Season Preview: No. 1 Wrestling Looks To Continue Dominance
Penn State wrestling, led by Head Coach Cael Sanderson, enters the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and has nine individually ranked wrestlers. The season should be another promising one for the Nittany Lions as they look to continue their dominance under wrestling legend Cael Sanderson. With the season opening on November 13 against Lock Haven in Rec Hall, it’s time to break down the expectations set for this team and preview the upcoming season.
With the loss of National Champion and three-time All-American Matt Brown, Penn State needs somebody capable of leading the team and winning Penn State’s 31st National Championship. That guy may just be senior Morgan McIntosh, who is ranked No. 1 in the 197-pound weight class. Much like Matt Brown was, McIntosh is a two-time All-American heading into his senior year and poised to lead Penn State to a National Championship, having finished third in his weight class last year at the NCAAs.
The Nittany Lions also boast eight other ranked wrestlers along with McIntosh. Returning senior Nico Megaludis is ranked No. 2 in the 125-pound weight class, while sophomore Zain Retherford is ranked No. 2 in the 149-pound weight class. The other six that are ranked are all ranked in the top 14 in their respective weight classes.
The senior leadership on the Nittany Lions’ wrestling team is great, but they also come in with a couple exciting redshirt freshmen who are ready to make a big impact 0n the season. Jason Nolf, ranked No. 7 in the 157-pound weight class, and Bo Nickal, ranked No. 14 in the 174-pound weight class, both highlight the incredible recruiting work of Cael Sanderson. The most hype is on Bo Nickal, one of the top high school wrestlers in the nation from Allen, Texas. Comparisons to a young Matt Brown or Morgan McIntosh have already been made, and Nickal is confident he can meet those expectations.
The Big Ten looks to be a competitive conference again for wrestling, and it will be another test for the Nittany Lions to prove their dominance. Matches against teams like Rutgers and Ohio State will be extremely difficult for Penn State, but Cael Sanderson will undoubtedly have his team prepared for tough B1G contests.
With the difficult Big Ten schedule opening exactly a month after their first match against Lock Haven, the Nittany Lions don’t have an easy non-conference schedule by any means, with matches against Virginia Tech, Stanford, and Lehigh highlighting the out-of-conference opponents. Many teams may be inclined to schedule easy non-conference opponents in order to have more wins going into conference play, but Cael Sanderson’s team doesn’t want anything to come easy. Sanderson’s philosophy has always been about working for something you deserve, and that mentality won’t change this year with Penn State’s difficult schedule.
Coming off a disappointing finish of fifth in the Big Ten last year, Penn State wrestling is hungry for success again as are its fans. Each of the five Rec Hall matches have already sold out. The BJC Duals will also take place this year with B1G matches on December 13 against Wisconsin and February 5 against Ohio State.
Now comes the most important question facing Penn State wrestling: what can we expect from it this year? A fifth-place finish in the Big Ten is unacceptable for any team coached by Cael Sanderson, and there’s no reason to expect a finish like that from the Nittany Lions this year. A No. 1 ranking early on places the expectations high for Penn State, but they’re expectations everybody on the team expects to surpass. At the end of they year, Penn State will be in competition in Iowa City for the top spot in the Big Ten.
The biggest surprise may come from highly praised redshirt freshman Bo Nickal. He has the talent to not only do well in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships but to win them as well. I don’t think this is the year Bo Nickal will win a National Championship in the 174-pound weight class, but he will definitely make a name for himself for the coming years.
Overall, you can expect a lot from this Penn State wrestling team. It is talented, experienced, and has one of the greatest coaches in the world. A preseason No. 1 ranking sets the standard high, and expect the team to do whatever it takes to reach it.