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Penn State Ready for B1G Competition

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Set to return to action following nearly a month off from competition, Penn State wrestling hits the road to kick off its Big Ten slate. The first week of conference competition features a pair of Big Ten road duals, beginning with No. 12 Minnesota Friday and Nebraska Sunday. 

Ahead of the trip, Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson and junior All-American national champion Zain Retherford joined the Penn State Coaches Show to give fans a quick look ahead in anticipation of the long awaited upcoming road duals. 

Check out a few highlights from the pair of live radio segments.

Unexpected Time Off
Inclement weather forced the Nittany Lions to cancel their trip to Reno, Nevada for the Reno Tournament of Champions, originally set for Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Although an unfortunate event that Sanderson said he has never experienced in his coaching career, he's confident the extra time off won't have a negative impact come Friday.

"It's a little tricky, you want to compete and it's a lot easier to gauge where you are when you're competing but these guys go long periods of time without competing for freestyle so they're used to that," Sanderson said. "They'll be ready to go, we have two great tests this weekend."

Looking at the Minnesota Lineup
Sanderson noted that the Golden Gophers have talent at every weight class, but the challenge of opening with such a tough conference opponent is something the Nittany Lions are certainly looking forward to, especially early on in the season.

"I think Minnesota is a real good team, I think people just thought maybe they were down because of last year, but they had a great group of recruits redshirting and some very strong kids still in the program like [Brett] Pfarr and other guys throughout the lineup," Sanderson said. 

Minnesota's Pfarr will matchup with Penn State junior Matt McCutcheon, who has been working to perfect the move to 197. Pfarr is currently ranked No. 2 at 197, while McCutcheon is ranked No. 13 at 8-0 on the year. 

"McCutcheon just has to do what he does well, he has wrestled very well at 197, I think he feels a lot better, he's stronger, his health has been better," Sanderson said. "Really it's just a big weekend for him. I'm looking forward to seeing where Matt is with these top guys. He has beaten some good guys but these are title contender type of guys, so a big weekend for McCutcheon for these guys, no doubt about it."

Looking Past Minnesota
Following the Golden Gophers, Sunday brings another upcoming potential highlight matchup, pairing Penn State's Bo Nickal and Nebraska's TJ Dudley. Nickal is currently ranked No. 2 at 8-0 on the year, while Dudley is ranked No. 3 at 184. Nickal is also coming off of a dominant showing in Penn State's 46-0 win against Binghamton, downing No. 13 Steve Schneider in an 18-7 major in front of another one of Rec Hall's signature sold out crowds.

"Dudley's a tough kid and he's obviously very strong, has the ability to score a lot of points and Bo's just going to be Bo," Sanderson said. "He's going to go do what he does and especially since it's the first time they'll meet. It's a good opportunity to Bo to wrestle, you're talking about a returning NCAA finalist from last year at that weight class and a great opportunity for Bo." 

A B1G Conference
Since 2007, a Big Ten team has won the NCAA DI team national championship in each year. Largely paced by the Nittany Lions' five titles in the last six years, the Big Ten conference has become established in the national spotlight.

"It's gotten tough up and down the conference and obviously it's a positive and its something where kids want to wrestle in the Big Ten conference," Sanderson said.

Bonus Points
Along with Retherford and Nickal, add in Jason Nolf (157) and the Nittany Lion trio is a nearly unstoppable group when it comes to bonus points. At a combined 26-0 on the year led by Retherford and Nolf's 9-0 marks, the three have accounted for 21 pins, four tech falls and one major. 

"It's fun, my goal is to do my best and if pinning is my best then - I know that Nolf and Bo are the same exact way so it's a lot of fun competing that way," Retherford said.

Retherford's Routine
Retherford also took some time to share a little piece of his pre-competition routine. 
First up, is a little bit of a work out to enter weigh in warm, but then after that, less is more for Retherford.

"Some guys are different, they can drink a chocolate milk or eat a sandwich or something, I feel all bloated if I do that when I try to wrestle, so less is more I'll have some Gatorade or something, maybe an apple and then I'm pretty good," Retherford said.

Right after the 125 bout, Retherford pairs up with Nolf for another warmup session.

