Nittany Lions Gear Up For Big Ten Competition

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - While many things can change in collegiate athletics from year to year, there are some things that seem to stay the same.

The deep pool of wrestling talent in the Big Ten Conference is one of those things.

8385796.jpegWith the conference once again looking like the best in the sport with five schools in the top 10, top-ranked Penn State is eager to begin their in-conference competition.

'It's a long Big Ten season and it's good to get it started," said junior and defending national champion David Taylor. "It's a good opportunity for us to get on a roll."

The Nittany Lions will get their first in-conference test of the season on Sunday when Indiana visits Rec Hall.

For some of the younger wrestlers, such as redshirt freshmen Jordan Conaway, the match will be their first taste of Big Ten action.

"I'm really excited and ready to go," said Conaway. "It's awesome to go against opponents of this caliber.

While the team insists they are not looking past Indiana, who is not ranked within the top 25, they are also looking forward to facing some of the highly ranked Big Ten schools down the road.

"It's always exciting against school like Iowa to have a close dual meet with the crowd going wild," said redshirt sophomore and returning All-American Dylan Alton. "We just have to stay focused and not look past anyone."

The squad is aware that being the top ranked team in the nation means that the rest of the schools in the conference will have them circled on their calendars.

They also realize this will require them to stay extremely focused in order to not get knocked off.

"For a lot of these other Big Ten schools wrestling us is like wrestling in the National Championship," said Taylor. "We just have to stay sharp and wrestle hard for seven minutes."

While having this kind of target on their backs might make some teams nervous, it is a challenge the Nittany Lions welcome.

Taylor insisted that the added pressure only motivates and fuels their squad even more.

"If you feel pressure wrestling against the best guys then Penn State's not the best place for you," said Taylor. "Our guys thrive under pressure and against top competition."

Still, the team doesn't believe their mindset has to change too much when competing against schools in the Big Ten.

Alton stressed that he and his teammates like to keep the same attitude no matter who they're wrestling.

"Competition is competition," said Alton. "We go out there with the same mindset every time and that's to put points on the board."

Conaway, who has still yet to wrestle in a Big Ten match, also feels that the team is better off keeping their approach the same against in-conference opponents.

"I don't think our mindset has to change no matter who we're facing," said Conaway. "We just have to go out and wrestle like we know how to."

One thing the wrestlers are aware of is the fact that they will not be wrestling many of their Big Ten opponents only once this year.

They are anticipating facing many of them again at the Big Ten Championships, and potentially after that at the NCAA Championships.

"Some of these tougher opponents we're going to see again down the road," said Taylor. "When you wrestle them the first time you just have to make sure they don't want to wrestle you again."

With eight dual meets scheduled against in-conference schools prior to the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions will have plenty of opportunities to get accustomed to many of their toughest opponents.

"Having a conference as tough as this one is great for the sport," said Taylor. "We're ready for the competition."

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