By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - On the eve of the opening session of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson and Nittany Lion Zain Retherford joined select wrestlers and head coaches from the field for a media session at the Scottrade Center.
With question and answer segments in two different press conferences, both Sanderson and Retherford fielded questions from a packed room of media members.
Check out the top four takeaways from the sessions below.
To Win This Tournament You've Got to
Penn State is poised to enter the NCAA Championships hungry to win it all, having stressed earlier this week that despite what happened at the Big Ten Championships, adjustments will be made and mindsets will be right come Thursday.
"I don't think we wrestled terribly at the Big Ten," Sanderson said. "We had a couple of guys who could have won a match or two that they didn't. But we won some tough matches also. So it's not that we didn't wrestle well, we just got beat. Ohio State wrestled great. And to win this tournament you've got to wrestle great. That's the way it should be. It's a national tournament. You want to be national champions, you've got to wrestle great the weekend of the national championships."
Suriano Sidelined for NCAA
Just a few minutes before the press conferences, Penn State announced that true freshman Nick Suriano would not be able to compete in this year's NCAA Championships due to an injury. Suriano, who sustained the injury at Oklahoma State in the NWCA Dual Championship, earned an at-large bid after an injury default in the first round of the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago.
"We were trying to give him as much time as possible," Sanderson said. "It was going to be a day-before type of decision and we were trying to get him to a point where he would be competitive enough to compete and to protect himself and I don't feel like he's in that position so he's not going to wrestle."
We would like to announce at this time that FR 125-pounder Nick Suriano will not be able to compete in this year's NCAA Championships.— pennstateWREST (@pennstateWREST) March 15, 2017
Although sidelined, Suriano has the full support of his teammates and coaches, who all noted that there's no place he'd rather be than competing this weekend, especially with the signature competitive drive fans have seen all season from the true freshman.
"You get hurt," Sanderson said. "Injuries happen. Life happens, but life is good. Life is good. Nick has a lot to be grateful for. And he has three years to terrorize college wrestling and international wrestling after that. It is what it is. He got injured. It happens and life goes on."
Out of Adversity Comes Opportunity
With Suriano unable to compete, Sanderson also noted that it's the perfect time for the rest of Penn State's eight NCAA qualifiers to step up and find ways to tally up the bonus points.
The Nittany Lions have plenty of options when it comes to bonus point potential, most notably in top-seeded Nittany Lions Jason Nolf (157) and Retherford (149). Retherford, who captured the NCAA crown last year is 23-0 on the year with 16 pins, three tech falls and a major. Nolf, who finished as an NCAA finalist last year, is 22-0 on the year with 13 pins, six tech falls and one major. Both also highlighted the Big Ten Championships with a pair of individual titles.
In 2015, Retherford was on the sidelines with the Nittany Lions at the Scottrade Center for the NCAA Championships. Redshirting the season 2015 after a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2014 at 141, Retherford went on to win the title in 2016 at 149. Now back in St. Louis, this time he'll have the opportunity to earn yet another championship, brining with him a few new things when it comes to style.
"You have to keep growing and learning," Retherford said. "So I guess everywhere I've been trying to add new things, trying new things and matches if I can. And I guess that's the way I've grown and mentally as well, being a little more patient. Being patient but still scoring at the same time."