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VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Oklahoma State (2/20/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind three pins, the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (16-0, 9-0 Big Ten) won the NWCA Dual Championship series title with a 29-18 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma State (13-3) inside sold out Rec Hall on Sunday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions claimed victories in six of the 10 bouts, including four wins featuring bonus points. Penn State tallied three pins - Nico Megaludis, Jason Nolf and Morgan McIntosh, and one technical fall - Bo Nickal en route to the dual national title.

With the dual season now complete, the Nittany Lions scored an undefeated season (no losses and no ties) for the first time since the 1971-72 season. Now, the team shifts focus towards the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City (March 5-6). Take a look at highlights from Sunday's win and hear from the Nittany Lions in the post-match press conference.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Lions Set to Host Oklahoma State For Dual Championship

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11703891.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Oklahoma State will square off this Sunday to determine who is the best dual meet team in the country in the first-ever NWCA Dual Meet Championship Series.

The first dual meet series pits the top eight Big Ten teams against the eight highest ranked conference winners. The winner of Sunday's dual match will be deemed as the 2016 NWCA Dual Meet Champion, as the Nittany Lions and the Cowboys are the highest ranked teams.

For the 21st time, the Nittany Lions and Cowboys will meet on the mat. While Oklahoma State owns a 13-6-1 edge in the series, the two have split the last two meetings, with Oklahoma State winning a tight match last season 21-18. Being unsure of who head coach Cael Sanderson's squad would be wrestling until Monday, Sanderson knew that whoever the opponent was, the team had to wrestle their best they have all season.

"They are all great times whether it's Oklahoma State or North Carolina State or Missouri," said Sanderson. "They are all great teams and we have to wrestle and be at our best regardless of who it is."

Having a chance to avenge their loss from last season, Sanderson is excited for this opportunity and is also thankful to be in this position where his team has a chance to be named the best dual team in the country.

"Oklahoma State has a great team. We wrestled them the last two years and we split with them. It's a very good team," said Sanderson. "We are excited for the opportunity obviously and grateful for the opportunity. Our guys really had a great year and they earned the opportunity to wrestle in the national championship dual, so that's the first of its kind so that's exciting and something that we are looking forward too."

Having a postseason dual like this has also brought up many other discussion questions, including the one of having a Big Ten dual championship. Splitting the regular season Big Ten championship with Iowa, the talk of having a regular season championship has been thrown around. Sanderson believes wrestling should model the conference split like football does, with an east and west division and having the winner of each wrestle for the title of Big Ten dual champion.

"Obviously, we need to a legitimate Big Ten champion and I don't think anybody wants to share a championship, but it's easier said than done," said Sanderson. "We meet every year and we talk about the same things every year as the coaches in the Big Ten."

The biggest risk in doing this is just extending what is an already long season. With wrestling being a different sport than football in regards to wrestlers trying to manage their weight, Sanderson believes this idea is easier said than done.

"The season is already long enough and when you start adding more and more dates, that's kind of the issue. You don't want a championship season to be two months long either," said Sanderson. "You don't want a Big Ten championship, then the dual championship, then the other Big Ten championship, at least that's my opinion. It's easier said than done when you're just adding more and more competitions."

Another tricky situation about having the dual championship is how close the match falls to Big Tens and Nationals. It is tough to move it up earlier because then you start to eliminate non-conference matches in November and December, which is something that Sanderson does not want to give up as his teams have wrestled some of the best teams outside of the Big Ten in the country. While the goal is to win the dual meet championship this weekend, Sanderson also has his sights set on the overall goal of the program, which is to be wrestling their best at Big Tens and Nationals.

"The main goal is a Big Ten championship for us and the national championship," said Sanderson. "This week is a real tough training week for us and next week is a real tough training week for us as we are getting ready for the Big Ten's and Nationals, but we want to be at our best and we want to finish this season strong with the dual meet championship and we have an excellent team coming in that's hungry and wants the same thing we want."

