‘Plug them into the system and go to work,’ Sanderson says of freshmen
Only a few months removed from high school and about 950 miles from his home in Duncombe, Iowa, Brody Teske stood in Penn State’s wrestling room on Tuesday, hands on hips, answering questions from reporters with ease.
“This is a dream come true, and I’m living it,” the true freshman said about his experience so far in the Penn State program.
The four-time Iowa state champ out of Fort Dodge Senior High School was one of three members of Penn State’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class of 2017 to enroll this summer and start his career with the Nittany Lions in the 2018-19 season.
“Gavin’s my best friend and Brody’s my roommate, so we’re close,” Bravo-Young said. “We play Fortnite, we’re always with each other no matter what, we eat dinner together after practice and hang out. Those are my two closest friends.”
Teasdale was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Despite their close friendship, the three will likely find themselves in a few lineup battles against each other over their blue-and-white careers.
Wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson on Tuesday confirmed that Bravo-Young would start at 133 pounds in the season-opening dual against Kent State on Sunday, while Teske and Teasdale retain their redshirts at 125.
“There’s a lot of great competition in our room, so you can get a pretty good idea about where they’re at,” Sanderson said. “We’ve just go to plug them into the system and go to work, start eliminating mistakes they might be making that they were able to get away with up to this point, where it’s just a little higher level competition.
“To continue to be successful, you’ve got to do things correctly. Just get them in here and go to work. There’s not really any secrets or anything magical. But we’re excited about the new kids we have in the program and it’s going to be a fun year. Every year is exciting —it’s just a new adventure really — so we’ll see where we are. We’ll see how we compete on Sunday against Kent State and we’ll move forward from there.”
Having been a high school star the past four years, Teske said he now welcomes the challenge of having to fight for a chance to start — even against his friends — as he has one goal in mind at the end.
“My mindset is always to be a national champion, whether that’s this year, next year or whenever the time is right. I’m just going to continue to work hard, learn and grow. It will fall into place. I believe it,” he said.
It’s not just Teske who believes that his skill set and the coaching staff’s ability to develop young talent will yield positive results for the Nittany Lions. Veterans Bo Nickal, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall and Shakur Rasheed each spoke of the new crop of freshmen with excitement on Tuesday, with Rasheed cracking a smile as he called Bravo-Young Penn State’s next “superstar.”
“It is exciting to see them come up because of the new faces and different looks. I’m just excited to see what they are going to show in the coming months. They are going to be scoring a lot of points,” said the two-time national champion Nickal, a sound authority on points-scoring.
Having had a few months to roll around on the mat with the likes of sophomore All-American Nick Lee and one of the program’s all-time greats in Zain Retherford, Bravo-Young said he feels ready to start Sunday, and his teammates agree.
“He’s a beast; I think he’s going to do pretty well this year,” junior Mark Hall said. “He’s looked really good in the room. I think a big thing for him will just be getting over those things that the freshmen in this sport might have a hard time with — like going to different places to wrestle.”
Hall recalled the first collegiate match he wrestled after his redshirt was pulled his true freshman year in 2017, when he lost 7-5 to Iowa’s Alex Meyer in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s just getting over those little things. He’s a gamer and I think he’ll be just fine and I think he’s going to do a great job this year,” he said.
The biggest adjustments Bravo-Young said he’s had to make in making the jump from high school to college are “little things” like riding time, and working on the top and bottom positions.
Luckily for Bravo-Young and the others, there are a few guys around the Penn State wrestling room who know a thing or two about college-level success.
“We have a great balance, we have obviously some great leadership, in guys like (Jason) Nolf and Bo Nickal and Vincenzo (Joseph) and Mark Hall, and I think it’s a great opportunity for these young guys ... to compete on the same team and learn from them and see how they respond when the lights are on, when they’re under pressure, when we’re training, the discipline it might take to be successful,” Sanderson said. “I think we have a nice strong balance of that, and we’re grateful for that.”
Although they’ve admitted to taking some beatings from this group of former national champions and others in the room, Teske and Bravo-Young said they’re both learning and grateful for the experience they’re getting.
“Just seeing them wrestle with each other, wrestling guys in the room, our older guys, they’re really good competitors and at the same time they just want to make each other better, and that’s the good thing about being on this Penn State team,” Hall said. “They do a good job. They compete hard, they do everything we ask them to do. We’re in good hands with our little guys for a while.”