After a 25-point loss Saturday, the Penn State wrestling team will practice two times a day and have an increase in individual workouts.
To most familiar with two-a-day practices, one would assume this schedule would be punishment for the team. Instead, the elevated intensity has a direct correlation to wrestling successfully in the postseason.
"In the past, the workouts that the coaches have put us through leading up to Big Tens and nationals have traditionally done well at having people peak at the right time," 165-pound wrestler Dan Vallimont said. "I'm confident and I'm sure the rest of the team is, that we're going to peak at the right time."
Despite the abysmal loss to No. 17 Michigan, the No. 24-ranked Nittany Lions (8-11-2, 1-5-2 Big Ten) have shifted their focus to the Big Ten postseason tournament and NCAAs.
Sophomore Brad Pataky said the Lions might have been affected by the grind of wrestling in two consecutive road meets. Head coach Troy Sunderland pointed to a weekend early in the year when the team faced Indiana and Purdue in less than 24 hours, and said that wasn't a problem for the team.
Sunderland said the team did not match up well at some weight classes with the Wolverines. However, he said it was somewhat frustrating because the team had defeated Michigan earlier in the season at the National Duals.
Vallimont said if wrestling in back-to-back meets affected the team, then it doesn't bode well for the postseason.
"If it is, it's something that needs to be fixed because in big tournaments, you're going to have four or five matches in a row," he said. "At Big Tens and at NCAAs, you have to be ready against the toughest competition, not at home, and right back-to-back like that."
To prepare himself for the postseason, Vallimont said he got a one-on-one workout with assistant coach Matt Dernlan on Monday morning. Additionally, he said he has wrestled director of operations Troy Letters a lot, who wrestled at 165-pounds during his career at the University of Lehigh, so it is good preparation for Vallimont.
Vallimont said he has been focusing on trying to get his opponent to move more, which enables him to get off more shots. At the 157-pound weight class, which he wrestled at last season and most of this season, his style of getting quick takedowns was a lot easier to execute. With the weight change, he said he thinks his opponents have been trying to slow him down. To do so, he has been battling Letters, who Vallimont said is very tough to score on.
"We're just trying to focus on getting my guy moving more and opening them up for shots because I know I'm faster than pretty much anybody else at 165," Vallimont said. "I just need to be more focused on the guy out of position."
These are all changes Vallimont must make to duplicate last season's third place performance at NCAAs.
"I need to move my guy around and just keep scoring even when I'm tired," he said. "I don't want to keep going I have to keep pushing and working to get my guy out of position and get my shot. I feel like if I do that, I can take down anybody in the country."