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Nevills Continues Climb Toward the Top

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two straight wins over top 20 opponents has Penn State's Nick Nevills on the rise at heavyweight. Following a 4-2 win against Purdue's No. 15 Shawn Streck and a dominant 4-1 victory against Maryland's sixth-ranked Youssif Hemida, Nevills has strung together three consecutive wins for a 16-3 record on the year.

"I've had a couple losses and a couple of wins," Nevills said. "Obviously you don't want to be taking the losses but the wins are okay. I'm improving and taking things away from every match whether it's a win or a loss so that's positive, but I can still be wrestling a lot better and a lot tougher and that's where I'm trying to get to so I'm just trying to improve every match."

Nevills got off to a rocky start in the new year after collecting three losses, but the junior has turned things around.

"I think he has just tightened things up a little bit," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I think he did some nice things this past weekend. He wrestled two of the better kids on the weekend but he still has a lot more potential. He can score more points than he did, but he's fine. He had a rough Scuffle but hopefully he learns from that moving forward. He wrestled great last weekend and we just want to build on that."

Following the tough start Nevills had a sit down meeting with Sanderson and his staff, which has sparked his resurgence.

"It was just a little heart to heart," Nevills said. "They were just wondering what was going on and I just told them how I was feeling and what was going on with my mind in some of the matches. It wasn't anything super earth shattering it was just one of those things that when you get to this level you sometimes have to have those kinds of talks and I think it was positive and they were real positive with their talk. It was just really being honest and having a good conversation and getting to where we want to be and get on the right track." 

With an equally tough stretch ahead, Nevills says the key is simple - stay focused.

"I just look forward to the next practice and the next thing going that's on during the day," Nevills said. "I don't think about the Iowa match or the Ohio State match or the Rutgers match, Minnesota is on Friday so I think about Minnesota. I just look forward to the next day I get to come in here and workout and hang out with the coaches and the guys on the team."

News and Notes
In his weekly media session, Sanderson didn't have any news on the starting lineup at 197 pounds, expecting to have both Shakur Rasheed and Anthony Cassar split the weekend again as Penn State hosts Minnesota Friday night and travels to Rutgers Sunday. Sanderson believes the competition has been healthy, with the Friday-Sunday format giving him the opportunity to make decisions later on.

"I'd say we're in the same place we were last week," Sanderson said. "They're both wrestling well. You see what I see, I think Shakur is a guy that can pick up bonus points and Cassar is real solid and a big strong kid and getting better so it's a tough decision. We think both of them have a great chance to do well but we can only send one so we have to figure that out." 

Much like last week, the split weekend with Sunday's dual on the road at Rutgers should provide a great crowd, but that isn't anything new for the Nittany Lions. 

"These guys get put in that kind of environment quite a bit," Sanderson said. "Whether it's here or on the road, it tends to be our opponents biggest crowd of the year. So it's expected."

Penn State Downs Purdue in Rec Hall Battle

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In Penn State wrestling's return to Rec Hall after months on the road, the Nittany Lions started out in a hole. Down 6-0 early after forfeiting the first bout of the night, Penn State responded with one of its best performances of the season. Capturing a 43-6 win, the Nittany Lions overcame an unfortunate start and an aggressive Purdue team that seemingly challenged Penn State throughout the evening.

"I think the guys wrestled well," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You have to be ready for Purdue because they're tough when they come in and they wrestle hard. I think our guys wrestled well. We felt terrible about forfeiting at 125, we just didn't have a choice."

With Penn State trailing 6-3 following a hard-fought win for Corey Keener at 133 pounds, Nick Lee took to the mat donning the Penn State singlet in Rec Hall for the first time. The true freshman didn't disappoint the more than 6,500 fans in the stands with a 14-4 major decision against Nate Limmex at 141 pounds.

Hardly dealing with even the slightest bit of nerves, the crowd at Rec Hall was just like Lee had visualized.

"It was a wrestling match, just like any wrestling match," Lee said. "But, it's special because I think the fan base that comes to Rec Hall is special. It's just nothing like I've ever experienced before. It was definitely a lot of fun."

Penn State notched bonus points in seven bouts, but despite the lopsided score, it wasn't as easy of battle for the Nittany Lions. While Penn State didn't allow any takedowns, there were plenty of scrambles and the Nittany Lions always seemed to come away with two points following the frenzy.

