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Feb. 17, 2012
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For second-ranked Penn State, Sunday afternoon's dual meet against ninth-ranked Pittsburgh is the last scheduled contest of the 2011-'12 regular season.
Penn State carries a 12-1 overall record heading into the final weekend of the regular season, and will wrestle on its home mats for the seventh time this year. The Lions have won five of the six duals that they have hosted this season, as their only loss this year came against Minnesota in the team's second dual on the schedule.
Of those six contests that have come to Rec Hall, three of them have welcomed sold out crowds at a capacity level of more than 6,800 spectators. The other three home duals saw crowds of less than the capacity level, but each featured more than 6,000 attendees as well.
Sunday's match against the Panthers is another one to add to the list labeled, "Sold Out".
Molinaro and Wade have spent their last five years in the blue and white singlets and have been featured as parts of the starting roster for the last four. Both of the athletes were redshirted in their first season in State College.
Heading into his last dual under that one spotlight that shines above the Nittany Lion logo, heavyweight senior Wade said that when he thinks about it, it all seems pretty surreal.
"Looking back on my career it's just crazy to think that I had the opportunity to wrestle in Rec Hall," said Wade. "Every match we wrestle, whether it's home or away, there's a ton of people."
Wade said that compared to his debut season with the Lions in 2008, he has seen a noticeable change and increase in the fanbase that surrounds the Penn State wrestling program. The veteran said that aside from the fact that State College and its surrounding areas have always seemed to be interested in the sport, Nittany Lion fans have an added incentive to come and watch.
"I just think that people like the way that we wrestle - just hard for seven minutes," said Wade. "They come there on their Sundays and they just love to watch wrestling and I mean kids come up to you asking for autographs and they just really love everything about Penn State."
Wade said that spectators can thank the hard work of his coaches, and especially his head coach Cael Sanderson, for bringing a fresh mentality and even more dedicated work ethic than the program had seen two years ago. Wade said that he and his teammates are able to "try and kick each other's butts in practice" but still maintain that "perfect mixture" of having fun and being competitive.
In the same way that the heavyweight recognizes what he called a dedication from the fans toward the athletes, Wade said that wrestling in Rec Hall wouldn't have been the same without the people that have come to watch.
"The fans at Rec Hall, they're awesome," said Wade. "There is no doubt in my mind that we not only have the best facilities to wrestle in in this country, but also the best fans and support that wrestling has seen in this country."
Wade and his fellow Lions have already finished their conference season with a Big Ten regular season best record of 7-1 to share the regular season conference title with Minnesota, who posted the same record this year.
On Sunday, Penn State will look to add one more number to its win column and gain a 13th victory before gearing up for the postseason. In his last dual meet, Wade said that there's only one venue that he would want to be competing at.
"There's no place I would rather be and I'm so glad that I picked this school," said Wade. "It's tough wrestling here for other guys. The fact that we get nervous going out there in front of those fans, you can only imagine how nervous other people must be."
"It's the greatest place ever to wrestle."