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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every game down the stretch of a season is important. For the Penn State women's hockey team, their last six regular season games come against conference foes, making them even more meaningful with CHA Playoffs are right around the corner. While the weekend series against Syracuse is an important league weekend, the games hold added meaning for other reasons as well.

For Penn State, the game on Friday is the annual "faculty and staff appreciation" game, that honors the commitment and the service of the faculty and staffers who aid the Penn State women's hockey team. All faculty and staff receive special deals on tickets if they choose to attend. For the team, it is a great chance to give back to all of the workers behind the scenes. According to Shannon Yoxheimer, it is something the team always looks forward to each year.

"I think that without faculty and staff we really couldn't be a team," said Yoxheimer. "You know you really need all the faculty and staff because they do a lot of small things that go unnoticed and so it's a really good night to just recognize all the hard work that they put in."

From the equipment managers to the workers at Pegula, the entire process is a total team effort. As Yoxheimer said, the team wouldn't be able to do what they have the ability to do without all the aid of the faculty and staff. Head coach Josh Brandwene agreed with what Yoxheimer had to say and added that the excellence of the faculty is university wide and doesn't just start or end with the women's hockey team.

"This is a great community," said Brandwene. "When you talk about one team in Penn State athletics, that's not just the 31 sports but it's the entire community. It's the faculty and their amazing support for our student athletes. It's the staff and all they do to support Penn State and its mission; it's tremendous that we get the opportunity to play for all of them."

For Penn State, the weekend festivities do not end with the faculty and staff game. The following afternoon on Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take part in the Skate for the Cure game. All fans who wear pink to that game will receive free admission and also receive the opportunity to skate with the team post-game. Not only that, but just the opportunity for the Penn State team to skate in support of breast cancer research is a huge honor according to Bella Sutton. 

"It's really an honor to give back," said Sutton. "The pink game is a huge game for us just to be able to show our support in the way that we can and being able to play for everyone effected is really cool just to be a part of.

Brandwene echoed Sutton's sentiment and added that the game on Saturday, though obviously important in the standings, is more than just a normal hockey game due to the cause that they will be playing for.

"That just transcends the game," said Brandwene. "What we do, we work really hard at, but nothing is more important than health. To have the opportunity to support cancer research and the opportunity to help find a cure for this horrible disease is just a reminder of the bigger picture and how grateful we have to be for our health." 

Penn State's action packed weekend will begin at 7pm on Friday against the Syracuse Orange. Saturday will be the Skate for the Cure game with puck drop at 2:30 p.m. 

Nittany Lions Gear Up for 2016 Season

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10947939.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After making their way to the inaugural Big Ten Tournament last season, the Nittany Lions enter the 2016 campaign with high goals and strong motivations.

In 2015, the Nittany Lions tallied a 5-9 record, going 3-1 in conference play on their way to a spot in the Big Ten Tournament after an intense takedown of Michigan to end the regular season.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni pointed out that although their record might not show it, the team had many high points to the season, based on individual improvements as a team.

"Going into the Big Ten was a big move for Penn State lacrosse and lacrosse in general but we faced that first year with so many young players at so many different positions," said Tambroni. "It was a great learning experience at the same time that we had to go through some lumps, so I look at the entire year and of course we were disappointed by the product of our record but very excited about the group as they mature throughout and continue to keep fighting."

At the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Nittany Lions graduated nine seniors, including captain midfielder Kyle Zittel and defenseman JP Burnside. With the departure of such consistent players, Tambroni is expecting dedication and leadership from his returning upperclassmen, and for them to set the tone for this season.

Some of those players Tambroni will look to continue to make an impact on the field include redshirt junior midfielder Matt Florence, who had 16 goals last season, as well as junior attack player Nick Aponte. Aponte, who during 2015 moved from midfield to attack, registered 14 goals and 13 assists last season.

"From my transition from midfield to attack, really benefitted our team in one way that most of our dodges were coming from our midfield and we had a bunch of our top scorers from attack," said Aponte. "So what we worked on was by moving me behind and transition the ball from down the alley to 'x' and then hitting the backside to our big shooters which were attack, really worked well for our team."

While Penn State returns many big names this season, the Nittany Lions also welcomed 16 freshmen to the team, filling many spots throughout all positions in need of some depth with seven at midfield and five at defense.