"I think our guys just fought for it in those positions," Sanderson said. "They were tough positions and they were in on our legs and it looked like we were beat, but these guys battled through it. It was great to see Corey (Keener) do that. Obviously Nick (Lee) did it in a couple situations. Even (Nick) Nevills, he was in a tight spot there, having been warned for stalling." 

The dual's top showdown featured a top 15 matchup between second-ranked Mark Hall and 12th-ranked Dylan Lydy. After a slow first period, Hall led 2-1 before a late second period takedown set him ahead 5-1. Energized by the late takedown in the second, Hall dominated the third period on his way to an 11-3 major decision victory. 

While Penn State battled, the Nittany Lions also collected four pins, including one from Shakur Rasheed at 197 pounds. After taking the mat to a thunderous roar from the crowd, Rasheed continued his dominant stretch and turned to another cradle, his signature move, at the 1:55 mark. 

Normally someone to zone out the crowd, Rasheed noted the volume from the stands only gave him more energy. 

When asked about his cradle though, Rasheed said he often works on it with his head coach, ultimately giving him the confidence to continue to rely on the move during matches.

"He has got a pretty darn good cradle, as you can tell," Sanderson said. "But I think why it works is because he has a lot of other opportunities to turn as well. He's really strong with tilts and really good at scrambling so he just has a lot of different angles he's coming at you with."

New Nittany Lions Shaping Roster

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson is always looking for those who give the team the best opportunity to find success and ultimately win a national championship. Last weekend, Sanderson introduced a new wrestler to the lineup.

Nick Lee, a freshman from Evansville, Indiana, made his Penn State dual debut with wins against Sal Profaci of Michigan and then-No. 20 Javier Gasca of Michigan State.

"I thought Nick did great," Sanderson said. "He's just consistent and that's what he does. He just brings a lot of energy with him and enthusiasm which is great for the team."

Lee went 4-1 at the Southern Scuffle just a few weeks ago, with his success as an unattached wrestler propelling him into the starting lineup, a similar path to that of NCAA national champion Mark Hall just a year ago.

"I would say it's a source of motivation that someone has done it before and has been through it before," Lee said. "(Mark) is kind of a source of experience that I can tap a little bit just to help me out."

The true freshman, who was homeschooled in his final year of high school, didn't visit Rec Hall until last year, but says it's an unparalleled experience in college wrestling.

"I never really paid attention to Penn State wrestling before I committed here," Lee said. "But, the first time I came to a dual here it was something else. It was a big surprise to me. I had actually been to a few college duals, but nothing like at Rec Hall. It's really a fantastic atmosphere and is probably the best fans I've ever seen."

While Lee gears up for his first performance in front of a Rec Hall crowd, he's ready to feel the energy that the fans provide, having visualized himself out there on the mat for a while.

"Just a lot of energy," Lee said. "A lot of people that wrestle in Rec Hall will tell you it's a lot of energy. Luckily for us, it's positive energy. Energy is energy I think though, so it'll be a little loud but I'm pretty excited."

The Nittany Lions also recently introduced a new member to the team. Carson Kuhn, a transfer from the now defunct Boise State wrestling program has joined the roster, now looking to compete at 125 pounds.

The journey wasn't easy for Kuhn, who had to graduate from Boise State before applying to a graduate program at Penn State before he could join the squad.  Kuhn, who is in his final year of eligibility has had a tough career spotted with injuries, but is looking forward to facing the top wrestlers in the nation at 125 pounds.

"It'll be exciting," Kuhn said. "I know that I'm at that level, I know I am because I've wrestled at that level for a long time. I wrestled at the U.S. Open a few times, at senior level tournaments, internationally and I've beaten top-ranked opponents before so I know that I'm at that level we just have to get the right training program and the right plan to compete my best."

When first contacted by Sanderson, Kuhn saw the name of his feature head coach at the bottom of the message and thought nothing but one thing - awesome. Kuhn, who is 25-years-old with a wife and baby girl, now enjoys being around all of his younger teammates in the room at Penn State.

"I'm kind of over the nerves of wrestling," Kuhn said. "I've done this for a long time so I'm just kind of excited. Obviously I want to set an example, but there is not much of an example to be set because everyone sets an example here. Everybody's on task and doing great. I am 25, I'm married and I have a baby girl so I'm kind of a little bit older, but it's fun to just jump in with these younger wrestlers."

