

No. 20 Javier Gasca (11-4)

149: No. 1 Zain Retherford (14-0)

vs.

Jwan Britton (9-7)

OR Austin Eicher (5-3)

157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (14-0)

vs.

Jake Tucker (15-9)

165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (9-0)

vs.

Austin Hiles (9-11)

OR Logan Ritchie (8-13)

174: No. 2 Mark Hall (15-0)

vs.

Austin Hiles (9-11)

OR Logan Ritchie (8-13)

184: No. 1 Bo Nickal (14-0)

vs.

Nick May (5-13)

OR Shwan Shadaia (7-11)

197: Anthony Cassar (12-2)

OR No. 10 Shakur Rasheed (12-2)

OR Matt McCutcheon (5-3)

vs.

Nick May (5-13)

OR Shwan Shadaia (7-11)

HWT: No. 8 Nick Nevills (15-2)

vs.

Matt Lloyd (6-9)

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