Oklahoma State enters Sunday with nine potential wrestlers ranked in the top 20. The Cowboys have two grapplers ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes, led by two-time national champion Alex Dieringer at 165 and All-American Dean Heil at 141. With the rotation of Shakur Rasheed and Geno Morelli at 165, Sanderson has a big decision to make not just for Sunday, but for the rest of the season as well. 

"Dieringer is pretty good and two-time national champion, so it's a challenge for anybody that wrestles him," said Sanderson. "We are still playing with that weight class, but we are getting close, but it could be something we decide a week before the conference meet."

The biggest key for the Nittany Lions is confidence. Sanderson preaches to his team that you have to build confidence first before anything else and if you wait for confidence to come to you, you will get in trouble on the mat. If his team can go out and wrestle with confidence throughout the postseason, the sixth year coach is confident in the results that should come.

"Well if you go out and wrestle and do what you do everyday, it can build your confidence," said Sanderson. "You don't have to wait for everything to clear out and you just do what you know is right, and confidence comes. My encouragement would be just do what you know is right, do the right thing, wrestle the way you know and hustle and attitude and effort and confidence comes after that." 

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Nick Nevills (2/16/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (15-0, 9-0 Big Ten) will host No. 2 Oklahoma State (12-2) in the 2016 NWCA Dual Meet Championship Series title event on Sunday at 5 p.m. inside Rec Hall (BTN). caught up with freshman Nick Nevills this week to talk about his first two matches for the Nittany Lions. Nevills went 1-1 over the weekend and is now ranked No. 16 at 285 pounds.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Seniors Spark Big Ten-Clinching Win Over Spartans

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the final time in their regular season dual meet careers, Nico Megaludis, Jordan Conaway and Morgan McIntosh took to the Rec Hall mat in their blue and white Penn State singlets on Saturday.

For head coach Cael Sanderson, this group has meant a lot, as the trio has combined for 297 wins, seven All-American laurels and three national championships.

"They are all special in their own way, but I mean they are all just very consistent and quality all the way around. Guys that obviously we are going to miss," said Sanderson. "They've continued to get better and have continued just to do great things. They've had a lot of success in their careers as a team and as individuals."

Megaludis started the festivities off strong, tallying six takedowns in his 17-5 major decision over Mitch Rogaliner. The redshirt senior has set the tone for the Nittany Lions this season, which is something that Megaludis has done so well throughout his entire career.

"Nico, we talk about Nico all the time. From the first match to the last match, he's the same," said Sanderson. "He's going full speed ahead and has been a tremendous leadoff guy for us. All three, especially Nico, is a 3.5 plus student and going to be very successful in life."

Following the major decision, Conaway brought the capacity crowd to arguably the loudest it would be all night, pinning Garth Yenter at the 5:59 mark. The pin was just the second this season for the senior and the fifth of his Nittany Lion career. While Conaway is not a pinner, Sanderson isn't surprised by the outcome because the Abbottstown, Pa., native is peaking at the right time.

"I don't know if I was surprised. He's wrestling really well right now and he doesn't get a lot of pins, but we like him to get more, especially in this last month," said Sanderson.

For Sanderson, Conaway has been one of his favorite guys to coach because of the attitude the senior approaches every match with. Calling him a gamer, Sanderson says how Conaway doesn't get frustrated when a match doesn't go to plan and instead of panicking, he just keeps wrestling his style.

"If he gives up a takedown, he doesn't get frustrated and he just keeps wrestling. If things don't go perfectly as planned, he doesn't get frustrated and he just keeps wrestling," said Sanderson. "Those are the guys that are obviously the most fun to coach. Just a big heart and he's meant a lot to the program, but it's nice to see that big pin."

When looking at the past four years, Sanderson raves about Conaway's character and even went as far as saying if he had a daughter, she would want him to date a person like Conaway.

"Conaway is just a great kid. If you have a daughter, you want her to date him," said Sanderson. "He's just a great kid and works hard everyday and has had a lot of success and we are glad he came to Penn State."

