Big Ten Wrestling Championship Podium

Big Ten Wrestling podium at the Big Ten Wrestling Championship on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa.

I've seen a lot of wrestling in my four years covering Penn State's team for The Daily Collegian.

As a result and thanks to the program's prolific, dynastic success, that also means I've been incredibly spoiled when it comes to reporting on this team and watching it up close and personal.

I'll get more sappy and emotional about what covering this program has meant to me and done for me and my career as a budding journalist in the coming weeks.

But with my days on this beat numbered, here are some of my favorite moments over the last four years (in no particular order).

March 23, 2019

If you've followed Penn State these last few years, by now you know the story of Anthony Cassar.

But in case you need a refresher, here it is.

Cassar came to Penn State from Montgomery High School in New Jersey, where he qualified for the state tournament only once in his senior year, when he happened to win a state title.

Once he arrived in Happy Valley, he redshirted and then battled injuries for much of his first three years on the team, before sporadically cracking the lineup as a junior where he was locked in a roster battle with former All-American teammate Shakur Rasheed.

Cassar finally had his own spot during his senior year when he bumped up to heavyweight and ran roughshod over the field, capturing both a Big Ten and NCAA title in his only postseason appearances, eerily mirroring his high school career.

He beat Oklahoma State's Derek White 10-1 in the heavyweight title bout after losing to him previously that year to avenge that loss and become Penn State's first heavyweight champion in nearly two decades.

There's something about the eerily circular nature of Cassar's story and the triumph and low points he overcame that make it compelling no matter how many times you hear it, and it all culminated that one weekend in March.

Feb. 3, 2018

This isn't meant to be an Anthony Cassar column, though he's provided two of my favorite moments covering this team.

Cassar perhaps first gained notoriety when he upset then-No. 1 Kollin Moore of Ohio State in a dual meet at Rec Hall between Penn State and the Buckeyes.

Ohio State took four of the five bouts in the first half to jump out to a 15-5 lead at halftime, before Penn State came storming back in the second half.

That charge was ultimately capped off by Cassar, whose 6-3 win over Moore put Penn State up 19-15 at that point and helped put the relatively unknown Cassar on the map in one of the most electric sporting events I've ever been at.

Cassar became a household name the following year, but he made quite an entrance on to the scene.

Feb. 8, 2019

One of the few times I traveled to catch a dual meet with my former beat partners, Ben Jenkins and Sara Perlowitz (thanks Big Ten geography), it didn't disappoint.

Penn State traveled the roughly five hours from State College to Columbus, and we trailed closely behind, arriving just an hour or so before the dual was slated to get underway.

As we settled in, there was a sense in the air that Ohio State would likely be the favorite or at least an unsurprising upset pick, largely because Nick Lee and Roman Bravo-Young were only freshmen at the time.

That notion was quickly quashed when Bravo-Young beat former All-American Luke Pletcher to start off the night by a 2-1 tiebreak decision before Lee downed then-No. 2 Joey McKenna by 7-6 decision.

Those two wins to start the night essentially sealed the victory for Penn State in what was the first dual meet I'd ever covered in person that really ever felt in doubt for an iota of a second.

Still, with the atmosphere in St. John Arena, and Penn State's fans' propensity to travel and support the Nittany Lions, it was hard to tell the dual wasn't in Rec Hall.

***

I hope this isn't the last story I write before I graduate.

I hope I've given you all as readers stories of substance and enjoyment these last four years, and I want to leave on a good note and tell at least one more substantive story.

But in case I forget it down the road, thanks for following along and thanks for the support these last four years.

Rest assured, this beat is in good hands.

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