"We just kind of grab each other behind the scenes and just get each other's heart rates up and ready to go, sweating a little bit and then jump right out there," Retherford said.

Surging Suriano
Someone who had just as stellar of a true freshman season as what Nittany Lion Nick Suriano is already putting together, Retherford has been impressed with the poise of the newcomer.

"You never have to worry about him not being ready for a match," Retherford said. "He's always ready to go and he's just loving every second of it, I see great things out of him." 

Suriano, one of six starters heading into the Big Ten opener unbeaten on the year, will get his first experience with conference competition. At 8-0 this season and ranked No. 4 at 125, Suriano will match up against Minnesota's Ethan Lizak, who is ranked No. 6, coming off of a standout performance at the Southern Scuffle.

Friday's match time is set for 8 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion before the Nittany Lions meet the Huskers for a 3 p.m. match in Lincoln. 

Nolf Continuing Consistency in 2016-17

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By Brandon Pelter, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Jason Nolf has already seen success with the Nittany Lions after finishing 33-2 with 15 pins as runner-up for the NCAA title at 157 pounds just one year ago. This season, Nolf is off to another great start.

Ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds, Nolf is undefeated thus far with a 9-0 record including six pins and three tech falls. Combined with teammates Bo Nickal and Zain Retherford, the trio has tallied 21 pins on the year.

"I think it's just believing in your training and doing what we do every day, the same way we do it every day," Nolf said. "Just coming into practice and working hard that shows on the mat whenever you go out there and just pretty much believing in yourself and not leaving anything back."

Nolf will join 14 teammates this weekend at the Reno Tournament of Champions this Sunday in Reno, Nevada for a one-day tournament instead of going to the two-day Southern Scuffle which the team has been a part of in years past.

"I don't really change anything," Nolf said about his approach for the one-day tournament. "Our coaches just lead us and I believe in what our coaches stand for and what they're telling us to do. We already had the Keystone Classic tournament and that was one day so we're ready for whatever. We're ready to go today."

Head coach Cael Sanderson is looking forward to seeing some top competition at upcoming tournament in Reno.

"There are a lot of good teams, a lot of good individuals," Sanderson said. "We're just looking to compete like always and I want to keep moving forward, getting better, and looking at the little things we can improve on. It's the same old story. Wrestle with some fire and some enthusiasm and go into this break feeling good about ourselves, that's the plan." 

While some might find it a difficult pressure situation to compete multiple times a day, Nolf enjoys the grind of a one-day tournament.

"I don't really think of it as pressure though, I like it, I like the grind," Nolf said. "I think throughout the day I just keep getting better and better."

After the tournament, Nolf will head home for eight days to spend some time with family for the holidays but that doesn't mean time off. Nolf plans to practice with his old team and make sure he stays in shape.

"It's not necessarily taking time off," Nolf said. It's just away from Penn State wrestling. I'll go back to maybe Young Guns practice back in Franklin Regional and maybe a couple of other practices, but I'll get some time to rest and see my family so it should be good." 

Sanderson also noted that time away from Happy Valley simply means that the team will continue to work out during their time home.

"They're pretty disciplined, they know what they need to do," Sanderson said. "Some of them will work out more than others, but we aren't going to call them up every day and be on them. It's good for them to get a little break, they'll get some work in, and it's good for them to go home. A lot of them go home and workout with their high school buddies or their high school buddies that are now wrestling at other colleges or go back to their high school practices. So it's a good break for them but they'll still workout and train."

Following the Reno Tournament of Champions and the holiday break the Nittany Lions hit the road with Big Ten conference wrestling beginning. Penn State first travels to Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers Friday, Jan. 6, then to Nebraska on Sunday, Jan. 8. Following the trip the Nittany Lions returns home to Rec Hall on Friday, Jan. 13 to face Rutgers at 7 p.m.

Catch up with Sanderson ahead of the trip to Reno and check in for updates on some new facility features at the Lorenzo Wrestling complex.

Carpenter Highlights Binghamton Shutout

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By Brandon Pelter, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bonus points were the theme of the day, as the Nittany Lions captured a 46-0 win against Binghamton Sunday afternoon at Rec Hall. In nine of 10 bouts Penn State wrestlers scored bonus points, including three pins, winning all 10 matches on the way to a shutout victory to improve to 4-0 this season.

