UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Amidst a packed home weekend in Happy Valley, there's perhaps no more of an intriguing matchup than what's on deck at Rec Hall Saturday night. With the possibility of top 15 matchups against ranked wrestlers in seven of 10 bouts, it's the second-ranked Nittany Lions against the top-ranked Buckeyes.
"Ohio State has a really great team so it's a great opportunity for us to wrestle and we get to wrestle in front of our home crowd," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You shouldn't have to motivate your team too much for a big match like this. We'll see what happens."
From rematches to highly anticipated meetings there's no doubting Penn State is set for a big time Big Ten clash.
Take just a few steps inside the room at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex though and it's just another day.
It was Wednesday when Sanderson and a few Nittany Lions met with a slightly larger than usual mob of media members ahead of Saturday's meeting between two of only three remaining undefeated teams in the nation.
Upon entering the room, Sanderson greeted the group with a smile, as music played in background with really no palpable sense of stress in the air, even at mention of the anticipated 40th consecutive sell-out slated for Rec Hall Saturday.
"I think this team, pretty much everywhere we go we have a great crowd and they're ready to wrestle," Sanderson said. "Last week at Rutgers, they had the biggest crowd ever and the kids game out to scrap. I think it's nothing new and it's a big match but we'll have another big match next week against Iowa and then we have one more home dual and we get ready to roll. There's going to be big matches this year, next year, so we'll be ready."
With a pair of lineups packed with NCAA champions and All-Americans, even last week it was Sanderson who said the bigger the matchup, the better his Nittany Lions are going be on the mat.
"I like it, I think big matches are fun," sophomore Vincenzo Joseph said. "It's the reason why we're doing it. We wrestle to beat the best guys and I think that's one thing we're going to get to do this weekend."
Ranked No. 1 at 165 pounds and 15-0 on the year, Joseph could potentially meet two-time NCAA qualifier Te'Shan Campbell, currently ranked No. 14 after joining the Buckeyes from Pittsburgh, where he competed from 2015-17. Although the two met in the title bout at the Keystone Classic last November, the two Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania natives go back a bit further.
"Senior year, junior year of high school we probably worked out about three days a week together," Joseph said.
Regardless of rankings and potential matchups, if there's one thing Sanderson and his staff have been talking about lately, it's not getting lost in the moment.
"I think our coaches do a good job just talking to us every day and helping us realize that if you let yourself get lost in the moment then things can go a direction you don't want it to go, so everybody does a good job talking to one another and being in the moment and not thinking that my teammates will get the job done if I don't - then things aren't going to work out, and everybody just wants to do their job," junior Nick Nevills said. "I just think that as long as we focus and keep doing what we're doing, that shouldn't be a problem."
Keeping the focus on what's happening internally on a day-to-day basis is exactly what the Nittany Lions are keyed into, leaving almost all emotions aside.
"I think the only emotion for us really, is we want to focus on having fun," true freshman Nick Lee said. "That's kind of the attitude going into every dual and we just want to be our best every match. If you focus on one match or the other too much then you're going to overlook guys or overlook certain matches."
Although the expectation for every Nittany Lion in the lineup to be at their best each time is always there, it's hard to pass by the importance this week, with top-ranked NCAA champion Jason Nolf out of the lineup at 157 pounds due to an injury. As Sanderson noted though, whoever steps in won't need any extra motivation to rise to the challenge.
"I think our kids who aren't starting, they're are in that arena almost every match," Sanderson said. "Whoever it will be has been here a few years at least, so it's not like it's a new thing. You get a choice what you focus on and they'll have that choice. We have some scrappy kids."