"I personally think that first semester freshmen were the freshmen, they would make their mistakes," said junior defenseman Peter Triolo. "But now moving into the season we're not essentially looking at rank within freshman to senior we're basically just looking at them as another player on the team and everyone has to contribute in order to get wins this season."

The 2016 season has shaped up to be one of the most challenging seasons to date for the Nittany Lions. Their schedule is packed with matchups against many highly regarded opponents within the lacrosse realm, including a game against reigning national champion, Denver, slated for the end of March.

Also included at the second half of the season are all Big Ten contests, with both Maryland and Johns Hopkins having a preseason top 10 ranking. Other Big Ten opponent, Ohio State, also ranks within the preseason top 20.

When it comes to designing a schedule, the coaching staff takes into consideration many different parts to the logistical process, including the ability to challenge their team while also providing opportunities for them to gain valuable wins.

As the Nittany Lions look to start off their season strong against Robert Morris on Saturday, the team knows how important these early games on the schedule are.

"A win at home would be huge going into this season," said Triolo. "We want to make the Penn State lacrosse community a very dangerous team at home and I think it would be essential to get a win at home this first coming game."

In 2015, Penn State only lost one home game, and now looks to continue its home success against the Colonials this weekend.

"The keys to success, really just playing hard, being disciplined, opening up the offense for ourselves and our teammates and really just going out there and communicating and playing hard," said Florence.

Penn State takes on Robert Morris this Saturday at noon in Holuba Hall. 

Seifert Leading Nittany Lions

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Leadership is a key component on all teams in all levels of sports. For the Penn State men's volleyball team, the leadership extends from head coach Mark Pavlik, all the way down through the ranks of the team. However, if you were to ask the Nittany Lions who the leader of the team was, they would all point to captain Matt Seifert.

Seifert is a fifth-year senior and is now in his third year of serving as a team captain. The captaincy is voted on by both the players and the coaches, as coach Pavlik explained.

"Most of the time the players decide on the captains," said Pavlik. "The coaches can step in if they feel otherwise, but this group has always gotten it right when it has come to choosing the captain and I think Seif is a perfect example of that."

Seifert is a calming force both on and off the court. Though his six-foot-nine frame can be intimidating, Pavlik says that he is one of the most approachable guys on the team and is always looking for ways to help people out. He believes that is one of the main reasons why Seifert has been chosen to fill the role of captain for three years now. Seifert says that he doesn't think much of the actual title of captain, but that he is much more humbled by the fact that his teammates have chosen him now for multiple years to lead the team.

"For me, what means the most is that the guys picked me to be in that role for them," said Seifert. "Just because I'm the captain doesn't mean anything, I still get treated the same I'm just more of a communicator from the coaches to the guys."

Despite Seifert's humility, Pavlik says that he is much more than just a communicator between himself and the rest of the team.

"He isn't afraid to say something and he understands that keeping a team functioning together through the whole season is very important," said Pavlik.

In many people's minds, there are two types of leaders - leaders by example and vocal leaders. Pavlik says that the reason Seifert is such a good leader is because he is great at exemplifying both types of leadership.

"I would say that he is a perfect combination of both," said Pavlik. "I think he models the effort level that we want everyone to have and that is a great quality. I think what you really want in a leader is someone who can stand up in the middle of the locker room and not be afraid to say something."

Seifert also believes that he has both qualities of leadership and says that he understands that being the captain that is expected of him.

"I know that if I talk, the guys will listen," said Seifert. "I think I communicate really well with a lot of the guys and relay messages to all of them pretty well. On the court it's kind of the other way around, I just try and stay as calm as I can. I think if the other guys on the court see that I'm calm they know that we are in a good spot and everything is going well. I don't believe that there should be any added tension by saying too much when you're on the court."

Pavlik says that what really separates Seifert from lots of other players he knows is his work ethic on and off the court. Seifert has battled through injuries for a lot of his career and Pavlik says that he has continued to work hard to get where he is now and to continue to compete at a high level.

"Seif is just a beast in the weight room," said Pavlik. "I don't think he has ever been afraid of the weights, they may have been afraid of him at times, but never the other way around. He has battled a lot of injuries but Seif at 100 percent is really really good. Even when he is 80% he is a very good volleyball player and you know he will always battle for us."

Being a fifth-year senior, this is Seifert's last chance to win a national championship. Add the fact that Penn State will be hosting the national semifinals and finals at Rec and you have the recipe for storybook ending. The finals are also the most intense time of the season and Pavlik says that Seifert has done a great job of preparing the team for the possibility of a tournament run.