The Nittany Lions are back in action on Friday night, hosting Purdue in Rec Hall at 7 p.m. before heading to Maryland to round out the weekend with a Sunday outing against the Terps at 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Our focus is on Purdue now," Sanderson said. "Purdue has tough kids, they wrestle hard. I think the last time they were here every match was a dog fight. They were ready to go and motivated so we've got to be ready to compete because they can be hard."

Penn State Looking Closer at the Lineup

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By Brandon Pelter, 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.

Cortez Highlights B1G Opening Dual

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been more than 35 days since Penn State wrestling took to the mat in Rec Hall, and about two weeks since the last time the Nittany Lions took to the mat to compete. 

Come Sunday, Penn State opened its Big Ten dual slate in typical Nittany Lion fashion, bolstered by the strength of a healthy lineup.

"It's nice having a healthy team ready to roll," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. 

The Nittany Lions saw both Corey Keener and Vincenzo Joseph return to action at 133 and 165, respectively.

Competing for the first time since the Keystone Classic, Corey Keener highlighted in his return, closing out productive second and third periods with a pair of late takedowns for an 11-3 major decision. 

Following Keener's win, Penn State's Jered Cortez ignited the spark, battling to a close 6-5 win against No. 12 Cole Weaver. 

Coming off his first loss of the season in the Lehigh dual, Cortez spent the last two weeks focusing on letting it fly, avoiding what he called a tendency to lock up a bit. Before stepping on the mat though, Cortez relied on the words of coach Casey Cunningham. 

"Coach Casey said to just go play wrestle, go out there and you're great when you play wrestle and flow and just throw yourself in there," Cortez said. 

Tied at 3-3 headed into the second period, a second period takedown followed by a late third period escape secured the decision for Cortez, who earned his first win against a ranked opponent this season. 

"A 6-5 match, obviously 11 points on the board, it wasn't a 2-0 match so I think adjustments made from Lehigh were just letting it fly and giving myself more opportunities to wrestle where I'm good," Cortez said. 

Despite the deadlocked score, Cortez wasn't keeping track of the score in his head, instead focused on the words of his coach.

"I was just wrestling, I was just letting it go and I felt him pressure in, and that first takedown I hit was kind of off that same situation," Cortez said. "I felt him pressure in and I'm good there so I took advantage and scored."

Penn State then saw back-to-back pins from Zain Retherford (149) and Jason Nolf (157). Retherford built up a big first period lead before pinning Davey Tunon at the 3:42 mark. Nolf followed, making quick work of Jake Danishek with a pin at the 1:30 mark for his eighth fall of the season, sending Penn State into the break leading 19-3.

Although Joseph earned the win by forfeit, Mark Hall came out dominant for a 17-0 tech fall at 174 before Bo Nickal (184) brought the sold-out crowd to its feet with his fifth pin of the season in less than a minute at 0:42.

While his fast pins have piled up the bonus points for the Nittany Lions, Nickal would actually prefer to be out on the mat a little longer.

"It's fun to get out there and wrestle a little bit more so I think moving forward I'm going to try to let the matches go a little longer because I like being out there," Nickal said. "I'm not really going to let the guy off his back if I get him there so if it happens quick then I guess that's the way it goes."

As the holiday season approaches, Sanderson noted that part of staying fresh and hungry means taking time to spend with loved ones, as the team will spread out to take the next week at home.

"I think it's important that they get home and spend time with their families, enjoy the holidays and the Christmas season," Sanderson said.  

Sideline to Center Mat, Cassar Continues to Battle

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A long layoff from competition hasn't stopped Penn State's Anthony Cassar from staying focused. The redshirt sophomore starter at 197 pounds was out of the lineup the past two seasons, but now wrestling at 100 percent, he's poised to continue to wrestle his way to the top.

"I'm feeling great," Cassar said. "This has been something I've been visualizing and working toward for what felt like forever. Two solid years and three counting my redshirt year of just hard, hard work and waiting for this moment to show everybody what I've been working on. I'm just having fun doing what I do best."

Cassar is out to a 7-1 start including a Keystone Classic title this year, and Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson likes what he sees.

