Wrestling Wednesday Weekly Preview: Seniors
Youth did not hold back the Penn State wrestling team last year. Even with just three regular senior starters, the Nittany Lions captured their fourth NCAA Title in five years. This season, although seven starters are returning, youth once again characterizes Cael Sanderson’s roster which features only three seniors and a graduate student.
Though none of them carry the same eminence that past senior stars Nico Megaludis, Morgan McIntosh, and Jordan Conaway did, the four upperclassman wrestlers all return to Rec Hall seasoned to help lead the Nittany Lions back atop the college wrestling pantheon yet again.
Each week between now and Nov. 11 when the Nittany Lions visit West Point to open the 2016-17 season against the Black Knights, we will preview this year’s roster by grade level.
Brian Brill, 165/174
A native of Lock Haven, Brian Brill made his Lions debut last season after redshirting two years ago following a transfer from Lehigh after his sophomore year. While mostly wrestling up at 184 to fill in for the oft-injured Matt McCutcheon, Brill went 9-3 last year with three pins. Even though Brill is caught in a bit of a logjam in his two projected weight classes, with some competition for the starting spot at 165 and either NCAA runner-up redshirt sophomore Bo Nickal or redshirt sophomore standout Shakur Rasheed wrestling at 174, he can still be a key piece for Penn State this year considering the versatility he showed last year jumping up to fill in for McCutcheon. He also offers a winning lineage. At Central Mountain High School, Brill had a 156-12 career record, was a three-time PIAA placer, including a state title at 145 in his junior year, and finished second in the Cadet Nationals in 2009.
Jimmy Gulibon, 141
Coming off of a 26-9 All-American sophomore season at 133, Jimmy Gulibon struggled to replicate that success last season in his transition up a weight class to 141. Gulibon finished his junior season with a 14-11 record and an almost even 14-13 takedown split in duals. He did though manage to go 4-6 against ranked opponents, including a 17-2 technical fall upset over #5 Matt Manley of Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
While at Derry Area High School, Gulibon won four Pennsylvania state championships and compiled a 134-4 career record. Considering how dominant he’s been throughout his career, how he was able to compete with the nation’s best last season in spite of his struggles, and how lusciously awesome his mullet is, Gulibon enters the season ranked No. 12 in the nation in his weight class and provides the most promise for this season out of this small group of upperclassmen.
Caleb Livingston, 174
Caleb Livingston enters his final year of eligibility with a 21-33 record and having wrestled in just one dual meet in his Penn State career. The finance graduate student once again likely won’t see much dual meet action this year with either Nickal or Rasheed expected to wrestle at 174. If heavyweight is as much of an uncertainty for Penn State as it was last year, especially with Jan Johnson out with a leg injury suffered while playing football, Livingston could find his way onto the mat by wrestling up three weight classes, as he did last year.
Geno Morelli, 165/174
Out of the four upperclassmen on the roster, Geno Morelli had perhaps the best season last year, going 21-12. Morelli transferred to Penn State from Pitt after his sophomore year and then took a redshirt year like Brill. In his first season wearing a blue and white singlet, Morelli wrestled mostly in open tournaments. He was just 1-4 in dual meets last season. Morelli though still qualified for the NCAA Championships and won a first round bout against #11 John Staudenmayer of North Carolina. As experienced as he is with 56 career wins and having started at 165 for Pitt his sophomore season, Morelli is in contention with Brill and Vincenzo Joseph for the starting spot at 165.