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Penn State wrestling looks to build upon depth to find postseason success

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Penn State Wrestling v. Maryland, Creighton Edsell

Creighton Edsell wrestles Maryland’s Kyle Jasenski during Penn State wrestling’s meet against the University of Maryland in Rec Hall on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. Penn State won 40-3 over the Terrapins.

In Penn State’s quest for a national title this season, four returning national champions will unquestionably lead the team.

However, last season's runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships showed having top-level talent at just a few weight classes doesn’t guarantee a title.

Depth will be perhaps the most important factor this season for a Penn State squad looking to avenge last spring’s defeat.

“Depth is important for two reasons: one, with wrestling you have to have training partners. We need different looks, guys with different attack hands, guys with different lead legs, so it's important from a practice standpoint,” associate head coach Cody Sanderson said. “From a competition standpoint, it's a tough season, guys will get banged up, so we need to have second and third options especially going into January and February.”

In the first weekend of the 2021-22 season, many wrestlers on Cael Sanderson’s squad competed at different events and saw varying degrees of success.

One weight class up for grabs prior to the season was 125 pounds, as there was no clear favorite for the starting spot.

Sophomore Baylor Shunk got the nod in both duals at 125 and had an up-and-down night. The Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, native won his first bout via an 18-0 tech fall before falling in his second match 16-9 to No. 26 Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State.

Shunk was probably not the most likely option to get the starting spot at 125 pounds, but it still remains unclear what will happen at that weight class.

No other 125 pounders were in action over the weekend, as junior Brandon Meredith was initially listed on the roster but did not compete, and the highly touted freshman recruit Gary Steen also did not see any action.

Unlike the 125-pound weight class, the Nittany Lions’ athletes at 165 pounds saw a good bit of action over the weekend.

Junior Creighton Edsell competed at 165 for the blue and white against both Sacred Heart and Oregon State and secured two wins during the course of the evening, one 11-3 major decision and one 7-3 decision.


Meanwhile at Binghamton University, redshirt freshman Matt Lee took second place in the Bearcat Open at 165 pounds.

The youngest of the three brothers on the team, Lee went 4-1 on the day and fell in the finals. Lee did have more success than another Penn State 165 pounder that competed at the event — freshman Brian Borden, who went 2-2.

While there are a number of capable athletes at 165 pounds, the Nittany Lions will likely look to find a stable option to avoid having a revolving-door situation, but the blue and white will certainly appreciate the depth at 165 pounds.

Penn State’s older athletes have also recognized the importance of depth and helping out younger wrestlers like Lee and Borden develop throughout the course of the season.

“Our older guys have started to demonstrate an interest in the development of the younger guys because that's really what it takes,” Cody said. “It will really help them with long term development and bring our team closer together, which is incredibly important when we roll into postseason competition.”


Perhaps the most perplexing question across all weight classes is the hole that currently exists at the 157-pound spot on Penn State’s roster.

At the Journeyman Duals in Manheim, senior Joey Blumer fell in both of his matches at 157 pounds; however, it appeared that Blumer was thrust into the lineup in a last-minute scramble, as sophomores Terrell Baraclough and Joe Lee were originally slated to wrestle for the blue and white at 157 pounds. Both were unable to compete due to an illness, according to Cody.

He also touched on the lack of a timetable for competitions for starting spots at weight classes that are up in the air like 157 pounds.

“Sometimes it's the sooner the better, but not always. I think our history has demonstrated that we're patient. We don't want to rush it,” Cody said. “We like to let things unfold and give guys the opportunity to perform and let them sort it out themselves as much as we can. At some point, we gotta push a bit more, but right now we’re patient.”

Edsell spoke on competition at each weight and how it plays out in the wrestling room.

“Wrestle-offs are a bit weird because you're wrestling your own teammates, and everybody is trying to compete for that spot,” Edsell said. “At the end of the day, it's just another day. We're grateful for each other to test our limits and get better every day.”

One weight class where there’s strong competition among two talented wrestlers is at 197 pounds, where junior Cornell transfer Max Dean and sophomore Michael Beard both offer suitable options for the blue and white

Dean appears to have taken the starting spot for now and proved why he deserved the nod and his No. 4 ranking on Saturday, with victories via an 18-0 tech fall and a 16-3 major decision.

However, Beard had quite the weekend himself at the Journeyman Collegiate Classic, going 3-0 with a tech fall and two major decisions, one of which came against No. 20 J.T. Brown from Army West Point.

While the Penn State coaching staff would like to see no injuries occur throughout the duration of the season, they are often inevitable.

However, having depth at multiple weight classes like the team has at 197 pounds could be instrumental to the squad’s success come March.


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