No. 1 Penn State (2-0) had one goal while wrestling at last Sunday's Nittany Lion Open: stay healthy.
With 30 wrestlers competing for the Lions, including 10 making it to the finals of their weight class, it was a day that took a physical toll on the wrestlers.
Despite this, head coach Cael Sanderson said the Nittany Lion Open was a good warm-up for his team's first conference dual against Indiana (5-2), Sunday at 2 p.m.
"I think the guys are feeling good, good tournament for us, some guys got five, six, seven matches. That's a good day for us against quality competition," Sanderson said. "It's not the national championship but there's definitely some big rounds in there, some All-American type of rounds that you're going to have to be at your best."
The main focus when the Lions hit the mat will be Andrew Alton's season debut in a dual. After redshirting last year and being sidelined with a knee injury to start the season, Alton made a strong debut at the Nittany Lion Open. The sophomore went 6-0 with five pins to win the individual title at 149.
Sitting out last season allowed Alton to learn some things from the sidelines and get even more focused for when he steps out on the mat.
"I'm ready to go, I'm ready to compete. Sitting out last year made me really want to step in this year and compete," Alton said. "I just love competing, especially with a Penn State singlet on instead of going at the Open."
Dylan Alton, Andrew's twin brother, is looking forward to his brother's debut, despite the nerves that come with watching Andrew wrestle. With each Alton going through a redshirt season, the two have not stepped on the mat together since high school.
"It means a lot, it's been two years. I'm excited to have him there with me and wrestle back to back," Dylan Alton said. "It's entertaining to watch him wrestle."
As the team enters its conference opener, the Open allowed Sanderson to watch some of his wrestlers who are redshirting this season.
With Jimmy Gulibon reaching the final at 133 pounds and Luke Frey making a run at 149 pounds, Sanderson said guys have to be ready to jump in the lineup on Sunday. Both are redshirting this season.
"We need 10 good guys out there and you never know when an injury or something goes wrong, you got to be ready to step in if that opportunity comes," Sanderson said.
The Lions will need that added depth when they square off against Indiana. The Big Ten currently has six teams ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll, including five teams in the top six.
"You've got to be ready for the Big Ten, there's great teams and there's up and coming teams. They're just all solid programs, we got to be at our best," Sanderson said. "Every match is important as far as seeding and setting yourself up for the Big Ten championship."