Things are rolling again for the Penn State wrestling team after a weekend sweep of Michigan and Michigan State to kick off the busiest stretch of the dual-meet season.
The Nittany Lions had several questions about their starting lineup prior to last weekend’s action. One of those questions got answered: true freshman Nick Lee’s redshirt was lifted.
Here’s what you — the fans — are asking this week before Penn State takes on Purdue and Maryland:
We lose (Zain) Retherford after this year, but with all the experience coming back, should we be better next year? — Luke, Email
As hard as it is for me to say this, I would say the Nittany Lions should be slightly better — but not by much. Yes, I know Retherford is probably going to be a three-time NCAA champion, but Penn State has had guys like that come and go and fared just fine. Also, what has typically been the strongest and most consistent weight class for the Nittany Lions — 149 pounds — may be the weakest come next season. The Nittany Lions will have Jason Nolf through Nick Nevills back, which includes both Anthony Cassar and Shakur Rasheed. That is a lot of talent. Not to mention guys like Seth Nevills and Michael Beard are expected to come in next season in the upper weight classes. They’ll also have a full season of Nick Lee at 141 pounds. Plus, you can’t forget about Gavin Teasdale, Brody Teske and Roman Bravo-Young coming in to fill 125 and 133 pounds, which will be open.
It’s never easy replacing a three-time champion, but if you’ve got a well-experienced or super-talented wrestler in wait, it can make it easier. Penn State has a pair of super-talented guys licking their chops to replace Retherford in Brady Berge and Jarod Verkleeren. Berge has had a quiet redshirt season as he has only competed in the Princeton Open, finishing third with two major decisions. During his high school career, Berge went undefeated and was a three-time Minnesota state champion. He had to miss his junior season due to an injury. It’ll be interesting to see if Berge can make it down to 149 pounds. He finished high school wrestling at 160 pounds and competed at 157 pounds in the Princeton Open. Penn State fans got to see the potential of Verkleeren at the Southern Scuffle, where he finished seventh but reached the quarterfinals. Verkleeren, who won the Bearcat Open earlier this season, has experience to go with the talent as a Cadet World champion.
Can you tell me what the projection is for Nick Lee this season? — Josh, Email
I’m sure this was a question on a lot of people’s minds when it was announced that Lee’s redshirt was lifted last Friday. The 141-pound weight class is the toughest in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised that come March it will be the last final bout to be wrestled at the NCAA Championships because of the depth. The class has reigning champion Dean Heil, of Oklahoma State, back along with Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith, North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack, Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis, Ohio State’s Joey McKenna and Clarion’s Brock Zacherl. Lee has lost to Diakomihalis and Zacherl already this year. Also, Rutgers’ Anthony Ashnault is back but has been out with an injury. Lee should be an All-American, but I honestly don’t see him finishing any higher than fifth — but anything can happen at the NCAA Championships.
Why haven’t we seen Carson Kuhn yet, and will we see him this weekend? — Jay, Email
Kuhn didn’t announce that he joined the program until last Tuesday evening, which left just two days of preparation to get ready for the weekend. Also, he had to make sure the proper paperwork was completed and passed a physical before he could begin working out with the team. Rumors have swirled that Kuhn had been practicing with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club for several weeks, which is completely fine. He did make the trip with the team to Michigan but might not have been ready or Cael Sanderson and Co. might have decided to give him another week to prepare. I’d have to guess that Kuhn would be in the lineup this weekend, and what better teams to get him acclimated than Purdue and Maryland, which aren’t known for their wrestling programs.