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Nittany Lions Prepare For NCAA Showdown

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a second-place finish for Penn State wrestling at the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions have a chance at redemption on the grand stage, the NCAA Tournament.

Just two weeks ago Penn State had three wrestlers make it to the finals, but this weekend the Nittany Lions are seeking more, having taken the last two weeks to prepare for the upcoming three-day event.

"We didn't win the Big Ten, but we didn't come back and panic," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We just got beat. Our guys for the most part wrestled well. But, this is the time. If the team wants to win it's real simple, we just have to go score more points than the next team, there really isn't any secret to it."

For Sanderson, sometimes the Big Ten Tournament is one of the best ways to prepare for a national championship run.

"A lot of times the Big Ten Tournament is the best preparation," Sanderson said. "If you train correctly and you have the right mindset that's great preparation for what we're heading into now.

After freshman Nick Suriano injury defaulted out of the Big Ten Tournament, he received an at-large bid and his teammates say he is ready to go.

"He's looking pretty good," junior Matt McCutcheon said. "He's wrestling hard and he's a tough kid. We're all excited for him and I know he's excited. He's going to go out there and compete as hard as he can and that's all we're going to ask of him"

Zain Retherford is one of two Nittany Lions with the top seed in their bracket, also one of eight Penn State wrestlers heading to St. Louis with a top five seed. With a total of nine NCAA qualifiers, there's little doubt that every wrestler will be ready to go.

"All the kids are pretty fresh and hungry to compete," Retherford said. "There are a couple guys that haven't been there yet so I think they're even fine and they're excited. The energy is good we just have to go do it now."

Vincenzo Joseph will be looking to make a run in his first NCAA tournament and will face a tough test to begin. Joseph will square off with Stanford's Keaton Subjeck, who he lost to earlier this season in his Rec Hall debut.

"I had a feeling that was going to happen so I was pretty excited," Joseph said. "But I just have to take it like another match."

Mark Hall, also true freshman for the Nittany Lions will be appearing in his first NCAA tournament along with Suriano, making him yet another important piece if Penn State wants to win the team title.

"Mark's looking great," Sanderson said. "He really wrestled great in the Big Ten Tournament. He knows he's a gamer and this is the game, this is the big game."

While Penn State may seem like a veteran team, coming off of an NCAA title last year, the Nittany Lions actually only feature three upperclassmen, with just one senior, Jimmy Gulibon. Four wrestlers will make their national tournament debut come Thursday.

"It's pretty exciting," sophomore Nick Nevills said. "I'm really looking forward to getting to wrestle in my first NCAA tournament and represent the Nittany Lions."

Although Nevills will be debuting on the mats, he has been to the NCAA Championships nearly 10 times, first attending the event when he was in seventh grade. Nevills is focused on making minor adjustments leading up to the event, especially coming off a strong showing that the Big Ten Tournament.

"I am who I am and I think you can make really small, minor adjustments," Nevills said. "I don't think you're going to change an entire philosophy or change an entire style over a week and if you did I don't know if that would be helpful. Right now the hay is in the barn and the ship is ready to roll so we just have to roll out."

While the Nittany Lions are set to compete in St. Louis they know they'll have a strong following, and plenty of vocal Penn State supporters in attendance.

"It's awesome when you see the bus loads of people coming out and supporting you in the stands it adds an extra level of excitement for you and it gives you another reason to go out and compete even harder," McCutcheon said. "They traveled everywhere with us this year so a big thanks to them for helping us as a team."

The 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships begin with Session I action at 10 a.m. in the Scottrade Center.

"This has been a great team and we want to finish with a great effort," Sanderson said. "Great moments come from great opportunities, I think this is a great opportunity and we're looking forward to it."

This Week in Penn State Wrestling

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling is healthy, happy and excited heading into the pinnacle of the 2016-17 season, nationals week.

As Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson says, it's a good time to be alive as Penn State preps for the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, seeking its sixth title in the last seven years.

Among nine national qualifiers, Penn State earned eight top five seeds, including two No. 1 seeds. Monday afternoon, Sanderson met with members of the media to preview Penn State's upcoming trip to the Scottrade Center.

Check out a few updates from the media session.

Time to Respond
While Sanderson noted that the Nittany Lions certainly want to win the Big Ten, the big picture both as a team and individually, is winning the national championship, and Penn State won't be spending time dwelling on the Big Ten Tournament.

