Penn State Wrestling

Here’s how Penn State wrestlers are gaining confidence as season progresses

Penn State’s Devin Schnupp, 125 lbs, takes down Lehigh’s  Luke Resnick Sunday at Rec Hall in State College. Schnupp won, 6-1. Penn State defeated Lehigh, 42-0. (For the CDT/Steve Manuel)
Penn State’s Devin Schnupp, 125 lbs, takes down Lehigh’s Luke Resnick Sunday at Rec Hall in State College. Schnupp won, 6-1. Penn State defeated Lehigh, 42-0. (For the CDT/Steve Manuel)

The Rec Hall crowd rose to their feet Sunday afternoon and gave a loud and extended applause for sophomore 125-pounder Devin Schnupp, as he picked up up his first win at Rec Hall in his second season as a starter.

Schnupp was thrown into the lineup last season after the transfer of Nick Suriano to Rutgers, and earned the starting spot again this year, despite a 1-14 record last season. However, with two this weekend, the Lititz native now has a winning record of 4-3 on the young season.

After Schnupp’s win over Bucknell’s Geo Barzona on Friday — his first dual meet win in a blue and white singlet — head coach Cael Sanderson said all Schnupp needs to start turning some of those close losses from last season into wins this season is to realize he can. 

“He’s got all those qualities you need to be successful, and that’s going to come from him having success,” he said in Lewisburg on Friday.

Adding a 6-1 decision against Lehigh, even against a backup, should continue to add to Schnupp’s confidence as the the Nittany Lions get a week off before facing Arizona State and likely No. 8 125-pounder Ryan Millhof.

“I guess it was a little of a confidence booster. I’m just trying to wrestle. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been young. I’m just trying to keep it simple,” Schnupp said. 

Senior heavyweight Anthony Cassar, running onto the mat to Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” his hair slicked back, does not seem like a guy who’s lacking for any confidence. 

However, moving up a weight from 197, Cassar had to deal with some uncertainty of his own. One of the major concerns he had coming into this season, as a lighter heavyweight, was not being able to get out from under bigger guys.

But where Cassar struggled with that at times last season, like against Bucknell’s Garrett Hoffman, it did not seem to be an issue against the approximately 20 pounds heavier Jordan Wood on Sunday.

The Rocky Hill, N.J., native chose down in the second period against Wood, and took only six seconds to escape.

“I definitely worked on that in the offseason. With these big guys, I just want to get out of there. I don’t want to be under them,” he said.

At the start of the match between the No. 5 and No. 6 heavyweights, the pair looked pretty even, pushing each other around the mat — until Cassar hit a double leg about two minutes in, lifted Wood up into the air and drove him down onto the mat for the takedown. Then, right before the buzzer, he got in on a single leg and took the 4-1 lead going into the second.

From there, Cassar dominated, racking up three more takedowns and 2:21 in riding time.

It was that initial double leg, Cassar said, that gave him the confidence to finish the rest of the match strong.

“A lot of these guys are a little lighter than I think when I first get in,” he said. “It’s good to make that first takedown big.”

After his first month of competition at heavyweight, Cassar said he was a little surprised to find he’s now quicker than he was at 197, but cutting that weight was taking a lot out of him.

“I feel like I have a little more pop in my strength, power and speed. I’m a little more true to myself at heavyweight,” he said. 

With now his third ranked win this season, one of them being his teammate, then-No. 2-ranked Nick Nevills, Cassar will likely move up further in the rankings and increase conversation about his chances as a national championship contender.

However, Cassar said he’s not letting national talk and speculation faze him, and will just continue working on his wrestling and gaining confidence at heavyweight.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs over the years. I’ve just learned to stay true to myself and true to my family and faith. I just used those ups and downs to grow as a man,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for myself and take the lessons that I learned to be the best that I can be.”