"I think Seif has a real good view of what it takes to get there," said Pavlik. "We have to take care of business in the regular season and EIVA first so we can't get ahead of ourselves. I think he has been doing a very appropriate job of letting the guys know 'here is what we have to do first'. The ultimate goal is to get there, but he knows there is a process to go through."

For Seifert and the whole Nittany Lion team, the goal is to walk out of their own locker room for the last game of the season. As Pavlik mentioned, Seifert is fully aware of not only what it takes to get there, but also the uniqueness of the opportunity ahead.

"We have the possibility for an opportunity that not many Penn State teams have had," said Seifert. "Instead of making us nervous I told the guys that it's a unique opportunity so let's take it pretty seriously. It's my last year and I'm from Pennsylvania so it's pretty cool to finish my senior season where I started it."

With Seifert at the helm, the Nittany Lions seem poised for a tournament run, knowing full well what they have to do to achieve the ultimate end goal of a national championship. The team returns to action this Saturday against Mount Olive with first serve set for 7 p.m.

Tsang's Confidence And Experience Provides Anchor For Nittany Lions

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11662724.jpegBy Mandy Bell, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Briannah Tsang stands in front of a crowd of more than 1,500 people in Rec Hall. She stares at the vault table 25 meters away, envisioning the perfect routine.

"Usually I think to breathe and try to make my vault as normal as possible," Tsang said. "I don't want to put too much energy into it and make myself go flying."

Tsang takes off running down the runway. She runs as fast as she can in order to have as much momentum as possible to perform her vault. As Tsang approaches the vault table, she does a round off onto the springboard lifting her up to the table. Using the momentum she built up, she must powerfully push off of the table to propel herself into the air. She must flip and twist in the air while trying to keep a perfectly tight form with her toes pointed. In order to get a high score, Tsang must then "stick" her landing.

"Once I stick my landing, it's the greatest feeling ever. I can't even describe it. It's not the same as sticking any of the other events," Tsang said. "Sticking vault is just different for me because I'm not as consistent sticking the landing."

Despite what Tsang might say, the vault has been her most consistent event of the 2016 season. In the team's first three home meets, the Canada native has taken home all three of the vault titles with a 9.825 and two 9.850s. In 2014, she claimed the vault title at the Canadian National Championships and won the 2011 Canada Winter Games vault crown.

"Her senior year in high school she was the elite national champion on vault in Canada. So that would be like being the McKayla Maroney of Canada at the time," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "To see that she's ranked that highly on vault isn't surprising, it's expected."

The vault was not always Tsang's favorite apparatus. When Tsang was a little girl, she had no gymnastics influence in her life. Her mom worked at a hospital, and Tsang knew that one day she would follow in her mom's footsteps. However, an event that most four-year-olds would consider a fun party ended up changing Tsang's life.

"I went to a gymnastics birthday party at a local gym and I just loved it," Tsang said. "I learned that I loved tumbling and that started my love for not just gymnastics, but for floor."

The floor exercise is where Tsang first started tumbling and experimenting with different routines. But, as she advanced as a gymnast, Tsang started to become more interested in other events.

"I just got better and better at vault," Tsang said. "It just started to become more fun than what I was doing on floor."

Although it is no longer her favorite event, Tsang is coming off of tying her career-best score with the Nittany Lions with a 9.925 last weekend against Illinois.

"One of the unique things is when we train on floor exercise, she uses landing mats on the floor in practice like you see some of the girls do in competition," Thompson said. "But when she gets to the competition, she doesn't want the mats. From an optical standpoint, some may wonder why she needs the mat thinking she's not ready or prepared. So, she won't use the mat in competition."

Tsang has performed in front of huge crowds in many different countries. She remembers a meet that she competed in in Germany that had the biggest crowd she had ever performed in front of and also tried out to be on the Canadian Olympic team in 2012.  

"When it comes to nerves, the size of the crowd does not affect me," Tsang said. "The amount of nerves I have comes from my confidence in my gymnastics."

Those nerves are something that is rarely a factor for the sophomore. She has been a gymnast that Coach Thompson and his team have been able to rely on in any situation. She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last year and Coach Thompson thinks there is more to come.  

"She's a great student, she's a great ambassador for Penn State, for the gymnastics program and one of the top athletes I've ever coached in the last 30 years," Thompson said. "She's just phenomenal. We are lucky to have her."

