Wrestling Wednesday Weekly Preview: Juniors
While this year’s wrestling team’s junior class is just about as thin as its senior class, the juniors provide some serious firepower along with some attention-grabbing storylines as the Nittany Lions seek their sixth national title in seven years.
Matt McCutcheon, 184
A two time Big Ten-placer and NCAA Championships-qualifier, Matt McCutcheon enters his junior year as one of the most experienced and decorated wrestlers on Sanderson’s roster. After a 26-14 redshirt freshman season, he missed a good amount of last year with back and knee injuries. Despite the setbacks, he still managed to go 16-8 overall and 10-3 in Big Ten duals as well as advance to the Round of 12 at NCAAs. McCutcheon is unranked by InterMat.com, which has 174-runner-up Bo Nickal listed at 184 but last year, the Apollo, PA native was ranked No. 14 184-pounder in the nation. Depending on what happens with Nickal, McCutcheon will likely wrestle at either 184 or 197. The potential jump won’t be too much of an issue for McCutcheon. Before his senior season of high school, he moved up from 182 to 195 and then placed second at 195 in the PIAA State Tournament.
Kade Moss, 141
After starting at 141 and going 17-17 as a redshirt freshman, Kade Moss took a bit of a step backwards last season, wrestling in only four duals and going 15-7 overall. With senior Jimmy Gulibon ranked No. 12 in the nation at 141, Moss once again likely won’t see much dual meet action this season.
Prior to arriving at Penn State, Moss completed two years of religious mission work in Mexico. Before that, he was a four-time Utah high school state champion.
Although he doesn’t seem to fit into Cael Sanderson’s starting lineup at the moment, if given the opportunity, Moss is such a dynamic wrestler that he can still be a valuable asset for the Nittany Lions in open tournaments and potentially as a strong secondary option to Gulibon if anything unforeseen were to happen. Twelve of his 32 career wins have been pins. At the Southern Scuffle during his freshman season, Moss placed sixth after going 7-3 with three pins — including one over the nation’s best 141-pounder at the time, Dean Heil of Oklahoma State. He also is a University National Greco Champion.
Zain Retherford, 149
During his first two years of eligibility, Zain Retherford took the Big Ten and the NCAA by storm and you should expect nothing less this season from the redshirt junior.
As a true freshman wrestling at 141, Retherford went 33-3 and won his first 29 matches and placed second in the Big Ten Tournament and fifth at the NCAA Championships. His only losses came in the two postseason tournaments, twice to eventual national champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State — who he had beaten during the conference dual meet — and once to top-ranked Mitchell Port of Edinboro. Retherford then redshirted during his sophomore year and returned to the mat last season. After jumping up a weight class to 149, Retherford went 34-0 and won his first national title plus was named the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler.
He now enters his junior season as the No. 1 ranked 149-pounder and as one of the biggest names in the country, having never lost a collegiate dual meet and riding a 35-match winning streak. That limelight is nothing new for Retherford. He came to Penn State as the No. 3 overall recruit in the country after winning two PIAA state championships and going 130-3 during his career.
Ethan Wissler, HWT
One of the biggest unknowns on this Penn State roster that is loaded with nationally ranked wrestlers, Ethan Wissler will begin his Nittany Lion career with two years of eligibility left. Having graduated high school the same year as Quentin Wright (Remember that guy?), Wissler is the oldest wrestler on the team. After wrestling for Division II Pitt-Johnstown in 2008, he then spent the next few years in the military and is now making his return to the sport. Considering Penn State’s struggles at heavyweight last season, Wissler could find his way onto the mat, especially if injuries are once again an issue for Nick Nevills, but we simply do not know enough about him to make any conclusions at this point.