The Nittany Lions hit their groove after the Conaway pin, as Zain Retherford tallied a 24-9 technical fall and Jason Nolf put the match away with a first period pin, his second in two days. McIntosh brought the sold out Rec Hall crowd to their feet one more time, pinning Jacob Cooper at 4:22. For McIntosh, the pin was extra special because he finally nailed a half, something that he's been working a lot on in practice.

"A half was always one of my favorite moves growing up, but I never really narrowed it down and got it to the point where I could do it to anyone, but it's something I've been working on and coach Cael has a great half series and he's been working with me on it," said McIntosh. "I'm just looking forward to Big Ten's and Nationals, where I can use those turns there and score bonus points for the team."

For the Santa Ana, Calif., native, one of the biggest things he will miss about wrestling for Penn State is the fan support the team receives every match. The most impressive part of the fan base for McIntosh is how far they travel to watch the Nittany Lions wrestle, which he attests is due to the style of wrestling the coaches preach to the team. 

"It's pretty cool. I don't think I could say enough about the fan base that we have. Growing up in California, we have great high school wrestling out there but no big programs like this, so I was never able to go to a big match like we have here and see the type of fan base that throughout our programs like this," said McIntosh.

For Sanderson, having McIntosh on the team has meant a lot to him, realizing the senior traveled across the country to wrestle for his squad.

"Morgan, he came all the way from California to wrestle at Penn State and was all the way across the country from his family and that means a lot to us," said Sanderson.

With the Big Ten Championships and Nationals just a few weeks away, McIntosh has his eye on the true prize and is happy to be on a team as talented as this one for his last go around. Being on a rebuilding team last season, the drive is even higher to win a national championship with this team this season.

"I am very grateful to be on a team like this for my senior year and I think we are going to win the title and I think everybody on the team is on the same page and they think so too," said McIntosh. "It's pretty cool to know that it's not over this year and it's going to get better and better after I leave. It's going to be fun to watch in these next couple of years."

VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Michigan State (2/13/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of a packed house inside Rec Hall, the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (15-0, 9-0 Big Ten) clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a dominant 41-3 effort against Michigan State (1-13, 1-8 Big Ten) on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions claimed victories in nine of the 10 bouts, including six wins featuring bonus points. Penn State tallied three pins - Jordan Conaway, Jason Nolf and Morgan McIntosh, two technical falls - Zain Retherford and Bo Nickal, and a major decision - Nico Megaludis.

Penn State's three seniors shined in on Senior Night to help fuel the Lions to a share of the conference crown. Take a look through highlights from seniors Megaludis, Conaway and McIntosh and all of the team's pins, in addition to post-match remarks from the media room.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Senior Day to Honor Nittany Lion Wrestlers

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With senior day Saturday against Michigan State (7 p.m.), this Nittany Lion wrestling senior class, including Nico Megaludis, Jordan Conaway and Morgan McIntosh, has been integral in a tremendous run of success.

While this class, especially Megaludis and McIntosh, has been a part of three national championship teams, head coach Cael Sanderson labeled that what they bring off the mat as their biggest contributions.

"This is a real strong class. Not only our superstar guys, but just a great class of kids, great students," said Sanderson. "Our team GPA, we've been in the top 10 pretty much every year in the nation and that's a reflection of them and they are just good kids that come from good families. It's tough to think they are seniors and we won't have them again."

The trio has combined for 292 career wins and seven All-American nods. Given all of the success, it is tough for the seniors to leave the place that has made them so successful. With a match as emotional as senior day, Conaway is still taking Saturday's match against Michigan State just as he would any other match.

"Excited as always. Can't believe it's already coming to a close here, but I'm going to treat it as any other match and just go out there and have fun," said Conaway.

For McIntosh, Saturday isn't a day he's been thinking about too much because the thought of leaving this team is a depressing thought for the senior.

"Honestly, I'm trying not to think about it a whole lot because I know it will make me kind of sad," said McIntosh. "I'm trying to look forward to it and just trying to enjoy every minute that I have left."