Penn State will travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State at 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

Competitiveness Helps Rasheed Step Up at 165

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11662692.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For a team as talented as the No. 1 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, competition can be found throughout the entire roster. Arguably the most competitive weight on the team is the battle at 165 between Shakur Rasheed and Geno Morelli.

Throughout the season, Rasheed and Morelli have battled back and forth to crack the 165 starting spot. While the constant competition could create some tension and hostility between the two, they both have a healthy relationship, no different than any other on the team.

"It doesn't matter who it is, we are all competitive. Just because me and [Morelli] are fighting for the same spot, there's no negativity towards that," said Rasheed. "That's part of this sport and mostly part of our program. We got four guys at the same weight class that can all be All-Americans. That's just the way it goes. That's what makes us who we are. We are friends."

Aside from their relationship, another reason why Rasheed says there is no hostility between the two is because of how competitive the entire team is. The intensity that is brewed everyday in practice is the reason, according to Rasheed, why Penn State is not like any other team. 

"No matter what weight you're at, we are all going to be competitive because that's what we do. That's why Penn State is so good. In here in this room, everything's a competition," said Rasheed. "Anytime I wrestle any of these guys, that's the way it's going to be. We go into practice and the best way to train is to train as if it's a match, as if it's real competition. We help each other, but we are competitive. Everyone in here are teammates at the end of the day."

Rasheed's freshman year has not gone according to his plan, as the New York product was hoping to have fewer losses at this point in the season, but is excited to keep improving his regime. This season has also brought a lot of lessons for the 17th-ranked wrestler, with the biggest one being trusting his coaches. Learning to trust the coaches is most beneficial when Rasheed finds himself in a rut, as it is very tempting to try and figure it out himself.

"I learned to always trust your coaches. No matter how hard it gets, they can help you and they will do what's best for you," said Rasheed. "That's something that I really picked up this year. Anytime I'm having a struggle with something, I know who to go to to help me out with whatever is going on with me."

Part of the roller coaster year for Rasheed has been his impressive performance against some of the nations best. Posting a 14-6 record and ranked No. 17, the freshman has been able to step up in the biggest moments. Wrestling against six ranked grapplers so far this season, the freshman has posted a 4-2 record, wit the most impressive and possibly shocking outcome by pinning Purdue's Chad Welch, who at the time was ranked No. 5.  

While having this early success against many of the best wrestlers in his weight class, Rasheed still knows there are always things to work on. One of the biggest areas that the freshman is looking to improve upon during the rest of the season is being comfortable at his weight.

"Just feeling better down at the weight. That's the biggest issue right now," said Rasheed. "Once that's gone, I'm not worried about anything. I'm 100 percent confident in my wrestling ability and all I have to go is get everything feeling good from when I'm at 165 and there's nothing to worry about."

For any athlete, being in a routine can be just as important as anything else they do throughout the week. For Rasheed this season, it has been tough at times to find that rhythm with the constant lineup shuffle. The freshman has been able to adapt, which is something that the Coram, N.Y., native says is part of the sport. This adaption is why Rasheed believes he is always ready for every match, whether he's in the lineup or not.

Attitude, according to Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, is the biggest attribute that Rasheed brings to the team and is one of the reasons why he's been so successful this season.

"Generally when people are evenly matched, you go with the guy that you feel has the better attitude and I'm not saying that Geno has a bad attitude, but I just think Shakur is just a guy that will do anything you ask him to do and wants to win," said Sanderson.

This positive attitude comes from his roots, as Rasheed is the first person in his family to go away to college. Seeing where he came from and what some of the people back at home are doing, the freshman is just grateful to be here doing the right thing.

"From the people I see back home and what they are doing and then I see the position I am in now, I just have to feel blessed," said Rasheed. "Coaches always talk about gratitude and that's exactly what it's about. I'm just so grateful to be here and honestly that's just the way it is. Coming from where I was at to where I am now, it's a lot." 

The Strength Behind the Team

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11662653.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - More than halfway through the regular season, the Penn State men's hockey team (16-7-3, 6-4-0 Big Ten) is poised for another season of growth on the ice thanks to preparations that begin months before the teams hit the playing surface. It all starts in the summer before the fall semester, with workouts run by strength and conditioning coach Cam Davidson.

11662663.jpegBehind the scenes, Davidson's job is to prepare the players prior to the first game, and ensure they maintain their endurance throughout the grueling six-month season. It's a tedious process, but one Davidson enjoys.