Nick Suriano continued his domination with a 12-2 win over Steve Bulzomi at 125 pounds. At 133 pounds, it was a new face in the Nittany Lions lineup as George Carpenter made his dual meet debut.

Carpenter wrestled Ian Lupole of Binghamton who landed the first shot for a takedown, but just moments later Carpenter responded with a takedown of his own. Taking a 3-2 lead to the second period, Carpenter wouldn't be taken down again, landing two more takedowns and accumulating eight near fall points throughout the rest of the match on his way to an impressive 17-2 technical fall victory.

"He looked great," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "Our fans, our crowd, they appreciate effort and hustle, and that's what George is. He gave up the first takedown and then came back and just kept fighting. He got the second takedown and the crowd was just excited about the effort he put into it, which was what we like to see. George did a great job."

Carpenter was happy to finally experience a dual meet on the mat.

"It's pretty exciting," Carpenter said. "It's a great opportunity and I'm grateful for the coaches giving me the opportunity. I'm just thinking about wrestling while I'm out there, but as soon as it was done I couldn't help but smile seeing everybody and seeing all the fans."

At 141 pounds an aggressive Jimmy Gulibon was on display, winning 12-3 against Dylan Caruana, while the ever-consistent, Zain Retherford at 149 pounds and Jason Nolf at 157 pounds, recorded pins at 2:39 and 3:48, respectively.

At 174 pounds, Geno Morelli turned in a dominating performance with a 22-9 major decision. Morelli had four takedowns in the first period alone on his way to nine total takedowns in addition to 2:07 of riding time.

Bo Nickal, who has continued to flourish this season, won 18-7 by major decision. While Nickal improves to 8-0 on the year, he snaps an impressive seven-match pin streak, slipping behind Retherford (8) for the team lead.

Nick Nevills dominated at heavyweight with a win against Connor Calkins. Nevills tallied 11 points, including three takedowns and four near fall points before registering his third pin of the year at 3:57 to close out the shutout victory.

"I continue to try to get better at things throughout the week," Nevills said. I try to practice it in the room and out there in the match. I've been working on different things with Coach Varner, Coach Cunningham and Coach Cael, and when you get to wrestle with guys like that all the time and the guys we have on the team you're always going to continue to improve."

Coach Sanderson thought the dual provided the team with a chance to improve on aspects they've been working on in practice.

"It's just another opportunity to compete and another opportunity to, like Nick [Nevills] said, try things you're working on," Sanderson said. "You're just trying to get better every match that's the plan whether we're wrestling Binghamton or a Big Ten opponent, it's the same mentality and same consistency."

Next Sunday, 15 Nittany Lions will hit the road, traveling to the Reno Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nevada, allowing Sanderson another look at some of the weight classes that still have wrestlers working for a spot.

Suriano Making an Immediate Impact

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By Brandon Pelter, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Success is nothing new for Penn State wrestling's true freshman Nick Suriano. The 125-pound wrestler, who went 159-0 in high school, is currently 7-0 for the Nittany Lions and is already making an impact in the lineup. 

Suriano takes the reins at 125 after former Nittany Lion Nico Megaludis, who won a national championship in his senior season prior to graduation. Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson sees the similarities in the dedicated approach and work ethic between the two. 

"[Suriano and Megaludis] are really similar in that way," Sanderson said. "Nick is a guy you have to kind of drag him out of the gym every day." "But he's coachable, he understands that and that's half the battle."

The Paramus, New Jersey native hasn't seen any struggles in his transition from high school to DI athletics. Suriano has solidified himself as a consistent presence in Penn State's lineup, rising as one of the top contenders in the country.

"He has a great feel for the sport so he makes adjustments quickly," Sanderson said. "Even in his match on Sunday he was close to scoring early in the match and then in the second period he hit a similar position but finished it differently, so he just has the ability to adjust in his matches and he figures things out. That's pretty rare, that doesn't happen a lot."

Already identified as unique, Suriano also heads into Sunday's outing against Binghamton without surrendering a single takedown to an opponent with a perfect 7-0 record on the year. 

