Missing the first two duals of the season was not what Andrew Alton imagined as he went into this season looking to follow up on a redshirt year.
The 149-pound wrestler will make his season debut at the Nittany Lion Open at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday in Rec Hall. The sophomore will shift up a weight class after competing at 141 pounds last season.
Nagging injuries and setbacks have kept Alton from wrestling to start the season.
James English, who wrestles at 149 and has gone against Alton in practice, said that the sophomore has a challenging wrestling style to go against.
“We're both very tough to score on,” English said. “He has some big moves and can hit some big stuff.”
Alton emerged on to the scene in 2011 season as a true freshman, going 30-10 with 18 pins. He finished in the national quarterfinals, one win away from achieving All-American status.
The sophomore coming back will be seen as a positive for the team as he pushes the other wrestlers and provides a competitive atmosphere in the practice room.
“We always want more depth,” head coach Cael Sanderson said. “That is what makes guys tough, the more competition in the room, the more uncomfortable they are with their starting spots.”
The Nittany Lion Open will be a good chance for Alton to ease back into wrestling competitively as open tournaments usually feature wrestlers who are wrestling unattached. The Lions plan to have 30 of their wrestlers competing in a tournament that could feature up to 500 competitors.
For the Lions, the goal of the Open is not so much focusing on the result but improving on their technique.
“We want our guys to go out there and try to score,” associate head coach Cody Sanderson said in an interview with GoPSUSports. “We don't care if they make mistakes, mistakes are fine right now. This is the perfect opportunity for our kids to go out there and score points, do everything they can, start working on things they've been working on in practice and find a way to convert them to success on the mat.”
The Open will be a big day for the Lions as 10 individual titles are out there to be won, despite the fact that no team scores will be kept.
For wrestlers like Alton, this tournament will be seen as a building block as the Lions focus on using the early part of the season to see what the team needs to change.
“The beginning of the year is kind of slow, there's only like five competition days before Christmas but after that it really picks up,” 165-pounder David Taylor said. “So we got some time to make improvements and keep getting better before the grind of the season gets in.”