Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com 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.