"He has that gift and you add that gift with the tenacity and the mental toughness and the fortitude, discipline and endurance he's just got a lot going for him," Sanderson said.

So far this season, Suriano has two marquee dual meet wins against Stanford's Connor Schram and Lehigh's Darian Cruz, both top 10 ranked opponents at the time, helping him to a No. 4 ranking at 125 pounds. Although both wins were decisions, 3-0 over Schram and 7-0 over Cruz, Suriano dominated his opponents, controlling the match.

"I want the best of the best," Suriano said. "I'm chasing my goals and I need to beat the best to be the best. I know I have to climb up the ranks and prove to people. I know in my heart where I belong and I just need to go out and prove it." 

When you're a part of one of the best programs in the country there are plenty of mentors and experienced veterans around the program willing to help, and Suriano has been able to take advantage of the opportunity.

"I have a ton of mentors here," Suriano said. "Obviously, Coach Cael, who I think is the greatest wrestler ever, and Zain Retherford, who I really look up to, and all the guys on the team - Bo [Nickal], Jason Nolf, Nico, I look up to a lot of those guys. Zain is a guy who I can relate to how we wrestle - strong, firm and forward. I try to pick his brain whenever I can."

For Suriano and Retherford, sometimes those moments together aren't always spent talking about wrestling.

"We're always talking," Suriano said. "We're usually talking about food and some different stuff, not just wrestling. We have our own little kicks and like I said, whenever I can pick Zain's head and learn from him that's when I'm only going to get better. As you can see what he's doing out there, dominating guys, and putting people away, that's what I'm going to be doing and that's what we train for."

Suriano, who has plenty of more time in a Nittany Lion singlet, also has a few other career goals in mind.

"I like watching MMA and I love UFC and following that," Suriano said. "One of my ultimate goals is to be a UFC champ, that's something you might not know. After my wrestling career, I can chase all that stuff."  

Suriano and the rest of the third-ranked Nittany Lions return to action against Binghamton at 2 p.m. Sunday in Rec Hall. 

"I train hard, this is my main focus of the day - to train and just be a machine. I go after guys better than me, bigger than me, older than me, I don't care who they are it's just trying to get better."

Catch up with Coach Sanderson as he looks ahead to Penn State's upcoming outing in Rec Hall.     

BLOG: Consistency Helps Penn State Past Lehigh

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling continued its dominance at Sunday's Bryce Jordan Center Dual, defeating ninth-ranked Lehigh in front of more than 15,000 fans.

"I think overall we wrestled pretty good," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I think that's a good team, a top 10 dual team for sure. I think they're going to beat some good teams this year, tough all the way up and down their lineup for the most part." 

Although true freshman Nick Suriano opened the afternoon with an impressive victory against sixth-ranked Lehigh junior Darian Cruz, the Nittany Lions were trailing 7-3 after a pair of losses at 133 and 141 for Nittany Lions Jered Cortez and Jimmy Guliabon.

Suriano, who has been a spark for the Nittany Lions all season, handed Cruz, an All-American, his first loss of the season.

"That was big," Sanderson said. "When you have a leadoff man who is consistent and their effort is consistent and their mindset is consistent, I think that's a huge blessing to the program. So, we're very happy, blessed and grateful to have Nick as our leadoff man."

When first asked about his first collegiate outing in the packed venue, Suriano made no mention of his dominant performance, focusing rather on the opportunity.

"This arena is unbelievable," Suriano said. "We were just talking about it before, Rec Hall is a little more personal, fans are a little louder and a little more uptight, but this is the kind of atmosphere I train for and this is what Penn State offers and it's awesome. Beating a ranked guy, it doesn't matter it's just getting out to wrestle for me, is wonderful in this environment."

Penn State's top-ranked Zain Retherford shifted the momentum for the Nittany Lions, pinning ninth-ranked Laike Gardner to remain unbeaten on the season.

At 184, third-ranked Bo Nickal registered his seventh consecutive pin of the season, downing Kyle Gentile at the 2:35 marker. 

For Nickal, he simply credited his success this season to a focused approach on one match at at time.

"I'm just having fun," Nickal said, "I love wrestling, so every time I get to go out there I'm just competing with gratitude."