"I don't think it really changes much," Sanderson said. "Our guys know, you get to pick and choose how you compete, how you're going to think, how you're going to act and you can use that to your advantage and go out there and be at your best or you can allow yourself to be distracted by for whatever reason, by whatever thing, and I think that's one of the great things about sports."

For Sanderson, the key to finding success is simply focusing on one match at a time, scoring one point at time, with the focus now fully shifted toward what's immediately in front of the team.

"I'm excited to see how our guys respond and react and how they choose to compete this week," Sanderson said. "I'm excited just like everyone else is."

On Seedings and Pairings
Although the Nittany Lions know their individual matchups, regardless of seeding and draws though, Sanderson noted that those types of things simply aren't the focus headed into competition.

"We don't focus too much on our draws," Sanderson said. "We do want to be aware of being prepared obviously, not over prepared but ready to go."

Sanderson pointed out that after initially looking at the bracket, he didn't look for the next few days, urging the team to do the same. As natural as it might be to look a little further ahead, every competitor is different in their preparation. 

Freshmen at the NCAAs
Among Penn State's nine national qualifiers, true freshmen Nick Suriano and Mark Hall are poised to make their NCAA debut. Hall completed the Big Ten Tournament with a runner up finish, now seeded No. 5 at 174, set to meet South Dakota State's David Kocer in the first round

Following the tournament, Sanderson noted that Hall proved he has as good a chance as anyone when it comes to title implications.

"He knows, he's a gamer and this is the game, this is the big game," Sanderson said. "Everything has been preparation up to this point. His goal is to win the nationals obviously, and to win as a freshman. He won't be the first if he wins and he won't be the last, freshmen win a lot and they're going to win more and more as we move forward in our sport."

For Sanderson, Hall is the type of Nittany Lion who gets to pick and choose whether or not he wins - all adding to the excitement coming from both Sanderson and Hall. 

Frequent Contenders
With NCAA titles in five of the last six years, Penn State wrestling has seen nearly every tournament scenario, from favorite to underdog and evenly matched. For Sanderson though, each NCAA tournament doesn't make competing for the crown any easier.
 

"It certainly doesn't get any easier," Sanderson said. "I think your expectation and you just expect to win all the time, it's easy as a coach to just focus on winning and losing also, which is something that you don't to do and you don't want your kids focus on winning and losing, you want them focusing on performance and effort and the things that we can control." 

With the potential and the opportunity to win it all for another consecutive season, Penn State will board the plane for St. Louis from Pittsburgh early this afternoon before arriving on location.

TV Coverage
ESPN and its networks will have a host of coverage options for fans throughout the three-day event. 

ESPNU will have live Session I coverage beginning at noon on Thursday, with Session II coverage set for 7 p.m. on ESPN. Friday's Session III championship quarterfinals and consolations will air live on ESPNU at 11 a.m. with Session IV semifinals airing live on ESPN at 8 p.m. 

Saturday's championship medal Round (Session V) will air on ESPNU at 11 a.m. with the finals (Session VI) set for an 8 p.m. start on ESPN.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Nolf, Retherford Highlight B1G Championships

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

Session I Recap (story, video)Session II Recap (story, video)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Penn State's Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf highlighted the 2017 Big Ten Championships with a pair of individual titles on final day of action at Assembly Hall. 

Although edged by Ohio State in the team standings (139.5-130.0), the Nittany Lions emerge with at least eight NCAA qualifiers, who have already shifted the focus toward St. Louis despite the outcome. 

"I thought our guys wrestled really well today, we lost a couple matches but the guys responded and they gave us a chance to get back in and we had a chance to win so I'm proud, they competed with honor and that's what it's all about so I can't complain about that," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. 

Both Nolf and Retherford picked up a pair of honors following their championship wins with Nolf named the 2017 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and Retherford earning 2017 Big Ten Championship Outstanding Wrestler honors. 

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Retherford (149) earned Penn State's first individual crown, nearly shutting out Ohio State's fifth-ranked Micah Jordan, 16-1 for the technical fall. Leading just 2-0 at the end of the first period, Retherford pulled away to finish with the dominating win, moving to 4-0 in Big Ten Championship action with three pins in addition to the technical fall.

"I knew that he took me down twice at the dual meet previously this year, I knew he comes out firing away so I kind of wanted to start off with that tempo and just keep building on it as the match went on," Retherford said. 

