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VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Nico Megaludis (1/27/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (11-0, 6-0 Big Ten) returns to Rec Hall on Sunday for a 2 p.m. bout against No. 10 Michigan (9-1, 4-0 Big Ten). caught up with senior Nico Megaludis this week to talk about his season to date. Megaludis is 20-1 on the season and ranked No. 4 at 125 pounds.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Finishing Shots the Difference for McCutcheon

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The goal of every wrestler is to finish. Finish their match strong. Finish practice strong. Finish their workouts strong.

For sophomore Matt McCutcheon, finishing his shots has been a work in progress since the first day he stepped on campus. And for all of the hard work he has put in during practice, it came to fruition last weekend to the joy of McCutcheon and his coaches, as well.

Finishing was the theme during last Friday's match for McCutcheon and head coach Cael Sanderson has noticed the work McCutcheon has put in to work on finishing his shots.

"[Matt]'s been working on finishing his shots since he got here," said Sanderson. "That's been an issue as a redshirt and even last year getting in on legs, he would have a nice shot but wouldn't finish."

While Sanderson believes that the sophomore made it harder for himself than he needed to against Nebraska's TJ Dudley, he was happy with the way McCutcheon fought back to stand victorious at the end of the night.

"He did a nice job finishing when he really had to. I think he could have finished better a couple times throughout that match when he didn't have to put himself in a position where he was down like that," said Sanderson.

McCutcheon, looking back on last weekend's matches, knew he had a big weekend coming up and is excited about the increase in talent he will be facing down the stretch.

"I knew I had some good matches going in so it was an exciting weekend for me and always looking forward to wrestling the better guys," said McCutcheon. 

Despite going 2-0 on the weekend, including a thrilling, last second upset win over Dudley on Friday night, McCutcheon is still not satisfied at where he is at.

"I gotta find some things I have to improve on and work from there in practice the rest of the week," said McCutcheon.

One of the biggest areas that the sophomore has been working on has been trying to finish his shots.

"One big thing is finishing shots. That was important in my match. I let him scoot the corner on me a couple of times so I had to get back to basics when finishing a shot," said McCutcheon.

Another area McCutcheon has really focused on is riding his opponent tougher. These are the areas, McCutcheon says, if he can shore up now, they won't turn into bigger problems later in the season, which could ultimately be the difference in a win or a loss. 

After missing a couple weeks with back spasms, McCutcheon can gain confidence from these past matches, but moving forward, he still isn't satisfied with how the matches played out.

"It's definitely a confidence builder but at the same time, there were a lot of things that I did wrong in the match and things I need to learn from," said McCutcheon.

The confidence that McCutcheon is gaining isn't going unnoticed, as Sanderson see's the progress the sophomore has been making and is happy where he is at this point in the season.

"Matt's wrestling really well this year. He's confident and he's aggressive. He's looking good and looking strong, so we are real happy where he is right now."

The 184 pounder's key to figuring out his mistakes is by treating every match like a loss and examining his efforts through that perspective. By taking the good with the bad in every match, McCutcheon is able to learn and move on to the next match. The Apollo, Pa. native also has a short memory, putting each match in the past and only moving forward with the the areas where he can improve in. This is a strategy that McCutcheon believes helps him to focus more on the small details.

The Nittany Lions, holding the No. 1 rank since the start, have been wrestling well all season but McCutcheon, just like his teammates, believes that there is always room for improvement, a mindset that keeps the team hungry.

"I think that one thing with our team is that we are always looking to improve and we are supposed to be at our best by the time Nationals come around, so we have a lot of time left to keep getting better on the little things," said McCutcheon.

With three potential top 10 matchups in the upcoming weeks, McCutcheon believes that the coaching staff does a great job of keeping the team motivated through the constant message of improvement and never being satisfied.

"I think our coaching staff is great at picking out the things that each person needs to improve on," said McCutcheon. "I think that we are solid right now, but there's always room for improvement."

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Matt McCutcheon (1/21/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (10-0, 5-0 Big Ten) travels to No. 8 Illinois (9-3, 1-3 Big Ten) for its lone match this weekend. The Lions and Fighting Illini will collide at 4 p.m. on Saturday (BTN). caught up with sophomore Matt McCutcheon this week to talk about his return to the mat against Nebraska and Northwestern. McCutcheon is 12-1 on the season and ranked No. 10 at 184 pounds.

