Penn State Wrestling Needs a Stronger 2013 Schedule
After a 13-1 2012-2013 season, Penn State wrestling needs to expand and strengthen its 2013-2014 schedule in order to give younger wrestlers more competitive experience before heading into the postseason.
Despite only six conference games, second place Oklahoma State still managed to schedule 15 duals outside of its conference and elite duals with six of the top 11 seeded teams — Minnesota (twice), Iowa, Missouri (twice), Cornell, Oklahoma (twice), and Illinois. It is also important to note that they wrestled against these elite teams multiple times at different locations with their only loss coming at home to Minnesota.
While Penn State does not have control over its Big Ten schedule, it has the opportunity to make the out of conference schedule stronger. Teams from the south and west aren’t on Penn State’s schedule, yet Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Oregon State were top ranked teams in the NCAA.
While many of these teams are present at the Southern Scuffle, wrestling in a tournament is different from a dual meet. Sure, teams like Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Cornell are all at this tournament, but there is no guarantees on who will wrestle each other.
The Grapple at the Garden at Madison Square Garden would have been a great opportunity for Penn State to wrestle against teams they normally otherwise wouldn’t come across. For instance, Cornell faced Oklahoma State and Missouri.
Other marquee dual meets are multi-team dual meets such as the Regional and National Duals run by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. The regionals are held at four different sites and eight teams out of 32 are chosen to go to the National Duals. The duals are a two-day, four-round meet (if the team is in the top four). This year’s duals featured every ranked team between the second ranked Oklahoma State through seventh ranked Cornell, in addition to ninth ranked Virginia Tech. Where is Penn State at these meets with elite teams that they are bound to meet again in the postseason?
Sure, it’s fun to watch Penn State defeat teams like West Virginia (44-3) and Lock Haven (42-3) with four pins and a tech fall or Rider 48-0 with five pins. But there comes a point when high scoring matches lose their value when the quality of the opponent is seemingly at another level. Lock Haven, Rider, and West Virginia are all tied for 52nd in the nation, why are they on the schedule?
Perhpas Penn State thinks the teams that they are scheduling are expected to perform a certain way, but this is the fourth year in a row that Penn State has blown out Lock Haven. Last year they won 50-0, and the year before that 48-0. Even when Penn State placed ninth at the NCAA championship in Cael Sanderson’s first year, they still beat Lock Haven 32-6. Why does Penn State continue to schedule Lock Haven then?
While it was unlikely that Jordan Conaway would have beaten #8 Cody Brewer of Oklahoma in the opening round at the NCAA Championships, if Oklahoma was part of Penn State’s schedule, he may not have lost by major decision. Andrew Alton lost to unseeded Drake Houdashelt of Missouri 4-1. Matt Brown lost in the finals to top-seeded Chris Perry of Oklahoma State, a win which would have secured the championship for Penn State early in the night. These teams that Penn State didn’t schedule haunted them going into the final day of the tournament when they had no wrestlers competing outside of the finals. It won’t be that easy to do next year.
The younger wrestlers’ should not be thrown into the Big Tens and NCAAs without facing more competitive teams. Sure, a 13-1 dual record is great, but if the Nittany Lions want to add more All-Americans next season, the best thing to do is to have them face more difficult teams, even at the expense of the possibility of a few more losses.