Nolf (157) followed with his first Big Ten Championship title, topping Iowa's No. 2 Michael Kemerer, Nolf built a 7-1 lead before time ran out, settling for the 8-2 decision.

"I'm a little disappointed, a little upset with myself because I think I left some points out there and I didn't have very good clock management and I didn't realize how much time was left, I thought I had a little bit more time to score some points and get some bonus points so I'm a little upset I I didn't get any bonus points," Nolf said.

All three Big Ten finalists left Sanderson feeling nothing but pride for the Nittany Lions though.

"Zain and Nolf both wrestled great, tough opponents, just relentless in their attacks and their mindset and consistent so I'm very proud of them - and Mark Hall," Sanderson said. "Mark wrestled a great match, he showed that he can win and in two weeks he could be the national champion, he has got as good a chance as anybody and these matches, he is just going to grow from the experience every time he steps out on the mat."

Hall, who went 2-0 to earn a spot in the finals before he fell short in a tough 6-4 sudden victory loss to third-ranked Bo Jordan from Ohio State to earn a runner up finish in his first Big Ten Championships appearance.

Earlier in the afternoon, Penn State went 4-0 through its four consolation semifinal matches, with all four Nittany Lions advancing to the consolation finals for a shot at a third-place finish. 

Having captured a 7-4 decision on the road at Minnesota against Wanzek in the regular season, Vincenzo Joseph (165) found himself leading by one, 6-5 heading into the final period. Capitalizing on a trip and throw, Joseph pinned Wanzek at the 5:47 mark for his first pin of the event to kick off the second day of competition for the Nittany Lions.

Joseph finished the event at 3-1 after posting a 5-2 decision against Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan for the third-place finish. At 0-0 heading into the second period, Joseph pulled away with a pair of takedowns in the frame and never looked back.

"I knew after I wore him down a little bit I'd be able to start getting to my offense a little bit because he's a veteran, he knows what he is doing, a real tough opponent and I felt like if I could just keep wearing on him I could get some offense," Joseph said.

Matt McCutcheon (197) and Bo Nickal (184) topped Illinois' Emery Parker and Wisconsin's Ricky Robertson, respectively by decision to trim the Penn State deficit in the team standings.

In the consolation finals, McCutcheon used a clutch late reversal to secure a 3-2 tie-breaker against No. 14 Ricky Robertson from Wisconsin for the third-place finish.

"The last time we wrestled he got me in a move on top and pinned me so I just knew I had to get out of there quick and it's something we worked on in the room again and a leg slip and I ended up getting a reversal and just riding him out for a little bit," McCutcheon said.

Nick Nevills closed out the consolation semifinals with his third pin in the two-day stretch, pinning Rutgers' Razohnn Gross at the 3:32 mark. The Nittany Lions had trailed by as many as 22 heading into its consolation bouts before Nevills' pin brought Penn State as close as four.

Jimmy Guilbon surrendered a tough fall at the 1:11 mark to finish eighth, putting Penn State (116.5) behind Ohio State (123.5) by seven in the team standings heading into the finals.

Nickal and Nevills both won their consolation final matches for a pair of third-place finishes between the two.

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As Sanderson noted though, the Nittany Lions competed with honor, generating some needed momentum with the NCAA Championships now clearly in sight.

"I think we're in good shape," Sanderson said. "We knew we were going to have a heavy load to try to win but obviously we were going to give it our best shot and we did and we got beat, so we'll lick our wounds and get ready to roll in another couple of weeks," Sanderson said.

It's all about mindset now though as the Nittany Lions return to Happy Valley ready to get back in the room.

"I think that we're a really good team we just had a couple of things go the wrong way for us," Nolf said. "That's ultimately on us and we're going to make some adjustments to be ready for St. Louis."


Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

2017 Big Ten Championships - Session II Recap

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Session I Recap (Video, Story)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Penn State wrestling moved to second place in the Big Ten Championships team standings after closing out the second session of action Saturday night at Assembly Hall. 

The Nittany Lions (98.5) currently trail Ohio State (117.0), with Iowa slated third (95.0) heading into the final day of the event, which kicks off Sunday at noon.