Senior day is more than just about celebrating the senior class and what they have accomplished during their time in a Penn State singlet, as it also has a big impact on the underclassmen as well. For redshirt freshman standout Jason Nolf, he's losing not just a great teammate, but a friend and mentor off the mat.

"[Morgan's] been a great role model for me and he's been there for me if I ever needed anything," said Nolf. "It's been awesome living with him."

While still looking for his first individual national title, leading his team to its sixth national championship is the ultimate goal for the Santa Ana, Calif. native.

"Ultimately I want to win a national title for our team and to win it this year in my last year going out with a bunch of young guys like this would be awesome," said McIntosh. "I just know that this is a really special team and there's not a lot of teams out there that can have guys like this, young guys come up and step right up and automatically be in the hunt for an individual national title, so it would be great."

While the senior is still working on soaking in every last moment of his time here, McIntosh still plans on sticking around after graduation and perfecting his craft.

"As of right now, that is my plan to stick around and wrestle freestyle," said McIntosh. "I don't think there's any other better place to do that than here. I'm pretty fortunate to be able to do that and looking forward to making the transition into freestyle. Right now, my plan is to go down to 186, but we will see."

Before the festivities of senior day begin at Rec Hall on Saturday night, the No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions will travel to Bethlehem, Pa. to grapple with the 14th-ranked Lehigh Mountain Hawks Friday night. With the back-to-back matches, Sanderson believes that his team shouldn't be tired because of the intensity they bring to practice everyday.

"You hope they come back out there with that fire and a lot of that is going to come down to the individuals and the consistency that they choose to bring to practice everyday and to every match," said Sanderson. "We have a team that just likes to compete, but we certainly want to make sure that they are excited and fired up because your next match is always your most important match of your career. This Lehigh match is a big match for us and we want to go in there and wrestle well."

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Jason Nolf (2/9/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (13-0, 8-0 Big Ten) returns to action on Friday for a sold out dual against No. 14 Lehigh. Penn State hosts Senior Day on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. caught up with freshman Jason Nolf this week to talk about his season to date. Nolf is 23-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Toughness, Atmosphere Spark Nittany Lions to Victory

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Off the mat distractions can derail even the best teams and wrestlers. Hosting the much anticipated dual meet against the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in a sold out Bryce Jordan Center could have provided enough fanfare for the Nittany Lions to get caught up in. 

Penn State stayed focused and more importantly tough, as they earned a hard fought 24-14 victory. With another win against a very tough opponent, head coach Cael Sanderson was pleased with the effort from his team.

"I think overall, we wrestled well. That's a tough team and a tough team to score points on," said head coach Cael Sanderson. "Every win was big. Bo [Nickal]'s win was big. Matt [McCutcheon]'s win was big. We needed bonus points from Zain [Retherford] and also Nolf and they went out there and got that done. We needed bonus points from McIntosh and he got that done."

The biggest difference in the Nittany Lions keeping their record unblemished was not only wrestling hard for the full seven minutes, but wrestling an aggressive style as well.  

"Every one of our guys are wrestling through and using every second, so I am happy with the way they are wrestling and when you are wrestling and taking more shots, you get better faster," said Sanderson. "It's just the way it works. If you take 20 shots a match, you are going to get a lot better than if you take two. If you do that every day and do that in practice every day, it will change the way you compete."  

With so many tough matches throughout the night, the aggressive style that the Nittany Lions wrestled with proved to be a big factor in pulling out some of the wins. For Bo Nickal, who used a big third period that included two takedowns and four near fall points, his mindset never waivered from the aggressive style. 

"Well I don't think that how our coaches coach us to wrestle and how we like to wrestle as a team has anything to do with being passive," said Nickal. "Going through my head, I was just thinking like wrestle and keep doing how I do everyday in the practice room and stuff. I don't think that any of us like to keep it close or back up and do anything like that so, we just wrestle how we do everyday."

