With Penn State’s first regular season dual on Friday, the battle between Jimmy Lawson and Jon Gingrich for the starting heavyweight spot is heating up.
Both wrestlers are entering their sophomore seasons and are looking to make an impact for a Lions squad that is seeking its third-straight National Championship.
Coach Cael Sanderson said the competition has been close so far due to each wrestler's build.
“They're both great athletes, very strong but different kind of strengths,” Sanderson said. “If you grab Gingrich in the room you'd think he's just made of iron. You put Lawson in the weight room and that guy can move some weight around.”
The two wrestlers have met twice so far in the preseason, splitting the decisions in tight contests.
Gingrich won the first meeting, an unofficial dual during practice before the Intrasquad Dual.
During the Intrasquad Dual on Nov. 1, the two met again. Lawson edged out Gingrich in the contest, winning the match 3-2 with a late rally during the third period.
“Gingrich is a great heavyweight, it's great going against him every day,” Lawson said after the dual. “Either one of us would be great for the job.”
Since both wrestlers are sophomores, Sanderson said he will look to get the wrestlers some experience through open tournaments to make them feel more comfortable.
After redshirting the 2010-2011 season, Gingrich went 21-4 in open tournaments last season, including winning the ESU Open.
To prepare for this season, Gingrich wrestled in the Binghamton Open on Nov. 11. The tournament featured more than 300 wrestlers and the sophomore went 4-0 to claim the heavyweight title. He defeated Harry Turner of Lock Haven in the finals, 9-1, by major decision.
As the two prepare for the season, wrestling in practice will be key to getting in shape for the season.
Jordan Conaway, who wrestles at 133, said the team's depth is a benefit for those looking to train.
“There's so many people to wrestle with, just alternate with different looks,” Conaway said. “It's the best practice partners in the country.”
For Lawson, he faces a challenge getting back in shape for wrestling. The sophomore transferred to Penn State for this season and this will be his first year of collegiate action on the mat. He played football at Monmouth University last year.
While Lawson hasn't wrestled competitively since high school, he says that adjusting to the action in practice hasn't been difficult because the team is like a family.
“Even though we all might be wrestling the same weight, we still help each other out because we want to make each other better people and wrestlers,” Lawson said.
With a third bout to potentially decide the heavyweight starting spot coming, Sanderson said both wrestlers competitiveness to win the spot has been a positive.
“I was happy with both of the guys just because they went after it a little bit, they both took shots,” Sanderson said about the Intrasquad Dual. “They're both still raw and have a lot of up-side.”