Toughness the Theme for Nittany Lions

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every match takes on a theme of its own. Each one different from the last and while wrestling is mainly an individual sport, the match against Nebraska show the team's true identity.

Friday night's 24-10 victory over the 11th-ranked Cornhuskers was a match highlighted by toughness and determination, qualities that have been instilled by head coach Cael Sanderson since day one and were demonstrated in matches like these.

Friday night was only the fifth time in nine matches that an opponent has scored more than one win in a match against the Nittany Lions this season. Penn State captured seven of the 10 wins, which was largely encouraging for head coach Cael Sanderson, but also a point of emphasis.

"We want to sneak one or two of those obviously, but that's a pretty good team and I think our guys did what they had to do," said Sanderson. "I think they wrestled pretty well. We weren't I feel at our best, but we shouldn't be at our best tonight either."

The test could not have come at a better time for Sanderson's squad. The only other tight dual match this season came early on, when the Nittany Lions recorded a victory at No. 7 Virginia Tech 21-15. Penn State moves into the toughest part of their schedule, as the Blue and White will have road contests against No. 25 Northwestern and No. 8 Illinois, while hosting No. 3 Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan in the coming weeks.

The Nittany Lions tied their lowest bonus point total with two wrestlers, Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford, earning the extra points. While the dominating wins were absent most of the night, Sanderson is still pleased with the grit of his guys, as many of them earned hard fought victories.

"We had some big wins in those tight matches. Matt's [McCutcheon] cutting the guy with 20 seconds left and scoring a takedown on an All-American from last year and a tough opponent," said Sanderson. "That was a big win. Even in the first couple of weights, those guys are tough kids. Our guys finished the matches strong, which is good."

Sanderson, who preaches an aggressive wrestling style and encourages bonus points in every match, realizes that the matchups play a big part in scoring those extra team points.

"We won some close matches, but those bonus points are obviously what we are looking for, but it depends on who's wrestling who," said Sanderson. "A win when it's a big win is great. Zain [Retherford] getting a major was huge because that was probably their [Nebraska] best guy. Matt [McCutcheon] I think beat their other highest ranked guy, so those were big matches."

Retherford, who earned a major decision over No. 5 Jake Suefiohn, reiterated how even though he was dominating in his match, Suefiohn, like the rest of his Cornhusker teammates, kept coming and never made it easy.

"Those guys kept coming forward. It's a tough team and they kept battling," said Retherford. "[Suefiohn] was trying to take me down just as much as I was trying to take him down."

The epitome of Friday night's win over the Cornhuskers was McCutcheon's last second victory over No. 5 TJ Dudley. McCutcheon was even with Dudley through two periods before Dudley tallied an escape with just about 10 seconds remaining.

McCutcheon was forced to change his end of the match strategy after that escape and used that as a learning opportunity for the future.

"I think that I should have tried to ride harder there," said McCutcheon. "I let him have an easy escape and that's something that I need to change, but he got to his feet quick and I had a peek at the time and I knew I had time to score, so I let him go and got back to my leg attacks and got the quick takedown."

The sold out crowd of 6,537 patrons became anxious as the clock was ticking down, but engulfed into roar when McCutcheon scored a last second takedown to earn the victory.

"I wasn't really sure on the time, but I knew I needed to finish the right way. I let my head slip out a few times that match and it's something that I'm going to have to work on later on, but I kept my head under and came out and got the takedown," said McCutcheon. "I wasn't sure how much time was left on the clock, but I knew I had to finish quick."  

The sophomore, who missed the previous two matches due to back spasms, credits the training staff for getting him healthy and back on the mat.

"I have to give a lot of credit to our trainer, who's worked with me day in and day out helping me out and I am really grateful to have him with us," said McCutcheon.

While the win moves the Blue and White to a perfect 9-0 on the season, McCutcheon, like the rest of his teammates, still see's plenty of room for improvement and echoes a statement that reinforces the philosophy of the entire team.

"I think that I still have a lot to improve on from that match, but it's a good win, but I have to go back and fix some things and try and score more points next match," said McCutcheon.

VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Nebraska (1/15/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (9-0, 4-0 Big Ten) battled past No. 11 Nebraska (9-2, 3-2 Big Ten) for a 24-10 victory inside sold out Rec Hall on Friday.