Session II Standings - Top 5 (wrestlers competing in the finals)
1.  Ohio State - 117.0 - (6 finalists)
2. Penn State - 98.5 (3 finalists)
3. Iowa - 95.0 (4 finalists)
4. Minnesota - 81.0 (1 finalist)
5. Nebraska 0 79.5 (1 finalist) 

With seven wrestlers advancing to the semifinals, Penn State saw three advance to tomorrow's championship finals. Zain Retherford (149) was the first Nittany Lion to secure a spot in the finals, registering his third consecutive pin of the day, pinning Maryland's Alfred Bannister at 6:01. 

9717803.jpeg"He was different, I've never wrestled him before," Retherford said. "A strong kid and physical, so I had to close some distance on him and get to my attacks, get to where I felt comfortable."

Retherford built his advantage to as many as 12-0 heading into the third period before finishing with the pin to give the Nittany Lions an added boost with critical bonus points. 

Retherford, who went 4-0 last year to capture his first Big Ten Championship will now look to defend his title making his third career appearance in the title match.

Fellow No. 1 seed Jason Nolf (157) followed with his second straight pin on the day. Although keeping it close heading into the second period maintaining the edge, 5-4, Nolf managed to double the advantage in the third period before pinning Minnesota's No. 9 Jake Short at the 6:09 mark.

Nolf isn't satisfied though.

"I felt pretty slow, I didn't really get to my attacks as much as I wanted to, that's why I did a little bit better on top, which is what I've been working on, but I need to get back to my attacks," Nolf said following the win.

Amidst the excitement swirling though Assembly Hall, Nolf isn't getting caught up in the buzz. A 2016 Big Ten runner-up, he went up 3-0 in the Big Ten Championships just a year ago with a pin and two techs before falling just short in a close loss to Illinois' then-No. 2 Isaiah Martinez.

This year, earning a spot in the finals still isn't enough.

"It doesn't really matter to me that much, I mean I want to win, but securing a spot doesn't mean anything to me, I want to win," Nolf said.

Along with Retherford and Nolf, true freshman Mark Hall (174) will make his Big Ten finals debut. Shooting out to an early lead with a takedown in the first period, Hall held on to push past Illinois' No. 11 Zach Brunson.

Much like Nolf though, as a collective group, the Nittany Lions are focused on winning, having earned a total of 18.0 bonus points off of nine pins through both sessions. Those critical bonus points will be key in Sunday's final team push. 

"It's a big, big part of it," Retherford said. "We're doing the best we can right now for the team and for each other and it's a lot of fun."

Sunday's Big Ten Championships finals will broadcast live on the Big Ten Network at 3 p.m., with consolations opening the final day of competition.

Up Next

141: #10 Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. - 2nd Seed (1-2) - Consolations (NCAA Qualifier)
Seventh-place: Gulibon vs. Wisconsin's Cole Martin 

149: #1 Zain Retherford, Jr. - 1st Seed (3-0) - Finals (NCAA Qualifier)
Retherford vs. Ohio State's No. 5 Micah Jordan

157: #1 Jason Nolf, So. - 1st Seed (2-0) - Finals (NCAA Qualifier)
Nolf vs. Iowa's No. 2 Michael Kemerer

165: #4 Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. - 4th Seed (1-1) - Consolations (NCAA Qualifier)
Joseph vs. Minnesota's No. 15 Nick Wanzek

174: #5 Mark Hall, Fr. - 2nd Seed (2-0) - Finals (NCAA Qualifier)
Hall vs. Ohio State's No. 3 Bo Jordan

184: #2 Bo Nickal, So. - 1st Seed (1-1) - Consolations (NCAA Qualifier)
Nickal vs. Illinois' No. 11 Emery Parker

197: #7 Matt McCutcheon, Jr. - 4th Seed (1-1) - Consolations (NCAA Qualifier)
McCutcheon vs. Wisconsin's No. 14 Ricky Robertson 

285: #3 Nick Nevills, So. - 3rd Seed (2-1) - Consolations
Nevills vs. Rutgers' Razohnn Gross

 Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

2017 Big Ten Championships - Session I Recap

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Penn State wrestling officially opened the 2017 Big Ten Championships, wrapping up the first session with a total of seven pins. Currently slotted first in the standings, the Nittany Lions highlighted the quarterfinals with five pins to take ahold of first place (70.0), just two points ahead ahead of Ohio State (68.0).