"Health wise he's 100 percent," Sanderson said. "He just needs experience. He wrestled a few folk style tournaments as a true freshman a long time ago. The last two years he has been injured so he hasn't really been wrestling much folk style. He's got a lot of great tools and a lot of potential."

The sophomore hasn't been discouraged by his injuries and the coaching staff continues to see him improve. Cassar has two wins over ranked opponents this season.

"He does some phenomenal things," Sanderson said. "He's got a great feel and when he pulls the trigger he usually scores. So we want him to pull the trigger more often, but he's a big strong kid, he's getting better every match and the better the opponent the more we learn."

On December 3 against Lehigh, the pressure was on for Cassar with his team trailing, 19-17, and only two bouts left. The Rocky Hill, New Jersey native responded with an 8-3 decision over Jake Jakobsen giving the Nittany Lions a lead they wouldn't relent.

"That was a great environment," Cassar said. "I definitely felt the nerves and was excited, but once I got out there it's really just a testament to what you do (in practice). I didn't have to think and I did what I do in here which is work hard."

While the Nittany Lions shift their focus to opening the Big Ten dual slate against Indiana, another obstacle stands in the way - finals week. Sanderson made specific note that the Nittany Lions are scheduling around finals at the moment to give the team optimum time to wrap up the semester on top.

"Their focus is on their academics right now," Sanderson said. "Our workouts are around their academics. They need to finish strong."

As the Nittany Lions continue to work through December, January brings a big change with six dual meets and the Southern Scuffle on deck. Sanderson thinks his team is ready for the challenge, as he won't be doing anything drastic in the room.

"It's not really anything too complicated," Sanderson said. "Our guys are training as soon as they get to school and a lot of these guys train throughout the summer. We're ready to compete. We want to compete a couple times a week and we're looking forward to that stretch of the year."

Penn State hosts Indiana to begin the Big Ten slate at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17. The Nittany Lions are 18-0-1 all-time against the Hoosiers who feature just one ranked wrestler.

Trio Poised to Continue Momentum

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With eight undefeated Nittany Lions, top-ranked Penn State wrestling travels to Allentown to wrestle No. 7 Lehigh Sunday.

For Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, Sunday's dual meet brings together a pair of programs with a longtime storied rivalry, perhaps one of the longest in college wrestling. Spanning 105 meetings, Lehigh is tied for Penn State's second-oldest opponent, but by far the most common for the Nittany Lions.

"Lehigh always has a great team," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "They're very well coached and they always peak at the end of the year and wrestle great at the national tournament."

The Nittany Lions enter the week following a dominant showing in their most recent outing at the Keystone Classic. Among the consistency throughout the lineup this year, Jered Cortez, Zain Retherford and Vincenzo Joseph have all combined for a 17-0 record and two Keystone Classic championships ahead of this weekend's trip to the Lehigh Valley.

From fresh starts to fearless approaches, catch up with all three ahead of Penn State's final outing before opening the Big Ten slate Sunday, Dec. 17 against Indiana.

Two-time reigning national champion Zain Retherford is 7-0 to start the 2017 campaign. Similar to his teammates, Retherford hasn't been afraid to try some new moves and sometimes that means getting taken down, something he isn't afraid of.

"Just don't worry about it," Retherford said. "If I'm worried about getting taken down then I'm not worried about my own offense. I think I'm kind of defensive minded so if it happens it happens but my whole thought is just keep scoring points no matter what happens out there."

While Retherford doesn't spend too much time thinking about his season as a whole, he does take the time to break down each performance.

"I don't like to give myself a grade," Retherford said. "I kind of just do that after each day, like on  the bus, for example after the Keystone Classic. I'm just thinking about what I did well and then what I need to work on. So I don't really grade myself, but I keep track of what I want to be doing and what I want to be learning. I don't think that's ever something that stops, I'm always going to be doing that, learning and trying new things."

It has been an interesting journey for the redshirt junior. Cortez had to sit out the 2015-16 season after transferring from Illinois to Penn State and was sidelined last season with an injury.

Now wrestling at 141 pounds, after starting at 133 pounds last season, Cortez is grateful for the opportunity.

"A lot of times people take it for granted," Cortez said. "With injuries that can happen and so I'm just very grateful for the opportunity and am just excited to get better every day."

With a 7-0 start to the season, Cortez is more comfortable at the new weight class.