The Nittany Lions won seven of the 10 bouts, including a pair of bonus-point victories from sophomore Zain Retherford (149 pounds) and freshman Jason Nolf (157 pounds). Retherford scored a 12-3 major decision against No. 5 Jake Sueflohn, while Nolf tallied his sixth technical fall win of the season with a 19-3 outcome against No. 17 Tyler Berger. Sophomore Matt McCutcheon sent the standing room only crowd into a frenzy with a dramatic takedown in the final second en route to defeating No. 5 TJ Dudley by a score of 8-7 at 184 pounds.

Head into the media room to hear from head coach Cael Sanderson, Retherford and McCutcheon.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Consistency the Biggest Key for Conaway

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11610478.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - His style may not be as flashy of a style as some of his teammates, but senior Jordan Conaway has quietly been one of Penn State's most consistent and reliable wrestlers.

Ranked No. 5 at 133, Conaway has posted a 15-2 overall record and an 8-0 mark in duals so far this season. The biggest key for his success has been his consistency, which is something that head coach Cael Sanderson has especially noticed this season.

"I think Jordan [Conaway] has been wrestling well and has been getting more aggressive," said Sanderson. "[Conaway] will just keep getting stronger as the year goes on."

Aside from fundamentals, the Abbottstown, Pa., native believes that his stamina is the difference between himself and his competition. Conaway likes to hustle and keep a high pace, which tires out his opponents and makes him stronger as the match goes on. While conditioning plays a huge role in keeping Conaway energized, he also believes that genes have a small role as well.

"Conditioning wise, the training stuff we do helps. Also, I think I am naturally more gifted with stamina. There are some guys that will do the same workout and they might get tired a little quicker," said Conaway. "I think it has to do a little bit with being gifted."

Contributing to his great stamina is the senior's mental toughness, as well.

"On top of that, it's mindset. Even if you are getting a little tired, you still have to use your hands, still have to move and if you are getting tired, then the other guy should be getting more tired," said Conaway.

"That's something we want to see out of him because he's a guy that doesn't get tired," said Sanderson. "He's a guy that could wrestle for hours, but you just have to push the pace and make sure points are being scored early."

Another huge boost for Conaway has been the competitiveness in the wrestling room. Conaway credits being able to wrestle against some of the best wrestlers in the country in practice is what makes him better. The talent level has allowed the senior to improve quicker than normal and he learned many valuable lessons along the way.

"It's definitely made me a lot better. I guess it would be harder to get good at wrestling with partners that aren't as good," said Conaway. "You can still get better, but it may take a little longer. I think through the time I've been here, I've gotten better quicker being here at this program."

Throughout his four years, the most improved part of Conaway's game has been his top wrestling. The senior credits Penn State and the program that is run by Sanderson on helping him improve in every aspect.

Though he wrestled at 133 earlier in his career, bumping up a weight class from 125 to 133 this season has brought a new set of challenges to the All-American. The Southern Scuffle was a great opportunity for Conaway to not only experience that same intensity level as Nationals, but also allowed the 133-pounder to size up the competition he will see at the end of the season. Even with the change, Conaway is focusing just on himself and his style, which he thinks is the key to being successful.

"It's just a different group of guys. They are still tough matches and just wrestling my pace and the way I need to wrestle," said Conaway. "Hustling makes up for a lot of it. I am more focused on what I want to do and just get into my offense when I wrestle."

With Nationals still a couple months away, it is easy for any wrestler to lose focus and sometimes lose sight of the ultimate goal. Conaway noted how great a job the coaching staff does of keeping the team rested to fight off that grind mentality from creeping in their minds around this time of the year.

"Our coaches, the way they have our training set up, I think they do such a great job of giving us time to recover and of giving us off days, so whenever we need to go hard, we go hard. They do a good job of getting us ready so we fresh every time we wrestle."

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Conaway has his eyes set on Madison Square Garden and believes that as long as he just keeps improving everyday, he will shine on collegiate wrestling's biggest stage.

"I'm looking to be a national champion. This is my last time through the collegiate season, so I just want to be the best I can be," said Conaway.

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Jordan Conaway (1/13/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) returns to Rec Hall for the first time Dec. 6 to host No. 11 Nebraska (9-1, 3-1 Big Ten). caught up with senior Jordan Conaway to talk about the start to his season and the team's progress as the Lions continue to build towards March. Conaway is 15-2 overall and 8-0 in duals.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Bo Nickal (1/5/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (6-0) returns to action on Friday with a trip to Purdue. The Lions then travel to Indiana on Sunday to cap off a two-dual weekend.