Along with Retherford and Nickal, Penn State cruised to the 30-10 final score with Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Matt McCutcheon (197) and Nick Nevills (285) all clinching wins.

At 3-0 on the season, Penn State returns to action Sunday, Dec. 11, hosting Binghamton at 2 p.m. in Rec Hall.

This Week in Penn State Wrestling - 12/1/2016

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Nickal Building on Success in 2016
By Brandon Pelter, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Success is nothing new for Penn State sophomore Bo Nickal. Last season wrestling at 174 pounds, Nickal finished with an impressive 33-2 record as an All-American runner-up for the NCAA title. Through two dual meets and a tournament this season at 184 pounds, Nickal isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

"Nothing has really changed," Nickal said regarding the weight class change. "Just the same thing, sticking to the plan, staying consistent. I worked on moving forward, pressure and stuff like that so I'm wrestling the same and just having fun. Doing what I do." 

On The Mat
After eight pins last season, Nickal is already closing in on that number with six pins through six bouts this season.

Not only is Nickal in competition with wrestlers from around the country at other schools, but also with some of his own teammates. 

"[Bo Nickal, Zain Retherford, and Jason Nolf] want to see each other get pins and help the team succeed, but obviously, there's fun in competing for those types of stats," Sanderson said. "We want to see all of our guys compete like that, but in a friendly way." 

While pinning opponents has become routine, it certainly isn't always an expectation. 

"Well I hate to say you expect [a pin]," Sanderson said. "But those guys have been there in those positions and those situations and are obviously very good and they have experience under their belts. So you kind of know what you have going out there and Bo is a guy that pins so I don't want to say we expected it, it's still exciting and it's a challenge for him." 

With the lone Bryce Jordan Center dual meet of the season upcoming against Lehigh, Nickal is excited for another shot to wrestle on the BJC stage.

"The BJC is awesome," Nickal said. "It's unlike any environment that I've ever wrestled in. It's incredible and I'm just super excited to get back and wrestle in front of a sellout crowd. It's going to be a lot of fun for sure."

Off The Mat
With many Penn State student athletes participating in Giving Tuesday, Nickal and the wrestling team are no different, and they try to give back to the surrounding community throughout the year.  

"We like to do a lot with our community and stay involved," Nickal said. "They give us so much support so it only makes sense to just give a little back to them through the youth program, working with the kids and stuff like that and volunteering. I know a lot of our guys are involved in SAAB and do a lot of volunteering through that so we try to stay active."

While many might expect one of the nation's top wrestlers to constantly be in the gym, he finds some time away for hobbies. One of which he shares with some teammates as well.

"I play a lot of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale and stuff like that," Nickal said with a grin. "So I'm into video games a little bit." 

Nickal looks to build on his strong start Sunday at noon when the Nittany Lions host Lehigh in the Bryce Jordan Center. Nickal will have a probable matchup against freshman Kyle Gentile who is 1-2 this season. 

Check out more updates from Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson below.

This Week in Penn State Wrestling - 11/16/16

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off a dominant home opening win against Stanford last week, Penn State wrestling is set to head to Penn for the Keystone Classic Sunday, Nov. 20 at the historic Palestra. 

The Nittany Lions will not only send their starting lineup to compete, but will also add an addition nine more wrestlers in the event. This week, we caught up with Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson and Nittany Lion Zain Retherford for an update. 

Check out updates from each Q&A session below.

Cael Sanderson Zain Retherford

BLOG: Nittany Lions Shine in Opener

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By Brandon Pelter, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A standing ovation was how the No. 4 Nittany Lions (2-0) were welcomed into Rec Hall for their first home dual meet of the season after beating Army on Friday 45-0. Moments before the match began, the Nittany Lions hoisted the 2015-16 NCAA national championship and Big Ten championship banners into the rafters.

The meet was highlighted by four pins for the Nittany Lions, who beat No. 12 Stanford (1-1) handily 36-6.  

"Anytime we're wrestling we want guys looking for bonus points," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We have some guys that are great at pinning, but Stanford has a good team and they're solid all the way up and down their lineup."

After Vincenzo Joseph lost 18-12 to start the meet at 165 pounds, Geno Morelli knotted the score at three with a decision victory of his own, 6-3 over No. 13 Jim Wilson.

