Much like the Patriots called upon Tom Brady to fill the void of an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Penn State found itself with a hole in the No. 1 lineup Sunday.
After Andrew and Dylan Alton were suspended for a month for a violation of team rules, the Nittany Lions bumped senior James English and junior James Vollrath into the starting spots at the 149 and 157-weight class, respectively, against Michigan State.
English shut out the Spartans’ Dan Osterman, 6-0, and Vollrath picked up a victory against No. 19 David Cheza in his first start in a dual match of the season.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said both English and Vollrath are tough kids and both did a great job Sunday against tough opponents.
“Vollrath upped his offense, which is good to see, and I think that just comes from desire of wanting to win, so I’m excited for him,” Sanderson said. “And James, you know he’s a tough kid. I’m just real happy for him.”
Vollrath battled back from a deficit twice to tie the bout against Cheza before taking him down in the final 30 seconds for two points to put him ahead of Cheza, 6-4.
Vollrath said he knew No. 19 Cheza was getting tired near the end of the match and he knew he needed one last good shot. Vollrath elected to go to his high-crotch sweep move and secured the takedown and the match.
Both English and Vollrath competed in the Lions’ first tournament of 2013 at the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1 and 2 with English placing third and Vollrath earning runner-up honors in their weight classes.
Vollrath said his Scuffle performance was a confidence builder, but he knows he still has things to work on.
“The finals, I didn’t wrestle as well as I wanted to,” Vollrath said, “but I know what I got to do to work on to get better.”
English started against Lehigh and West Virginia earlier this year at the 149-weight class, and once Andrew Alton comes off his suspension, Sanderson said there would be a “wrestle-off” for the starting position.
Sanderson also said he wants his team to have fun out on the mats, but it can be expected that English and Vollrath will continue to pick up wins.
“If they’re having fun, they’re going to win,” Sanderson said. “The focus is just doing what they do, having fun…so yeah, we expect that.”