In Penn State’s second home meet of the season, the unit blew out Oregon State 31-3.
Despite another win for the blue and white, it continued to struggle in the 125-pound class.
Penn State’s 125-pound grappler, Gary Steen, has only one win in duals this season.
With three of his first four matchups in duals coming against ranked opponents, Steen has had a tough schedule to work with in his first season as a starter.
Steen’s opponents have included Now-No. 21 Anthony Noto from Lock Haven, No. 31 Carter Bailey from Lehigh and No. 12 Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State.
The redshirt freshman showed flashes in the first periods against both Noto and Kaylor, but he struggled to get takedowns in those matches.
“[Steen]’s been competitive,” Cael Sanderson said. “He’s right up there and… in the match. You know, just missing some things by a second here and a second there.”
In his most recent outing against No. 12 Kaylor, Steen failed to register a point in a hard-fought battle. Kaylor earned a takedown, escape and a point for riding time, taking home a 4-0 win.
Steen’s journey won’t get any easier with five more currently ranked grapplers on the schedule, including No. 7 Eric Barnett from Wisconsin and Iowa’s No.1 Spencer Lee.
While it won’t be easy, if Steen wants to turn his season around, he has to start earning takedowns.
In his current campaign, the redshirt freshman has only posted two takedowns in his four dual meet matchups, both of which came against Rider’s Tyler Klinsky. Steen’s lone win in duals this year was also against Klinsky.
Against ranked opponents in duals, Steen has only recorded a total of five points, all of which were via escape.
Steen will have opportunities to get back on track against both Central Michigan and North Carolina when Penn State travels to New Orleans later this month.
Steen will likely face Central Michigan’s Sean Spidle and North Carolina’s Jack Wagner, both of whom shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Penn State will have one more matchup in New Orleans versus a currently unknown team which should give Steen a little more work before the conference slate.
Steen’s first ever Big Ten matchup will come against Barnett in Madison, Wisconsin, a very tall task for any grappler let alone a struggling redshirt freshman.
The Nittany Lions don’t necessarily need points from Steen to win duals, but in razor-thin battles, against teams like Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan, those points will be a big help.
The only other options for Penn State at 125 are true freshman Karl Shindledecker and sophomore Robert Howard, who had three dual meet starts last season.
With not a lot of options on the bench, the Nittany Lions will need to rely on Steen’s efforts moving forward.
A split in Big Ten bouts would go a long way in securing his starting role on the team and furthering his development. But if he comes up short, the Nittany Lions might struggle at 125 pounds all year, similar to the 157 class last season.
Steen isn’t far off, as his close bouts with Kaylor and Bailey have shown, but coming up just short won’t be enough for the blue and white moving forward.
Sanderson said some smaller mistakes and close missed points by Steen came as a result of two factors.
“A lot of times that’s just experience and just attitude,” Sanderson said.
Building confidence and getting prepared for his ranked bouts will be essential to Steen turning his season around.
Luckily, a long season still awaits the young Nittany Lion.
“I look at Gary, and I think this guy can do well,” Sanderson said. “He’s right there. He’s a point, a takedown away.”
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