Session I Standings - Top 5
1. Penn State - 70.0
2. Ohio State - 68.0
3. Iowa - 57.5
4. Minnesota - 55.5
5. Michigan - 47. 0 

"The guys are wrestling tough, we had a lot of first round byes, which is unfortunate but our guys came through in the second round and in the first round obviously," assistant coach Jake Varner said. "We got a lot of bonus points, which is good, and then you get that extra point with the bye so we had a couple of tough ones but our guys came out and wrestled tough and did the job."

Zain Retherford and Nick Nevills opened with a pair of pins in the first round. Retherford earned the fall at the 6:12 mark against Purdue's Nate Limmex before pinning Michigan State's Nick Trimble at the 4:45 mark in the quarterfinals.

"The first pin was against the Michigan's Dan Perry, I haven't wrestled him before, just went out there and got a few takedowns," Nevills said.

Nevills also closed out the quarterfinals pinning Illinois' Brooks Black at the 4:45 mark for Penn State's fifth quarterfinal fall, boosting the Nittany Lions to the top of the standings.

"I was just talking to our coach and that second bonus point fall put us back in the lead, we were down for a little bit," Nevills said. "All the guys, everyone are trying to get bonus points and really trying to do it for the team. I think I'm wrestling well and I'm pretty excited."

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Bo Nickal, Jason Nolf and Mark Hall all pinned their quarterfinal opponents with Hall pinning Purdue's Jacob Morrissey in less than 30 seconds.

"Going out there and trying to get a major is great, but these guys are going out there trying to get pins so you have Zain and Bo and Nolf and those guys going out and getting pins, Nevills getting pins, so all of our guys are wrestling tough and they're looking to score points, which is going to put bonus points up there," Varner said. 

Looking ahead, Retherford (149), Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Hall (174), Nickal (184), Matt McCutcheon (197) and Nevills (285) will all represent the Nitany Lions in the semifinals. Session II begins at 6 p.m. with consolation matches taking place before semifinals. Jimmy Gulibon (141) will represent the Nittany Lions in the consolation round.

Up Next

141: #10 Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. - 2nd Seed - Second Round Consolations
Gulibon vs. Michigan's Sal Profaci

149: #1 Zain Retherford, Jr. - 1st Seed - Semifinals
Retherford vs. Maryland's Alfred Bannister

157: #1 Jason Nolf, So. - 1st Seed - Semifinals
Nolf vs. Minnesota's No. 9 Jake Short

165: #4 Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. - 4th Seed - Semifinals
Joseph vs. Illinois' No. 1 Isaiah Martinez

174: #5 Mark Hall, Fr. - 2nd Seed - Semifinals
Hall vs. Illinois' No. 11 Zac Brunson

184: #2 Bo Nickal, So. - 1st Seed - Semifinals
Nickal vs. Ohio State's No. 8 Myles Martin 

197: #7 Matt McCutcheon, Jr. - 4th Seed - Semifinals
McCutcheon vs. Minnesota's No. 2 Brett Pfarr

285: #3 Nick Nevills, So. - 3rd Seed - Semifinals
Nevills vs. Wisconsin's Connor Medbery 

 Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Youth, Veterans Prep for B1G Championships

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Big Ten Championships just days away, Penn State wrestlers are preparing for an opportunity to win their sixth Big Ten title in the last seven years.

Penn State will have 10 wrestlers competing in Bloomington, joining Wisconsin as one of only two Big Ten schools to feature all of their starters. 

"The Big Ten is very strong there's no doubt about that," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "So winning the Big Ten conference means a lot and it's important. History shows the Big Ten conference does really well especially as of late, so we wouldn't want to be anywhere else or in any other conference."

Penn State returns two of last year's Big Ten Champions in Zain Retherford and Bo Nickal, who will most likely have a No. 1 seed along with Jason Nolf, a runner-up from last season. Penn State will also return seven wrestlers to the tournament in total.

"I'm just feeling excited, and ready to go," sophomore Bo Nickal said. "I'm excited to compete and get the post season rolling for sure. I'm just doing what my coaches tell me to, staying focused and taking care of business pretty much." 

True freshmen Nick Suriano and Mark Hall finished off the dual season with a combined 40-4 record, both losing just two matches throughout the season. Additionally, both are ranked in the top five according to InterMat. While the freshmen duo will be on the Big Ten tournament stage for the first time, it isn't like they haven't been in the spotlight before.

"Those guys, they've competed on the biggest venues in the country and in the world," Nickal said. "So I don't think they'll have any issues with it or anything like that. I'm excited to watch them wrestle because they're great competitors and I enjoy watching them a lot."