"It's night and day," Cortez said. "I feel a lot better. I just feel good, I can feel my legs all the time, my lungs feel good, I feel strong and fast. Overall I'm just focusing on the right things and that's important in a sport like this where every little detail matters. I can focus on the small things and just getting better every day than just focusing on my weight."

With the change in weight, Cortez is excited to start each dual meet.

"I wish we could start at 141," Cortez said. "I'm ready to go in that one hour weigh in and I'm that third match up usually. My body feels good, I feel fresh. It's good I can feel my feet, move my hands and get to my attacks."

The reigning national champion at 165 pounds is off to a perfect start at 3-0 this season. After missing the Keystone Classic, Joseph is ready to wrestle and happy with his efforts so far.

"I think I've been doing a good job of just wrestling hard," Joseph said. "That's really my goal every time I step on that mat, just to wrestle hard and score points.

Over the next few weeks, Joseph is focusing on improving technique.

"I'd like to work on top a little bit better," Joseph said. "But, overall just keep being able to push the pace and find different ways to score."

Nolf Focused on Improvement

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There's certainly no denying Penn State's Jason Nolf has already made a name for himself among Penn State fans. Just two dual meets into the 2017-18 campaign though, the redshirt junior remains as hungry for more as ever.

"He's just a student of the game," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He's improving in all areas. You see him wrestling he's always trying new things."

Nolf has consistently treated the Nittany Lion faithful to a variety of unique and different moves.

That even includes a "secret move" Nolf broke out last Thursday to start his season out with a win by fall in the opener against Army. He followed with the same outcome in Sunday's win against Bucknell, totaling seven takedowns before pinning Christian Bassolino at the 3:33 mark to crack into the Penn State top 10 in all-time falls with 31 in his career.

Sanderson is nothing short of impressed with what he's seen from Nolf through the years.

"Some of the stuff that he's doing are the kind of moves that you don't really do until you're done wrestling and you're playing around as a coach," Sanderson said. "He's fearless enough that he'll master it and throw it out there and he enjoys that." 

In his freshman season, Nolf came one win shy from winning a national championship, but last season took home the title at 157 pounds on a truly memorable night in St. Louis.  

While fans may love to see the bonus point victories, it's all about improving for Nolf.

"Nolf's just a guy when you talk about expectations people just expect to come and watch him score a ton of points," Sanderson said. "And if he doesn't you're wondering well what's wrong with him. You can see he's constantly working and playing with the sport and that's why he's better now than he was a year ago. Next year he'll be better than he is this year."

After his NCAA national championship in 2017, Nolf then turned to Team USA wrestling over the summer, placing third in US World Team trials and fourth in the US Open.

"I'm doing about the same stuff I've always been doing," Nolf said. "Just learning a lot of different things and working with my coaches on strength and on techniques. Just learning about new stuff." 

While dedicated to his craft day in and day out, it's a combination of things that make someone like top-ranked Nolf so unique. 

"Nolf's special," Sanderson said. "We'll probably never see anybody ever like him again. He's just unique and special and we're glad he's on our team."

Although out to a 2-0 start along with his team, for Nolf, it is individual success that motivates the group.

"I think we motivate each other as a team and as teammates," Nolf said. "The more one person does well, the more everyone else wants to do well. Our coaches are really good at getting us focused on what we need to be focused on. I think we all know what we want to do and that's what it comes down to."

The top-ranked Nittany Lions return to action Friday, on the road taking on Binghamton at 7 p.m.

Nittany Lions Showcase a Different Kind of Consistency

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  The Nittany Lion wrestling team is no stranger to bonus point victories, but Sunday afternoon it took some added work to defeat the Bucknell Bison 36-3.

After Devin Schnupp lost a competitive 3-1 battle against Jake Campbell at 125 pounds, Corey Keener turned in a hard-fought major decision,12-4, over David Campbell. With the win, Keener collected 3:51 of riding time and improves to 2-0 to start his Nittany Lion career, something that's already impressing Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson.

"Corey's a great kid and he's a real likeable kid," Sanderson said. "He's a great wrestler too, he has goals he wants to accomplish and I think he's wrestling well. When you're wrestling on a team with guys like Zain [Retherford] and [Jason] Nolf, [Nick] Nevills, Bo Nickal and Mark Hall, I think you're going to up your game to play at that level."