The job of a strength and conditioning coach is to develop workout plans for players off the ice in order to prepare their bodies physically for the demands that college hockey places on them.

Each player is different, Davidson explained, and workouts are often developed specifically with one player in mind, depending on the individual improvements the staff believes the player needs to make.

"The season is built largely around what we do in the offseason," said Davidson. "Obviously we don't need to be the biggest athletes out there, some guys do have to gain weight sometimes but we want our players to be more lean, so the way we train is not really getting people huge, it's getting as strong as we can while getting faster at the same time."

Additionally, workouts can vary depending on the player's position.

For goaltenders, the focus is more on explosive lateral movements, which mimic their job in the crease. In contrast, for forwards the workouts revolve around developing the speed and strength necessary to support long shifts and end-to-end action on the ice.

As part of preseason workouts, Davidson presents a "Preseason Top Athlete" award to the player who demonstrates the most physical prowess during the offseason tests. Every year since the 2012 season, defenseman Connor Varley has taken home the trophy.

"The more time you put in here, obviously you're going to get better at it," said Davidson. "Varley the first couple years he really got by on strength alone and what he's really gotten better at is the speed part of it, which is why he continues to win that award. He's understanding of his strength, but what makes him a better hockey player was recognizing his weaknesses and working on them."

While fans see the result of Davidson's training when the players hit the ice, what separates him from other strength coaches at the collegiate level is what he does when not with the team.

Davidson is a senior-level competitive weightlifter and has competed at both the local and national levels. Davidson truly lives what he teaches and uses that experience to push his teams to do better.

"I love the fact that he's a competitor, that he competes," said head coach Guy Gadowsky of Davidson. "He's in the weight room training as well, so that's a great example."

Davidson credits his ability to effectively coach student-athletes from his ability to know exactly how a workout is going to feel, since he's put himself through the same workout routines he gives his athletes.

Growing up in Colorado, Davidson has always been a fan of hockey. Prior to the Avalanche moving to Denver from Quebec, Davidson followed the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.

Davidson graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2005, and spent the following years working for several universities within their strength and exercise training programs.

While working for the College of Charleston, Davidson met his wife Kaleena, a former standout women's volleyball student-athlete at Penn State. Kaleena later had an opportunity to move to State College and work as an assistant coach for Penn State women's volleyball, transplanting the Davidsons to Hockey Valley.

Now in his third season working with men's hockey, Davidson is very proud of how far the team has come, both on and off the ice.

"I knew I wanted to work in hockey, because of the speed of the sport, and it's a really intense culture and I knew I wanted to be around that. It's very rewarding to see how far some of these guys have come over the years," said Davidson.

With his passion for not only hockey, but also for his role within the team, Davidson has become a core team member for the Nittany Lions. Davidson looks forward to the rest of Penn State's season and is eager to help the Nittany Lions in the weight room and beyond.

Penn State will faceoff at Minnesota on Friday night at 8 p.m. and again Saturday at 5 p.m. 

Franklin, Nittany Lions Announce 2016 Signing Class

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Signing Day Central - Complete Bios, Photos, Highlights & More

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin and the Penn State staff celebrated the signing of a third-straight top-25 recruiting class with the formal announcement of 20 signees for 2016 inside the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday.

"You really want this process to be about relationships and about the things that we think it should be about, which is getting a world class education and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that want to go on and be really, really successful," said Franklin. "So it's been fun. It's been crazy and looking forward to getting these guys on campus so we can continue to build on the foundation that their parents have laid and help these guys mature and leave here as educated men and prepared for life."

Franklin walked into the Lasch Building just after 6 a.m. ready for the signing day festivities to begin.  The entire football staff congregated inside the building before 6:30 a.m. with an eye on the fax machine just outside the door Franklin's second-story office.

The first signed letter of intent arrived just after 7 a.m., with offensive lineman Will Fries taking the honor of sending the first letter of intent in to Penn State on Signing Day. Defensive lineman Shane Simmons followed quickly after.

Signing day emcee Jevin Stone (Penn State Football video coordinator) emerged from behind a blue curtain, walked to a podium in the Penn State war room and introduced the signing of Simmons to a rousing cheer from approximately 70 staff members and supporters.