Mark Hall, who burned his redshirt more than halfway through the season, finished 6-1 in duals with the lone loss coming in his first dual in a raucous Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

"He's grown a lot," Sanderson said. "His conditioning is a lot better than when he first stepped out on the mat for us. So we've seen that and his technique, he's just getting better. Last week in practice he looked great, shots looked good, he looked sharp, and he's a gamer. He's a guy that has been at his best whenever you need him to be his whole life and it will be no different this go-around." 

Although Nick Nevills will be back to the tournament for a second time, this year's trip will be much different than last. Last season Nevills was only back to competitive wrestling for a few weeks after an injury, going 1-2 in the tournament.

"I just enjoyed the process this whole year," Nevills said. "I've enjoyed going to practice every day and I'm looking forward to wrestling this weekend and at the NCAAs and just having a lot of fun with it and enjoying myself getting to actually go through that process. I just have to go out there and keep doing what I've been doing. I've been scoring points and I think that's what I have to do to be able to win at the highest level. Just continue to try to improve on small minute details that I can polish over and carry myself to get those wins that I didn't get earlier in the year."

Jimmy Gulibon, who has been on a tear as of late will be representing Penn State at 141 pounds. Gulibon is looking to make some noise in his final season with plenty of work left out on the mat.

"I'm trying not to think about [my last season] too much," senior Jimmy Gulibon said. "There's still some matches to be wrestled. I'm going to go out and I'm going to enjoy it. I just [need to] stay relaxed, wrestle my pace and try to wrestle the way I wrestle matches." 

Wrestling begins with Session I at 10 a.m. on Saturday in Assembly Hall and continues into Sunday. 

This Week in Penn State Wrestling

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling hosted its weekly media availability Monday afternoon in preparation for its trip to the 2017 Big Ten Championships, hosted by Indiana March 4-5 in Bloomington.


Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson kicked off the media session meeting with a host of media members at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex. For Sanderson, the focus right now is all about preparing the top-ranked Nittany Lions to be at their best this weekend, coming off an undefeated season capped off by a Big Ten regular season title as well as the 2017 NWCA dual championship crown. 


Check out a few takeaways from media session. 


Big Ten=Big Opportunity
Competing in the Big Ten has made all the difference in helping prepare the Nittany Lions to be at their best when March arrives. Arguably the nation's toughest conference, it's not just the ample amount of talent that's instrumental in helping Penn State pique at just the right time.


"I think it's the steel sharpens steel mentality," Sanderson said. "Especially the way we compete, we're competing on a Friday, Sunday and then we're usually traveling home Monday and then we have another match on Friday."


Due to the conference dual meet schedule rotating, Penn State completed a Big Ten slate that featured five duals on the road and four at home, with trips to ninth-ranked Minnesota, sixth-ranked Nebraska, third-ranked Iowa, third-ranked Ohio State and No. 13 Wisconsin along the way.


The Nolf Psyche
One of three Nittany Lions in the starting lineup with an undefeated record this season (19-0), Penn State's Jason Nolf has highlighted the 2017 campaign with 11 pins. With a fearless approach, Nolf's relentless pursuit to score points is what sets him apart.


"The sky's the limit if you're willing to try new things, and being fearless is very rare," Sanderson said. "You can't really shake him up. He gives up a takedown, he keeps wrestling, he gives up two takedowns, he keeps wrestling and if a guy's going to keep wrestling like that for seven minutes, it's going to be tough to beat him."


Hall's Growth
Since stepping into the starting lineup at 174 pounds on the road at Iowa, Penn State's Mark Hall has put together a 6-1 dual record, including a 5-1 mark in conference outings. For Sanderson, his progress has been evident across the board, as he highlighted just a few of the areas of growth this season.


"His conditioning is a lot better than it was when he first stepped out on the mat for us and when you believe in your conditioning you're going to be wrestling differently," Sanderson said.


Travel Plans
Penn State hits the road Thursday in anticipation for Session I competition, which kicks off Saturday at 10 a.m. in Assembly Hall. Sanderson noted that the Nittany Lion schedule will feature a lot of running and stadium workouts in preparation, but nothing out of the ordinary. 


Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Lions Roll to B1G Championship

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a Big Ten dual title within reach Penn State wrestling didn't squander its opportunity. The Nittany Lions finished the regular season with a dominant 45-6 win against Maryland on senior day. 

