Wrestling v. Rutgers, Cael Sanderson

Head coach Cael Sanderson questions a call by a referee during Shakur Rasheed’s match against Jordan Pagano during Penn State wrestling’s white-out meet against Rutgers in Rec Hall on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. Penn State won 38-6.

Penn State wrestling has arguably become one of the most prolific dynasties in college sports.

The Nittany Lions have won eight national championships in the last 10 seasons, all coming under coach Cael Sanderson.

On top of the eight team national championships, Penn State also boasts 27 individual national titles under Sanderson.

Last season, the blue and white’s four-year team championship run came to an end, finishing second only to Iowa. However, all four Nittany Lions that competed walked away as national champions.

A new season always comes with some new challenges.

For Penn State, that comes with the loss of two veterans. Jarod Verkleeren left via the transfer portal, and Brady Berge left due to medical retirement.

Verkleeren was an NCAA qualifier last season as a starter for the blue and white. He has a 41-17 career record, and his departure costs the blue and white some valuable experience.

The 149-pound wrestler announced he is taking his talents to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is now wrestling for Virginia.

His absence leaves a gap at the 149-pound weight class. But a cryptic Nick Lee Instagram post suggested he may be filling that hole after Roman Bravo-Young moved to 141.

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Let’s move on to Berge. The two-time NCAA qualifier announced his retirement from the sport this past April, citing injuries, specifically concussions, as his reason to call it quits.

Berge wrestled in the 157-pound weight class for three of his four seasons with Penn State. As a redshirt freshman, he dropped down to the 149-pound weight class and recorded a 20-5 record for the season.

Along with Verkleeren, Berge was a veteran in Happy Valley. His experience on the mat certainly helped lead the next generation of Penn State wrestling.

Berge will be missed in the wrestling community, but his retirement also opens a major hole for the upcoming season.

Of course, there have been some positives for the blue and white this season. It landed two commitments that will impact both the present as well as the future of the team.

One of those bright spots this offseason is transfer Max Dean, who hails from Cornell University.

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Dean has previously wrestled in the 184-pound weight class. Unfortunately, he will have some competition for the spot as Aaron Brooks, the defending national champion in the 184-pound weight class, also wrestles for Penn State.

Considering a change is likely in order for one of the 184-pounders, Sanderson can’t go wrong either way. Dean’s accomplishments speak for themselves alongside Brooks’.

Dean enters Happy Valley with a 91-18 career record. He was an NCAA finalist in 2019 and is also a two-time All-American.

His experience in high-caliber bouts will certainly prove to be of immediate value to the team.

Another piece of good news is the commitment of Levi Haines, a high school junior wrestler out of Biglerville, Pennsylvania.

Haines is the 12th-ranked recruit in the class of 2022. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him, as he just capped off an undefeated state title run this past season.

Haines also boasts an astounding 100-5 high school record thus far. The rising senior will arrive on campus next year in hopes of becoming the next great Penn State wrestler and potentially filling a major hole for the Nittany Lions.

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