The match that Sanderson believes was one of the biggest was the second bout of the dual, as Jordan Conaway's win pulled the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes even at three team points apiece.

"That was a big match obviously if you are looking at the match by match," said Sanderson. "If we don't win that match, it gets a lot tougher to win the dual. [Conaway] did a great job and all of our guys wrestled hard. They move forward and they try and score points. They do it because they love it and want to be the best that they can be." 

The match did not start in Conaway's favor, as the senior faced an early 4-0 deficit. Not panicking, Conaway was able to keep wrestling and turn the momentum in his favor.

"That was huge because those four points were real early and it looked like Jordan was going to have a hard time getting off the bottom, so things weren't looking real good," said Sanderson. "DiJulius is real tricky obviously and very good at what he does, but Jordan is a fighter and he's going to keep wrestling the whole time."

Playing a big factor in Conaway's eventual 8-4 decision as well as other matches was the conditioning of the Nittany Lions. Buckeye wrestlers were visibly tired at the end of matches, which is something Sanderson and the team pride themselves on. 

"We are confident in our conditioning," said Sanderson. "We think these guys can wrestle, keep wrestling and score points and I think that's more of an attitude and conditioning comes along with that attitude because you have to wrestle like that in practice every day. Conditioning will always be a factor for us."

Matt McCutcheon, who returned for the first time since being injured at Illinois two weeks ago, had extra motivation for this match. Last season, McCutcheon fell to Kenny Courts at Nationals in sudden victory fashion. Riding out Courts for most of the match, the sophomore was able to revenge his loss and made his postgame interview that much sweeter. 

"It means a lot. Last year, I thought about that match for a long time and this one was important to me, so coming back, it was pretty important to get back," said McCutcheon. You have your team going out there scoring points, it makes you want to go out there and score points, so it was pretty important to get back for this match." 

Wrestling for the second time this season across the street at the Bryce Jordan Center, the atmosphere was as electric as any of the wrestlers have seen before. Packing in the sold out arena with 15,983 fans, Sanderson believes that is a testament to the wrestling style his team wrestles with, which makes it exciting to watch and keeps the fans coming back.

"I think our guys are doing a good job of really wrestling aggressively, so they are fun to watch," said Sanderson. "They are good kids and humble kids. Win or lose, they are going to be the same. They want to win, but they are going to fight to win."

Not only are the fans loud and passionate, the supporters are knowledgeable and have a real sense of what is going on. McCutcheon believes that the Nittany Lion supporters are the best fans in the country, which makes wrestling at Penn State so special. McCutcheon cites how the fans appreciate the effort level and even if the results don't go in their favor, the crowd is still supportive. Sanderson also recognizes the passion and support that surrounds his team, as getting stuck in traffic trying to get to the match made him realize the swarms of people that came out to support his squad.

"Pennsylvania wrestling is huge at all levels, at the youth level, at the high school level and at the collegiate level," said Sanderson. "The fans know what they are looking at and they love good wrestling. I think we want to make Pa. proud."

VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Ohio State (2/5/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nearly 16,000 fans packed the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday evening to watch the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (13-0, 8-0 Big Ten) power past No. 3 Ohio State (9-3, 6-2) by a scored of 24-14.

The Nittany Lions claimed victories in six of the 10 matches, including a pin from No. 1 Zain Retherford (149 pounds), a technical fall from Morgan McIntosh (197 pounds), a major decision from No. 1 Jason Nolf (157 pounds) and a come-from-behind victory from No. 5 Jordan Conaway (133 pounds).

After the Buckeyes scored a tight win in the opening bout, Conaway stromed from 4-0 down for an 8-4 decision at 133 pounds. The Nittany Lions won three of the next four bouts and never looked back from there.

Watch highlights from the buzzing atmosphere inside the sold out BJC and head into the media room for remarks from head coach Cael Sanderson, Conaway, Nolf and Matt McCutcheon.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Competitiveness Helps Rasheed Step Up at 165

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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