True freshman Nick Suriano opened competition with a tech fall win over Michael Beck before Triston Law dropped a tough match by fall. Up next at 141, Jimmy Gulibon, Penn State's only starting senior, gave Penn State the lead in the third bout of the day, sparking just the momentum the Nittany Lions needed. The 9-4 win against Ryan Diehl marks Gulibon's sixth straight.

"He's extremely committed and dedicated," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He's a guy that won't eat a 'Cheeto', even in the summer. He has incredible ability and he's as fast as anyone I've ever coached, but speed alone won't win. It would be great to see Jimmy finish the season on a strong note, and be happy and get up on the podium real high. It makes me smile just thinking about it, I'd just love to see him finish strong."

With the year-long one match at a time approach on the minds of the Nittany Lions, junior Zain Retherford says Gulibon is just as ready for the postseason as the rest of the team. 

"He's ready to go," Retherford said. "I think our whole team feels pretty fresh for this time of the year. I think our coaches do a really good job of that. Jimmy's the same way, he's looking good out there and he's ready now. If March is now he's ready."

The energy continued to surge in Rec Hall as Penn State rattled off five straight pins, with each one bringing the Rec Hall crowd of 6,661, a season high, to their feet. 

Retherford collected his team-leading 13th pin while Jason Nolf captured his 11th of the season. Following a tough Friday loss to top-ranked Isaiah Martinez, Vincenzo Joseph responded with his first pin of the season in just under four minutes. Freshman Mark Hall then quickly won by fall at the 1:14 mark with his 11th pin, before Bo Nickal finished off the streak with his 12th pin in 2:08. 

"Bonus points are always a part of winning in the postseason and winning dual meets so we need our guys looking for those extra points," Sanderson said. "So that's good, that's what we want and they feed off of each other in those situations. That's what we need going into Big Ten's and the national tournament." 

At halftime, Penn State took the time to celebrate and honor the contributions of its former wrestling lettermen. A group surrounding the mat was introduced one-by-one to a large roar from the crowd.

"I can't explain why the passion and the support and the fire is still there with a lot of our alumni but it's like that throughout all of Penn State University," Sanderson said. "That's one of the things, if not the thing, that makes Penn State really stand out in my mind coming from a different school. Just the support and the passion, you see it in the football games and it trickles into every sport. When your alumni are around all the time, it sets a great standard for the kids that they're going to be around when they graduate."

Penn State also hoisted the Big Ten regular season (dual meet) trophy in a special postmatch ceremony at the middle of the mat to celebrate the Nittany Lions' fourth title, earned outright this season.

Earning the top spot in the in the Big Ten conference, the top-ranked Nittany Lions will now head to Stillwater, Oklahoma to meet No. 2 Oklahoma State in the 2017 NWCA Dual Championship Series. One of even in the the annual dual meet events, kicks off Sunday, Feb. 19 at at 4 p.m. ET in Gallagher-Iba Arena. For more on the event, click here.

Hall Highlights Illinois Victory at Home

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Consistency has been a strong suit for top-ranked Penn State wrestling and nothing changed Friday night as the Nittany Lions rolled to a 34-7 victory against Illinois.

The match began at 125 pounds and and true freshman Nick Suriano continued to show why he is one of the top wrestlers in his weight class. Suriano jumped out to a 6-2 lead after the first period and continued to pour on the pressure for a 17-6 major decision against Travis Piotrowski.

"I'm just thinking about scoring points and putting the pressure on guys," Suriano said. "I feel like my offense and my confidence increase every match and I'm feeling real good. I'm training to win gold in March and I've got the best partners and coaches. I'm wrestling the best guys in the room every week and I'm getting better." 

Jimmy Gulibon also continued his winning ways with a 10-2 major decision against Mousa Jodeh, while Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf each recorded bonus point victories against ranked opponents.

The marquee matchup was at 165 pounds with fourth-ranked Vincenzo Joseph taking on top-ranked Isaiah Martinez and the bout did not disappoint. Trailing 3-1 with just seconds left, Joseph tried to shoot in on Martinez, but the two-time NCAA champion held strong and came out of the scramble with a takedown for the 5-1 decision.

"I thought it was a good match," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We've got to go get that take down and find a way to get that takedown. Martinez is obviously hard to score on and is very good at scrambling if you get to his legs. I think Joseph comes away confident feeling like he could've won that match." 

