By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions took home the Southern Scuffle championship for the seventh time in their last seven tries to ring in the new year last week. While remaining on the road, Penn State is poised to continue its success on the mat as the Big Ten dual slate heats up.
In addition to a team title, six Nittany Lions were crowned champions in their weight classes at the Scuffle as well as one runner up.
One of the biggest tournament surprises came from Penn State's Shakur Rasheed. Rasheed cradled his way to the title at 197 pounds in just 46 seconds. Rasheed finished the tournament with three pins, all of which came in under a minute and two majors, which earned him the tournament's most outstanding wrestler honor.
"It was fun," Rasheed said. "The team had fun, we did really well."
After wrestling for the Nittany Lions at 165 pounds in the past, Rasheed is feeling much more comfortable at 197 pounds.
"You can't really compare it," Rasheed said. "Put videos together and watch it and it shows. Now I'm feeling light on my feet. I could give it my all and not look at it like wow that was not me out there. It's pretty cool going up in weight and being able to dance around out there and have fun."
For the junior, dancing around in the spotlight isn't anything he's afraid of.
"It's been a long ride," Rasheed said. "I've been getting hurt a lot so every time I get a chance to get out on the mat I just want to enjoy it. I don't ever want to look back like I should've done this differently. Now that I'm healthy I just want to live it up, I don't even get nervous that much anymore before matches. I'm just thinking this is about to be awesome. I'm getting out there and I'm going to put on a show. I love to entertain. I just love to be out in the spotlight and doing what I do best."
With the Nittany Lions hitting the road to visit Michigan and Michigan State this weekend head coach Cael Sanderson has a decision to make at 197 pounds between three wrestlers in Matt McCutcheon, Anthony Cassar and Rasheed, all who have been ranked at 197 pounds at some point this season via Intermat.
"All three of those guys are great and they're all All-American contenders," Sanderson said. "We've got to figure that weight class out as we move forward, but that's something we'll work on. We want them to establish who our guy is, but we'll let them do that as we press along here. We're confident in all three of those guys, we really are."
Sanderson also noted that all three will travel with the team this weekend.
He also has another decision to make at 141 pounds. After Jered Cortez exited the Southern Scuffle due to a medical forfeit, the Nittany Lions could potentially see a new starter at 141 pounds this weekend.
"We have a couple guys that we're looking at, at that weight class," Sanderson said. "Certainly, just like from the beginning of the season, we want to put our best team out there and if that ends up being Nick (Lee) we'll see. We've got a tough decision to make there."
As the Nittany Lions prepare to return to the Big Ten slate, there's no doubting the intensity is dialing up as Penn State still has Ohio State and Iowa to look toward. With some of the top teams in the country on the horizon the Nittany Lions are excited for the challenge ahead.