"That was the first time I've ever wrestled besides later in the match," Morelli said. "I kind of liked it. You don't think about it as much and I felt more relaxed today and anytime you can get the momentum rolling it's good. I feel good about where I'm headed. It's a process and I think being relaxed tonight helped me a little bit more."

Next, Bo Nickal took to the mat, wrestling Austin Flores at 184 pounds. Nickal dominated, recording nine takedowns and four near-fall points, capping it off with a pin 6:21 into the bout.

"Well I hate to say you expect [a pin]," Sanderson said. "But those guys have been there in those positions and those situations and are obviously very good and they have experience under their belts. So you kind of know what you have going out there and Bo is a guy that pins so I don't want to say we expected it, it's still exciting and it's a challenge for him."

At the intermission, Penn State held a 15-3 lead after Matt McCutcheon and Nick Nevills won by decision 3-2 and 3-1.

Nick Suriano led things off after the break at 125 pounds wrestling All-American Connor Schram. After a quiet first period, Suriano escaped to begin the second and the second stall called on Schram gave Suriano a 2-0 lead. In the third, Suriano rode out Schram to accumulate 1:56 of riding time to secure a 3-0 decision victory over a quality opponent.

 "I was just riding and sticking it to him and putting pressure on him," Suriano said. "I felt him tiring. He was a strong, big opponent, but I felt him weaken in the third and I was just going to keep him down there and wasn't going to let him out."

Suriano was excited for his first match in Rec Hall.

"It was an awesome experience," Suriano said. "The crowd was unbelievable like I expected. It was a tough opponent my first time here but it was awesome. To represent Penn State here is unbelievable, it's what I've dreamed of."

Next at 133 pounds, Jered Cortez continued his winning ways with a pin just 2:40 into the first period in his first official collegiate debut, having missed last year due to transfer eligibility rules. Cortez dominated with two takedowns and six near-fall points.

Penn State's Zain Retherford at 149 pounds and Jason Nolf at 157 pounds closed out the dual meet with two pins of their own as well. Retherford pinned Stanford junior Tommy Pawelski 2:16 into the first period. Nolf battled and was tied with Paul Fox at five after the first period, but Nolf then exploded totaling 10 takedowns before his second pin in as many matches with 44 seconds left in the third period.

"When our guys are wrestling for the team more than themselves they're going to wrestle better," Sanderson said. "That's something that we've been blessed with for the last couple of years and we need to keep that going."

The Nittany Lions are back in action at 9 a.m. Sunday Nov. 20 on the road at the Keystone Classic at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We have a lot to build off of," Sanderson said. "And it's a lot more fun and easier to build off of success than not."

Penn State Wrestling Season Preview - Cael Sanderson

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another season of Penn State wrestling has nearly arrived, as the Nittany Lions are set for a split dual meet weekend to kick off the 2016-17 season. Big Ten and NCAA national champions in five of the last six seasons, the Nittany Lions travel to Army West Point Friday, Nov. 11 before returning home to Rec Hall to host Stanford Sunday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. 

With a mix of youth and veteran experience, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson's team includes 10 Nittany Lions ranked within InterMat's preseason top 20, as well a possible eight underclassmen who could compete in the starting lineup this year. 

Ahead of the trip to Army West Point, Sanderson sat down with for a one-on-one session to talk 2016-17 and the excitement for the upcoming season. 

Wrestling Media Day Recap

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By Brandon Pelter, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With wrestling season less than two weeks away, head coach Cael Sanderson spoke with the media for the first time leading up to the start of the 2016-17 campaign. The defending national champion Nittany Lions are looking for their sixth national title in the last seven years.

The summer brought no time off for the Penn State coaching staff, as this particular summer was magnified with the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Sanderson thinks the Olympic Games can assist his coaching staff and his team.

 "It's good for us as coaches to be around the best coaches and the best wrestling in the world," Sanderson said. "Although it's one of the oldest sports, it continues to evolve; technique, tactic, strategy."

Two members of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club competed in the Olympic Games and provide an advantage for Penn State's collegiate wrestlers.

"Having guys like Frank Molinaro and Franklin Gomez training in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club is very valuable," Sanderson said. "Our college kids are walking around and training side by side with Olympians, world medalists, Olympic champions. I think that gives you a lot of confidence." 