Simmons' biography magnet was placed on the Penn State Signing Day "Big Board" at 7:13 a.m., with Fries and linebacker Cameron Brown and defensive lineman Antonio Shelton following to begin the celebration on an exciting day for Nittany Lion football.

As the 16 letters of intent were approved on Wednesday, each signee had his own announcement.  Additionally, the four early enrollees who are already on campus were part of the announcement ceremony. The announcements included the signees and their families, who called in via FaceTime and were then projected on big screens inside the war room to watch the festivities.

Representatives from across campus and the football staff participated in the announcement process on Wednesday morning. The list included former Nittany Lion greats Matt McGloin and Wally Richardson, coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey), Erica Walsh (women's soccer), Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten, Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Kaluza, the Blue Band, cheerleaders, Nittanyville and THON representatives.

Franklin and the staff could not have been prouder to make the announcement of all 20 signees in another strong recruiting class tabbed as the third-best in the Big Ten.

The 2016 class features 12 signees ranked as a five-star or four-star prospect by at least one of the four major recruiting outlets. The class includes two five-star prospects - offensive lineman Michal Menet and running back Miles Sanders - for the first time since 2006 (AJ Wallace and Maurice Evans). During the last two recruiting classes, Penn State has signed 21 prospects tabbed as either four or five-star signees. In the three years prior to 2014, Penn State signed a total of 11.

"We recruit every single one of these guys with the mentality they're going to come in and play and impact the roster and play as freshmen," said Franklin. "The guys that aren't ready, we'll have those conversations with them. It has to do with them. It has to do with our depth. It has to do with their physical maturity, their emotional maturity, and their ability to pick up the playbooks on offense, defense and special teams."

There are 10 defensive players, eight offensive players and two specialists in the class. The positional breakdown includes one quarterback, one running back, one wide receiver, four offensive linemen and one tight end on offense. On defense, the class includes seven defensive linemen, one linebacker and two defensive backs. Punter Blake Gillikin and kicker Alex Barbir comprise the specialists.

The class includes 16 signees from within a 350-mile radius of State College. There are eight states represented in the class, including five signees from Pennsylvania and Maryland, three from Ohio, two from Georgia and one from Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. According to Rivals, the Penn State class featured three out of the top six prospects out of Pennsylvania, including the top-ranked prospect in Sanders.

"I would make the argument that every year that we want to obviously do a great job of recruiting the state of Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "That's very, very important to us, and the region."

The football staff put in a tremendous amount of effort to secure the class, seemingly since National Signing Day in February of 2015. Following a few days off this weekend, recruiting will continue almost immediately for the 2017 recruiting class. For now, though, the Nittany Lions will celebrate the addition of 20 new members of the football family.

Spring practice begins in mid-March, and
the Blue-White Game is 73 days away (April 16).

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Morgan McIntosh (2/2/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) returns to the Bryce Jordan Center for a sold out dual against defending national champion and No. 3-ranked Ohio State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) on Friday at 6 p.m.

GoPSUsports.com caught up with senior Morgan McIntosh this week to talk about his season to date. McIntosh is 20-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 at 197 pounds.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Garner, Nittany Lions Looking to Remain Confident After MSG

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sophomore guard Shep Garner put on a show for the Nittany Lions in the second half of Saturday's 79-72 decision against Michigan inside Madison Square Garden.

The Philly native poured in 17 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes of action, helping the Lions pull within five after trailing by as much as 17 to the Wolverines.

After a cold stretch from three-point range, Garner found his touch from the outside in MSG and is primed to get back on track as Penn State (11-11, 2-7 Big Ten) heads to No. 5 Iowa (17-4, 8-1 Big Ten) on Wednesday.

"It felt really good," Garner said. "I knew it would come back around. When you go in the gym and put the work in (it's going to happen). It could have been any day. The shots just happened to fall Saturday, but I never got down on myself. I just got back in the gym and went to work. When you put the work in, there is no sense getting down on yourself."

Garner made five triples against Michigan, including four in the second half. In the previous five games, the sophomore had only made four total threes. When he takes in rhythm shots, Garner is a tremendously accurate shooter, and the Lions need his production to be successful in the Big Ten.

"Hopefully, he finishes strong in February," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "I thought we shared the ball really well (on Saturday), and he finally had some good in rhythm threes where he is not shooting off the bounce. And other guys got him some shots, which is something we talked about. He should be feeling really good."