Penn State heads to Indiana following a dominant performance at the Southern Scuffle. Led by five individual titles, the Lions captured the Southern Scuffle team crown for the sixth-straight season. Redshirt freshman Bo Nickal (174 pounds) was one of Penn State's individual champions. Nickal moved to 17-0 with his efforts at the Southern Scuffle and is now ranked No. 1 in the nation. caught up with Nickal. Take a look here.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Middle of the Lineup Boosts Nittany Lions

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11560347.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sunday's dual against Wisconsin provided the fans at the Bryce Jordan Center some possible foreshadowing of what they can expect not just for the rest of this season, but for years to come.

The middle of the Nittany Lion lineup, which featured Kade Moss subbing in for an injured Jimmy Gulibon followed by Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf gave the fans excitement and multiple times brought the crowd of over 12,000 to their feet in applause.

Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson was pleased with the way his team performed against the 15th-ranked Badgers and thinks the middle of the lineup can set the tone for the team.

"I think overall, we wrestled pretty well. I think we want to score a few more points in a couple of those matches and be a little more aggressive, but overall, our guys wrestled pretty well and some of these guys wrestled really well," said Sanderson. "The guys that are very consistent, Zain, Nolf they are definitely setting an example."

Stepping in for the injured Gulibon was Moss, a sophomore, who was the starter last season at 141 and made his 2015-16 dual debut on the big stage at the BJC.

"Kade [Moss] did a nice job. He wrestled smart and got a takedown at the end of the period in a scramble position," said Sanderson. "Kade's a solid wrestler. He's a guy that we feel good putting him out there."

Moss, who went 17-17 last season, posted a 4-1 victory over the Badgers' Luke Rowh. Moss, who notched his fourth career Big Ten dual victory, kept the Penn State momentum flowing and did not allow Wisconsin to get back in the match.

Retherford entered Sunday on a two-pin win streak and it did not take long to extend that streak to three. The sophomore, who had four total pins in his freshman season, has already registered four pins this year and the biggest difference for that, Retherford thinks, is his mindset.

"I think my freshman year, I was more concerned about riding guys," said Retherford. "Now I want to turn guys, so I am focusing more now on turning than just riding and getting that extra point has been a big difference."

The Benton, Pa., native made the transition from 141 to 149 this season, but he doesn't feel like it's much of an adjustment at this point and is still cutting weight at a similar rate to when he was wrestling at 141.

Retherford was also awarded the Ridge Riley Award for most outstanding wrestler of the match, something that he is excited to win.

A redshirt freshman, Nolf followed Retherford's pin with a fall of his own, which essentially sealed the match and brought the raucous crowd to their feet. Nolf, who tallied his sixth pin of the season, relies on his early takedowns to tire his opponent out, which opens up the opportunity for a pin.

"I just want to score a lot of points, so if I wasn't turning him on top, then I felt that he still had a little energy, so I cut him to take the energy out of him that comes with my snaps and fakes," said Nolf. "I think he tried to hang to get a break sometimes, and then I just snap him off, which makes it a lot easier to get to his legs. I think that definitely helps him get tired."

The lineup that features Retherford and Nolf wrestling back-to-back is tough for opponents to handle and Sanderson believes the duo can shift matches with their styles.

"It gets a little hairy there when you get Zain [Retherford] and [Jason] Nolf back-to-back. We have a pretty good lineup right now," said Sanderson. "We hope it will be a momentum changer in the future. Those are two guys that are really going to represent what we want Penn State wrestling to be."

The two aren't just competitive on the mat against opponents, but also in practice against each other. The two, who according to Nolf were only supposed to wrestle against each other for five minutes at practice a couple of weeks ago, ending up battling for almost 20 minutes before a winner could be determined. This competitive nature between the two helps to get each other wrestling at their best and get ready for match day.

"Nolf is competitive. It's a competitive environment and we both want to do our best," said Retherford. "Every match, we are looking to pin guys, so it's a lot of fun."

"The pace of practice with all of the guys that we have, especially when I wrestle Zain [Retherford] in practice, it gets interesting because we both just want to win so bad," said Nolf. "I like the pace." 

VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Wisconsin (12/13/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (5-0, 1-0) toppled Wisconsin, 36-7, inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday afternoon.

Take a look at pins from Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf, along with post-match interviews following the victory in the Big Ten opener.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


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