Brad Pataky referred to his teammate Tim Haas as "one of the most experienced wrestlers" on the Penn State wrestling team.
However, even with all his skill and experience, Haas lost his starting position in the 133-pound weight class at the Nittany Lion Open in early December to fellow senior Jake Strayer. Over the past month, Haas has been dealing with his new role as a backup on the team.
"It's not easy, but it's what's best for the team and it puts the best guy on the mat," Haas said. "I came back for an extra year, and then halfway through the year I lost my starting job. I mean it sucks for me personally, but for the team it's what's best."
Haas, who won the starting position at the beginning of the season, is in his sixth year as a Nittany Lion. He was granted another year of eligibility after missing nearly two full seasons because of knee injuries. Since his first season in 2003, Haas has not wrestled for the entirety of any year because of continuous knee problems.
However, even with his misfortune, Haas has been a role model for his teammates. His peers have voted him a team captain for the past two years, and Penn State assistant coach Matt Dernlan said that is "for good reason."
Dernlan said Haas leads by example and his teammates don't need to ask him what to do, rather they can just observe and learn. Freshman Quentin Wright agreed, saying Haas is someone he can go to for any kind of advice whether that be on an injury, a technique, or a tough situation.
"He's the epitome of what we're looking for in athletes at Penn State," Dernlan said. "This is the story of Tim Haas, and he hasn't let anything deter him. You never hear him complain, he always has a positive outlook."
Haas traveled with the Lions last weekend to the National Duals as one of the five extras the team was allowed to bring. Pataky and Wright said the captain helps to pump his teammates up before a match and is there to support and cheer for everyone even though he is not competing.
The senior continues to come to every practice and is Strayer's workout partner. Wright said the pairing has been beneficial to Strayer because Haas has been "such a good sport" about the whole situation.
"I think it's hard on him, but he's a team player," Wright said. "He could easily be like, 'Well, I don't really care about this anymore.' But instead he's like, 'You know what, I'm still part of the team and I'm gonna be there if they need me to step in there and get the job done.' "
Pataky described Haas as "a hard worker who brings a lot of heart to the team." Pataky said he, along with other Lions, look up to their captain because every year he has had something go wrong physically, but he always came back with a good, positive attitude.
Although on paper it looks as though Haas' role on the team has changed, the senior said it hasn't. He said he still practices the same way, and he tries to help out whoever needs it.
"All wrestlers face adversity at some point, and if you hang your head you're gonna be buried," Dernlan said. "I think this is just a testament to his leadership skills. He's not letting it get to him."