Every time a wrestler steps on the mat, he faces the potential for a grueling, seven-minute battle. With Big Ten road trips approaching, Penn State wrestlers face the potential for weekends where their bodies will be tested, wrestling both Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
After a home dual against Nebraska this Sunday, the Lions will hit the road for four duals in a span of nine days.
With the increased workload and travel leading to the potential of fatigue, head coach Cael Sanderson said he can assess how the wrestlers are feeling once they hit the practice room.
“You can get an idea when you really start to practice and see what kind of energy they have and focus,” Sanderson said. “It's two matches, it's not really that big of a deal. It's the travel and we have a couple road trips coming up but that's just part of the game.”
After an 11-minute match against Wisconsin on Friday, fifth-year senior James English felt the effects of the packed schedule. After picking up a knock in the Wisconsin dual, English was back to the mat Sunday, facing off against No. 13 Ivan Lopouchanski. English dropped a 5-2 decision to the undefeated Purdue wrestler.
The NCAA mandates a day off from practice each week, which freshman Jordan Conaway said is a benefit to the team.
“I think that's what helps,” Conaway said about the mandatory Monday off day. “Just having the days off and recovery keeps us fresh.”
Even on Saturday’s during which they’re traveling, the wrestlers are still hard at work. Each wrestler has a workout schedule where he either works out once or twice, depending on the individual. Sanderson said the workouts are planned around the team’s weight management. The team works out late enough that the amount of time they have to hold down weight is minimized.
With a trip to No. 3 Iowa looming next week, the routine of travel day becomes even important as the Lions face No. 8 Illinois just two days later.
While the upcoming stretch of road duals is important for a wrestler’s aspiration of making it to nationals, English said the team will stick to its proven practice philosophy.
“I don't think we're going to step it up at all. We're just going to keep doing what we're doing, obviously what we're doing has been working so far,” English said. “We're going to keep looking at where we need to improve and we're going to be ready for nationals at the end of the year.”
In order to keep the team motivated and focused during the long road trips, Sanderson and his staff focus on making sure practice does not get monotonous.
“That's kind of the key, making sure that these guys are enjoying themselves and it's not boring for them,” Sanderson said. “It's something to look forward to, we try to make each day a little different so they don't know what to expect.”