After the tough loss for Joseph, another true freshman, Mark Hall hit the mat for his first performance in front of the Rec Hall crowd. Hall masterfully put together a 16-1 tech fall win in full time against No. 12 Zac Brunson, emphatically pumping his arms up to get the crowd louder before heading off the mat. 

"I wish I could wrestle in front of that crowd all day," Hall said. "But, I'm just doing my part and working to score as many points as I can, no matter what position and that's what it all comes down to. I was a little hesitant first period getting my shots. I was scoring off his shots and when I got on top I was just being a hammer on top and scoring points from there. Really after that scramble on the edge of the mat and wrestling through that was when I was like I can compete with anyone and everyone in this weight class."  

Bo Nickal added another win this season with an 18-5 major decision against Emery Parker, while Matt McCutcheon grinded out a 3-1 decision at 197. Nick Nevills avenged last season's loss to Brooks Black with a 5-0 decision to end the dual.

"[Nick Nevills] has made a lot of progress," Sanderson said. "More than anything he's just strong and healthy, he's confident in his body. We would've liked to see him attack a little bit more but he did a nice job and beat a tough kid tonight." 

The Nittany Lions are back in action Sunday at 2 p.m. when they host the Maryland Terrapins. Penn State will also be celebrating senior night in their final home dual of the season. 

This Week in Penn State Wrestling

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By Brandon Pelter, GGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Determination and grit are two qualities that separate a class of wrestlers from the rest, and two qualities that Penn State wrestling simply isn't lacking. 

This year, Penn State sophomore George Carpenter is just one of the Nittany Lions in the lineup who consistently brings his all when stepping foot on to the mat.

"I just focus on my effort," Carpenter said. "I just do the best I can. That's really all you can do."

Carpenter was thrust into the Nittany Lion starting lineup at 133 pounds after Jered Cortez was sidelined with an injury. Making his debut against Binghamton, he rolled to a 17-2 tech fall win against the Bearcats' Ian Lupole. Since then, he has faced some of the top wrestlers in the country including Iowa's Corey Clark, Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello and Nebraska's Eric Montoya. 

"I do my best to improve with every opportunity that I have," Carpenter said. "I like to think I've improved quite a bit."

Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson also noted that Carpenter's hard work extends off the mat too.

"George is a fighter," Sanderson said. "He's been a little outmatched but he's running back to the center and he's going to give it his best effort. That says a lot about a person. Just things bigger than wrestling, and obviously there are a lot of things bigger than wrestling, and one of them is just your attitude and your effort and he's doing a great job. His effort is great and we're proud of him."

A member of the team in each of the last three seasons, Carpenter redshirted in his first season in 2014-15 wrestling unattached, before wrestling in open tournaments last season. Carpenter, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina native, has another tough task ahead of him Friday night when he'll face sixth-ranked Zane Richards of Illinois.

Postseason Approaching
The start of February marks the near end of the regular season for the Nittany Lions. Penn State wrestles just three more matches before gearing up for a busy month of March featuring both the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

"I think our guys are wrestling well," Sanderson said. "We've certainly been tested with the best and we have little things that we can improve upon and that's always our focus, individually and as a team. But overall, we're pleased. We're always trying to focus on the positives. If you're focusing on the things we aren't doing right then you drive yourself crazy, but there is a reality that we have to improve some of those things. I think we're doing a lot of things really well right now." 

Redshirt junior Matt McCutcheon isn't new to the postseason grind though, and is ready to make a run this year.

"I think I'm more confident than I ever was," McCutcheon said. "I'm just going to go out there and score as much as possible and just have fun. Some guys don't compete as well when it comes to big tournaments and big matches, but I think our team is going to be relaxed and I'll be relaxed going out there and I think that's going to be very important." 

McCutcheon noted that for newcomers, like freshman Nick Suriano, it's all about staying relaxed and having fun.

"I think Suriano is obviously doing very well," McCutcheon said. "He's one of the top guys in the country and he's going out there and wrestling relaxed and I think you can tell that from the difference between his first match and now. You see him going out there and scoring a lot of points just like last match, he got a tech against a guy who's very good. I think that's just because he's trusting in the coaches and going out there and wrestling more relaxed and is opening up."

The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall this weekend for a pair of Big Ten duals hosting the Illinois Fighting Illini Friday, Feb. 10 before closing out the weekend welcoming the Maryland Terrapins Sunday, Feb. 12 on senior day.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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