Garner, who also had six rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers in The Garden, attributed a big piece of Penn State's offensive success to ball movement. The Nittany Lions have generated good looks at the basket during the past two weeks. In the second half on Saturday, the shots began to fall.

"We are moving the ball well," said Garner. "We are getting the ball inside with BT (Brandon Taylor). He's making great decisions. And that's huge for us, using our big men more. We get more open shots that way. We've just got to make them."

The Nittany Lions shift their attention to a week that features back-to-back matchups against the teams atop the Big Ten standings. Penn State will face Iowa at 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU) in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday before welcoming No. 22 Indiana (18-4, 8-2 Big Ten) to the BJC on Saturday (8 p.m. on BTN).

Iowa has been one of the hottest teams in America during the past month and a half. The Hawkeyes have won 10 of their last 11 games, with the lone loss coming by six points (74-68) at No. 4 Maryland. Iowa has two wins over No. 18 Purdue and two wins over No. 10 Michigan State.

A veteran team, Iowa takes care of the basketball as good as anyone in the country. The Hawkeyes are No. 7 nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.0), No. 13 in turnover margin (plus-3.8) and No. 3 in assist-turnover ratio (1.71).

Senior Jarrod Uthoff and junior Peter Jok are Iowa's top scorers. Uthoff is a difficult matchup with his size and ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor. He is averaging 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds per game and shooting better than 46 percent from three. Jok is averaging 15.3 points and is shooting 40 percent from three. Iowa is second in the Big Ten at 81.2 points per game.

"If we fight like we did on Saturday, we are going to be in a lot of games," said Chambers. "I'd like to see us play 40 minutes. It's not about Iowa. It's not about their record. It's not about Indiana. It's not about their record. It's about Penn State...I know these next two teams are very good, but it's got to be about the progression and the process for us."

Wednesday will mark Penn State's first visit to Iowa City in three seasons. Penn State defeated Iowa in the second round of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament, 67-58. The Hawkeyes have won seven of the last 10 in the all-time series, but nine of the last 12 meetings between the two teams have been decided by single-digits.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The Penn State men's gymnastics team returned to Rec Hall on Saturday, January 30 to top the University of Illinois in a 430.200-429.200 victory. The Nittany Lions were also able to earn four season-best scores on the floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings and parallel bars.

In the nail-biter of a meet, junior Dominic DiFulvio was scored a career-best of 85.500 and earn his second career all-around title to help the Blue and White notch the win.

"We grew up today," stated Head Coach Randy Jepson. "We knew it would be a hard fought contest. After last weekend's frustrations and sub-par performance I was really looking forward to the guys coming out within a week and having an opportunity to fight and show the kind of spirit they had. I think they did that today so I'm very pleased." 

Taking the lead early, Penn State performed well on floor exercise with DiFulvio and senior Alexis Torres' performances giving the Blue and White the jump in scores.

"We have our bad days and we have our good days, but today I would definitely say was a good day for the team," said Torres. "We all just came out focused on performing at our best levels and today we were focused on hitting our routines. Today was a good win for the team."

Following the floor, the Lions posted another season-best on the pommel horse with a score of 70.300 as a team. Helping the team hit this score was junior, team captain Leroy Clarke, Jr. and sophomore Colin Coates. In addition, junior Christian McSwain helped with a score of 14.550.

"Everyone did a great job today," commented Jepson. They all were focused and looked strong during routines, these guys are hungry for the win and they fought for it today."

During the third rotation, the Fighting Illini took the lead by sweeping the first three spots on the vault. 

Penn State earned its third-season-best score of the afternoon on the still rings with a 72.650 in the third rotation. DiFulvio and Clarke placed second and third, respectively, to help bring the Lions back into the competition.

"We always want to be each other's biggest support so we're always cheering one another on, "noted Torres. "We had some people give standout performances today and we always make sure we're there for one another as a team."

Penn State took the lead back during the fifth rotation with another season-best score on parallel bars. Clarke and Torres led the Nittany Lions, tying for first with matching 15.050s. 

Continuing to hit his routines, Clarke, Jr. earned his second title of the day with his high bar performance, scoring a 14.400. 

In the end of close match, Penn State Nittany Lions clinched the win by defeating the Fighting Illini by a one-point difference. 

Up next for Penn State will be a weeklong rest before heading to Columbus, Ohio for a meet against the Buckeyes of Ohio State. With the first Big Ten Conference victory under the Lions belt, they'll remain focused for OSU.

The Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes square off Saturday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m.