At 125 pounds the Nittany Lions lost four-time All-American and last season's NCAA champion, Nico Megaludis, who graduated. Filling in will be Nick Suriano, a true freshman from Paramus, New Jersey. Suriano won four New Jersey state championships and posted a 159-0 record. 

"I've been here all summer so I had a little jump," Suriano said. "That was great for me. I was training, lifting, going with the club guys, so it was great, I'm a lot better. It's going to be great, I can't wait to show what I can do to my fans at Penn State and to my personal fans at home. It's going to be awesome." 

At 133 pounds Jered Cortez, a University of Illinois transfer, will represent Penn State. Cortez redshirted during his 2014-15 campaign with the Fighting Illini and was not allowed to compete last year as a collegian because he transferred within the Big Ten conference. Last season Cortez went 12-0 in open tournaments, with one pin and three tech falls. 

As of right now at 141 pounds senior Jimmy Gulibon will get the first try at the spot. Gulibon earned All-America honors two years ago wrestling at 133 pounds. Last season wrestling at 141, Gulibon went 2-2 at the NCAA tournament. 

"I would say Gulibon has the advantage there but there are certainly a few different guys challenging him for that spot," Sanderson said. "That's healthy for our program and it will work itself out."

There are no surprises when it comes to the Nittany Lion starter at 149 pounds. Zain Retherford, a redshirt junior and one of the top wrestlers in the country will look to add another national championship after an undefeated season last year. Retherford was also the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler and the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year after recording 15 falls, eight tech falls and seven majors. 

But for Retherford, it isn't about his past accomplishments.

"This is a new year and a new opportunity for me to reach my goals," Retherford said. "That's what I plan to do this year."

The Nittany Lions don't have any questions at 157 pounds either with All-American Jason Nolf in the lineup. Nolf finished last season second at the national championships with a 33-2 overall record. The only two losses were to Isaiah Martinez, an eventual national champion, but Nolf did pin Martinez in their first meeting during a dual meet. 

Penn State could also see another new face in the lineup for Penn State at 165 pounds with Vincenzo Joseph possibly getting the starting nod. The redshirt freshman from Pittsburgh went 11-0 in open tournaments during his redshirt season last year with three pins, five tech falls and a major. Joseph won two-straight Pennsylvania state titles during his last two years in high school. 

"He's another freshman and a guy we have confidence in," Sanderson said. "He had a very good year last year and we know he was a big time recruit for us."

There are still question marks at 174 pounds with Bo Nickal on the move. Senior Geno Morelli, who went 2-2 at his first NCAA tournament at 165 pounds last year will be competing with Shakur Rasheed for the spot.   

"He really did some amazing things but was just in the wrong weight class last year at 165," Sanderson said of Rasheed. "We still don't know what he's capable of. He's very competitive, and talented, works very hard."

After an impressive freshman campaign Bo Nickal has made the jump to 184 pounds and will compete with Matt McCutcheon for the spot. McCutcheon, a red-shirt junior, is a two-time NCAA qualifier, while Nickal was the runner-up at 174 pounds in his redshirt freshman season with the Nittany Lions. Nickal went 33-2 last season and accumulated eight falls, seven tech falls, and eight majors.

The Nittany Lions lost Morgan McIntosh, last year's NCAA champion at 197 pounds, to graduation and will look to redshirt freshman Kellen Stout to fill the void. Stout went 11-3 wrestling in open tournaments last year mostly at 184. Anthony Cassar is also battling Stout for the position, but is still recovering from an injury and is still weeks away, according to Sanderson. 

Rounding out the Nittany Lions' lineup is heavyweight Nick Nevills who has high expectations after setback with injuries. Nevills was in Penn State's lineup toward the end of the season last year and posted a 6-3 record and did not qualify for the NCAA tournament. 

The Nittany Lions also added Jake Varner to the coaching staff this offseason. Varner, a 2010 Iowa State graduate, will join Sanderson's staff along with assistants Casey Cunningham and Cody Sanderson. 

Penn State beings their season at Army, Friday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. The Nittany Lions debut at home is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, against Stanford. 


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