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Feb. 2, 2012
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The second-ranked Penn State wrestling squad will compete in two dual matches this coming weekend, but the team actually has three challenges that lie ahead in that same time period.
The Nittany Lions' first challenge presents itself on Friday at 8 p.m. when they take on No. 7 Nebraska for the first time since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten.
After that, the Penn State grapplers will have just a day's rest before facing another conference foe, No. 12 Michigan, on Sunday at 2 p.m.
And the third challenge - the Lions will be in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday night when they meet the Cornhuskers, but are set to square off against the Wolverines in none other than their own Rec Hall. In one weekend, the Nittany Lions will be wrestling in two places that are separated by more than 1,000 miles.
But according to the wrestlers who have immersed themselves in the Penn State program and embraced the teachings of head coach Cael Sanderson, challenges are always welcome.
Redshirt junior Quentin Wright said that he and his teammates came to Penn State because they are anxious wrestlers, looking for any and every chance they can find to not only have a good time but also prove themselves as competitors.
"We want to be in those high-pressure matches," said Wright. "We want to be in those situations and we as a team, we thrive on that competition of knocking off the number one and the number two guy or any time you've got a good opponent."
The Nittany Lions carry seven ranked wrestlers in their starting lineup of ten headed into this weekend's Big Ten test. Nebraska will showcase six ranked athletes of its own while Michigan boasts another seven top wrestlers.
Wright and his teammates repeatedly admit that they don't pay much attention to whether or not an opponent is ranked No. 1 or not at all, but they do enjoy the thrill of going up against tough competition.
"Having somebody test you in your skills, that's why we come to Penn State and we wanted to be a part of that because we love those situations," said Wright.
With a record of 9-1 overall and a 5-1 mark in the Big Ten, it makes sense that Wright also describes how he and the Lions rely on consistency and careful preparation before every dual meet.
"It's the little things that win the matches," said Wright. "As long as we have a plan about what we need to eat, when we need to eat it and how much we need to warm up, once we do those little things the big things will take care of themselves."
Coach Sanderson and his team of decorated assistant coaches have done their homework and know what they are up against this weekend.
Nebraska has notched 14 wins already this season and has only lost one match, which they rendered to Iowa less than three weeks ago. The Cornhuskers boast five starting wrestlers who are ranked within the top ten at their individual weights, and are set to feature four freshmen, one sophomore, three juniors and two seniors on Friday night.
Michigan has wrestled just nine matches this year with a culminating record of 6-3 and a Big Ten mark of 4-2. Conference opponents Illinois and Minnesota have beaten the No. 12 Wolverines, but they have outlasted Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State.
Wright said that up against tough traveling constraints and big expectations versus conference opponents, he and his fellow Lions have to remember to simply take each contest as it comes their way.
"It's one match at a time - one day at a time," said Wright. "I can't think about Michigan on Sunday because I've got to focus on Nebraska on Friday first. I've got to focus on what I'm going to eat right after weigh-in and how much I'm going to take in my fluids - when I'm going to start warming up, how I'm going to start warming up. If I take care of those little things then the match is going to take care of itself."