Even if Penn State shuts out No. 24 Wisconsin on Friday, like it did 43-0 last season, fans will still have an incentive to stay in their seats at Rec Hall for the final individual bouts.
This is especially true for those from Wingate, Pa. They will have the opportunity to see hometown wrestler Quentin Wright (197) attempt to reach a career milestone of 100 wins and fellow Bald Eagle Area graduate Jon Gingrich (Hwt.) close out the dual-meet right after him.
The contest with the Badgers (6-2, 3-0 Big Ten) is the first of two matches during a three-day span. On Sunday, the Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) will wrestle Purdue (10-4, 1-2 Big Ten) in West Lafayette, Ind.
Coach Cael Sanderson said the Badgers, who beat then-No. 9 Nebraska and are fresh off of a victory against then-No. 11 Michigan, are a tough team with tough individuals.
Even though the Lions will wrestle the Boilermakers two days after the Badgers, this week of practice has not differed from other weeks this season.
Sanderson said his team is used to a two-dual weekend schedule and sees the extra meet as another workout for the wrestlers, rather than an obstacle.
“We also want to make sure we use the matches for conditioning…a lot of the training actually happens on gameday, in my opinion,” Sanderson said.
The weekend could be slightly different for Wright, though. Only 26 other wrestlers have reached in program history have reached the 100-win milestone.
However, the history in the making does not appear to be gathering much hype around the team.
“I’ll be 100 percent honest, I didn’t even know [about the milestone],” Nico Megaludis (125) said when asked if the team was talking it up.
Sanderson also said he was not sure if the century mark meant anything special to Wright.
“I think his goals are a little bigger than trying to get to 100 wins, but obviously he’s going to get to 100 wins,” Sanderson said. “But I hope he’s more focused on winning his second national championship.”
Even if the accomplishment means little to Wright, Sanderson said he expects a strong crowd reaction, should Wright win at home.
“People love him here…he’s fun to watch wrestle,” he said. “So I think you’ll see that with the support and the appreciation they’ll show if he gets it done this week.”
Gingrich has also given a reason for local fans to cheer.
After winning a “wrestle-off” to gain the starting role in the team’s heavyweight class over Jimmy Lawson, Gingrich defeated then-No. 4 Michael McClure by decision to close out the Lions’ most recent victory, a 41-0 shutout against Michigan State on Jan. 13.
Gingrich’s most recent win propelled him to No. 16 in Intermat’s heavyweight rankings, the spot held by Lawson the week before.
That means that those from Wingate and the surrounding area get to see two local and ranked wrestlers compete, one after the other, and usually wrapping up Penn State victories.
“I’m not sure what exactly to think, but I hope that they’re excited,” Gingrich said after the dual-meet with the Spartans. “Having local guys, I feel like that’s probably something that everybody looks for.”