Sure, Penn State’s Anthony Cassar may be the reigning Big Ten Wrestler of the Week. And, sure, he may have just upset the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds.
But, for the No. 1 Nittany Lions, that still doesn’t mean he’s locked up the starting spot.
“Well, again,” coach Cael Sanderson said Thursday, pausing a few moments, “it’ll be a match-day decision. So, I don’t really have anything new for you on that.”
Cassar’s teammate, Shakur Rasheed, reportedly beat him in a wrestle-off last week ahead of the Ohio State dual — while suffering an injury at the same time. That meant Cassar, who couch-surfed for two weeks at Rasheed’s, got the call to take on No. 1 Kollin Moore of the Buckeyes.
But, after controlling Moore en route to a 6-3 decision Saturday, as the walls reverberated at Rec Hall and the crowd rose to its feet, Sanderson still wasn’t quite ready to anoint Cassar as the starter. Rasheed will compete for the spot this week, Sanderson said Thursday, implying any kind of injury is no longer a concern.
“He’s cleared to go,” Sanderson added, referring to Rasheed. “So it’ll just depend on kind of who we feel is the right decision that day.”
Rasheed said a week ago he felt the Nittany Lions’ 197-pound weight class was the most competitive in the nation. And it’s difficult to disagree.
A number of fans took to Twitter in the opening moments of Cassar’s match Saturday night, wondering why Rasheed — who’s fast become a fan favorite — wasn’t taking on Moore due to his bonus-point potential. After all, although Cassar and Rasheed sported identical 15-2 records at the time, Rasheed boasted 11 pins and 14 total bonus-point victories. Cassar, by comparison, had five such wins.
But any curiosity or twinge of disappointment quickly melted as Cassar set the tone early and pulled away in the final period. He turned toward the crowd, flexing and letting out a roar of pure adrenaline.
“He’s a competitor, and he showed that Saturday night for sure — not really caring who his opponent was, the No. 1-ranked kid in the country,” teammate Zain Retherford said. “He was just doing his job.”
Sanderson was asked whether Saturday’s result made his decision at 197 easier or harder. But the wrestling great deflected the question, instead insisting it remained a match-day decision. That means the possibility remains that Cassar could very well be better than the nation’s No. 1 wrestler — but maybe not better than his teammate, Rasheed.
Either way, that’s a scary thought for opponents. And, no matter who trots out to the Bryce Jordan Center mat against Iowa this Saturday, the opponent won’t be breathing any kind of sigh of relief.
“Kollin Moore is a great wrestler, right?” Sanderson asked. “He’s going to be coming back strong and motivated, and so we got to keep improving.”