To find a weak link in Penn State’s starting lineup is no easy task.
From No. 2 Nico Megaludis at 125 pounds to No. 12 Jimmy Lawson at heavyweight, the No. 1 Nittany Lions (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) are never pushover, regardless of weight class — in fact, five Lions are ranked inside Intermat’s top five at their respective weights.
Some might be tempted to pinpoint Bryan Pearsall as the easiest match of the night, though. As he gears up for his final postseason run, Pearsall is Penn State’s only starter not in the latest rankings.
The redshirt senior has a simple thought about those who might underestimate him based on his unranked status, though.
“I don’t really think that would be wise of them if they did,” Pearsall said. “I don’t put too much weight into rankings, but I’ve had a pretty good year so far and have wrestled some tough guys.”
Ranked at No. 19 early in the season, the 141-pounder has posted a 9-2 dual record (6-1 Big Ten) so far, going 18-7 overall. His 37 dual points are tied for sixth-best on the roster.
Even though he’s no longer ranked, Pearsall has fared well against top-20 opponents throughout the season.
“I respect all of my opponents, but I’m not scared of any of them,” Pearsall said.
Pearsall had identical 2-0 dual victories against Nathan Pennesi of West Virginia and Ridge Kiley of Nebraska — both opponents ranked No. 19 when they squared off with Pearsall. Pearsall’s lone dual loss to a ranked opponent was against then-No. 8 Iowa’s Matt Ballweg, who handed him a 12-2 major decision.
Outside of dual action, Pearsall also defeated then-No. 15 Justin LaValle of Old Dominion, 5-0, on his way to a seventh-place finish at the Southern Scuffle in early January.
These matches are the result of progress coach Cael Sanderson has seen in Pearsall throughout his years on the squad. It is also why Sanderson said opposing teams know better than to look past Pearsall.
“I think Pearsall has made extraordinary leaps and bounds since he started three years ago. I think he’s known as a competitor,” Sanderson said. “People scout him. You can tell what the coaches are saying in the corner. They’re aware of him. He’s a tough kid — he’s not somebody you take lightly.”
With one regular season dual remaining in Pearsall’s career, he is preparing for one last ride in the postseason.
Last season, he earned seventh place at the Big Ten Championships, an event the Lions won for the second consecutive year. However, Pearsall did not qualify for the national tournament — the conference tournament was given only five automatic qualifying spots at 141 pounds last season, and he failed to receive an at-large bid.
With one shot left to make it to that stage, Pearsall said he has to fight every second of every match. But even if he does make the tournament for the first time, he does not consider himself an underdog.
“I have the experience, I’m right there with these guys,” Pearsall said. “I’ve beaten ranked opponents before, I’ve beaten national qualifiers. I’m right there with those guys; I just need to wrestle well on the big stage to prove it.”
Sanderson said the challenges Pearsall has had to face will help him when the postseason begins.
“He’s got that fighting attitude and with that experience comes comfort and confidence,” Sanderson said. “He’s a guy that’s been at his best. He wrestled great at the Big Ten Championships last year, and I know he’s ready to get back in there and do the same thing again.”
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