Jered Cortez followed suit at 141 pounds beating Matt Kolonia 10-4 with 1:12 of riding time.

Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf then delivered with back-to-back pins in the second period.

Retherford, who is rarely taken to the mat, isn't afraid to expand his repertoire.

"I got taken down today," Retherford said. "But that was something where I was trying a new move and I'm just going to keep doing that." 

Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall recorded third period technical falls, with Sanderson making specific note of Joseph's performance.

"(Vincenzo's) got great leg attacks," Sanderson said. "He can threaten you with the upper body stuff also. His opponent was comfortable in that position too, but I thought Vincenzo looked really good tonight. His double legs were crisp and he did a nice job on top." 

After Anthony Cassar lost a hard-fought match, which included two late takedowns in the final 40 seconds, Nick Nevills closed out the afternoon with an 11-4 win at heavyweight. 

While it wasn't Nevills' flashiest performance, it included 2:50 of riding time and represented the Nittany Lions day on the mat, 10 hard-fought performances.

Just a week into the season, Sanderson is focused more on scoring points than the flashy moves or early pins, with improvements as the focus moving forward. 

"It just depends on a lot of different things," Sanderson said. "But, we're not looking for first period pins right now. If it happens, it happens. We're just trying to wrestle and score points and get better and we saw a lot of that."

New Faces, Secret Moves Highlight Opener

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By Brandon Pelter, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bonus point victories are a strength yet again for the Penn State wrestling team. The top-ranked Nittany Lions collected five pins and a tech fall in addition to a major decision and two decisions to beat the Army West Point Black Knights 45-3 in the 2017-18 opener.

"We're just happy to be rolling," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We're happy to get out there and see where we're at and what we can work on and how we can improve. I think it's going to be a great year.

After Devin Schnupp dropped a close 6-4 decision to Army's Trey Chalifoux at 125 pounds, Central Michigan transfer Corey Keener tilted the match in the Nittany Lions favor with a pin to begin his Penn State career. The Pennsylvania native collected the fall with just 10 seconds left in the first period.

"Corey went out with the big headlock," Sanderson said. "We've been working on that all week. I thought that was a great to see."

Keener enjoyed recording the fall, but knows there are adjustments to be made.

"Going out with a fall was pretty nice," Keener said. "But, I definitely think I could've opened up a little more and tried scoring more points early in the first period. Ultimately, I was able to get the fall with the headlock."

Making his Rec Hall debut in front of 6,320 fans, the crowd was just like his teammates described to him before he hit the mat.

"It was nice to have that reaction from the crowd," Keener said. "Coming out, it was exciting. It was kind of different, I didn't really have any nerves and it was almost too calm I thought."

Jered Cortez got out to a winning start after jumping to 141 pounds with a 12-6 decision over Austin Harry.

Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Mark Hall, Bo Nickal and Nick Nevills did what they do best - all five won via fall. While Bo Nickal's was the fastest coming in just 26 seconds, it was Jason Nolf who stole the show.

Nolf won in 1:07, utilizing a "secret move." While it was not the same secret move we saw Nickal unleash to beat Rutgers' Nicholas Gravina last year, it was instead a move in which Nolf utilized his legs to take control of Luke Weiland to set up the fall.

"It might've been my first time (ever using it)," Nolf said. "It (comes from) a lot of play wrestling in the room and learning different things."

Cael Sanderson approved as well.

"I enjoyed watching it," Sanderson said. "He knows what he's doing. You may see that again, just guessing, throughout the year. He's getting pretty good at it."

After being unable to wrestle for two years, Anthony Cassar made his Nittany Lion debut at 197 pounds and didn't disappoint with a 10-3 decision over a tough Rocco Caywood.

"I was just excited," Cassar said. "It has been so long of just hard training and getting ready for competition that I really just tried to enjoy it as much as I could."

On media day, heavyweight wrestler Nick Nevills said he wantsedto be a top point scorer for the Nittany Lions this year. He got right on track defeating Bobby Heald via fall in six minutes and 10 seconds.

"We need him," Sanderson said. "He's capable of scoring bonus points, he's very good on top and he can scramble. "We want those guys competing in a friendly way with each other as teammates."

The Nittany Lions next host Bucknell at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Rec Hall.


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