Wrestling Wednesday Weekly Preview: Sophomores
Two years ago, Cael Sanderson brought in not only a deep freshman class, but an impressive one to say the least. Now after both a redshirt year and a year of eligibility, many of those recruits along with some new key additions are ready to lead the Penn State wrestling team into the future.
George Carpenter, 133
In his redshirt freshman year, George Carpenter went 7-10 in open tournaments. You can expect more of the same from him this year with Jered Cortez, the No. 10 133 pounder on InterMat.com, slated in front of him on the projected lineup.
Jered Cortez, 133
This season will be Jered Cortez’s first one wrestling in the Big Ten after competing only in open tournaments last year because of an intra-conference transfer from Illinois following his redshirt season. Despite never wrestling in a collegiate dual meet, Cortez is ranked tenth in the nation for his weight class. He went 12-0 in open tournaments as an unattached wrestler last season. He is 18-2 for his career in open tournaments. As a four-time Illinois state champ who might be a bit unknown in the world of college wrestling, Cortez projects to be a valuable and impactful newcomer for the Nittany Lions.
Jan Johnson, HWT
One of the most intriguing wrestlers on last year’s team, Jan Johnson was a redshirted member of the football team at the time he joined Cael Sanderson’s group after Nick Nevills went down with an injury. This year, Johnson is recovering from an injury of his own that he sustained during the football season. As a true freshman wrestling in a man’s weight class after being away from the sport since his high school senior season and not training all summer, Johnson went 1-9.
Nick Nevills, HWT
Coming off of an impressive 10-1 redshirt season where he made a run to the quarterfinals of the Southern Scuffle, Nick Nevills headed into last season as the No. 15 heavyweight in the country. He ended up missing the first three months of the season due to a pectoral injury. When he returned, Nevills started to live up to the preseason hype with a 6-3 record down the stretch. Assuming he stays healthy after an injury-plagued first two seasons of college wrestling, Nevills promises to be a stronghold at heavyweight for the next three seasons. A native of Clovis, CA, Nevills won three state championships in high school and was 200-5, with 146 of those wins being pins.
Bo Nickal, 184
There is little left for Bo Nickal to accomplish this season that he didn’t already do as a redshirt freshman. The one thing that did elude Nickal last year was a national title. After getting upset in the 174 lb. NCAA Finals by 11-seed Myles Martin of Ohio State, Nickal returns coming off of a 33-2 season looking to end this season on top. Ranked first in the nation by Intermat at 184, Nickal is expected to move up a weight class this season. He is still expected to be one of the headlining talents on Cael Sanderson’s roster this season.
Jason Nolf, 157
Like Nickal, Jason Nolf burst onto the college wrestling season last year as a redshirt freshman but finished just shy of the sport’s pinnacle. In his first season in the Blue and White, he went 33-2 with a team high 16 pins and 11 technical falls. Both of Nolf’s losses were in the title bouts of the Big Ten and NCAA Championships to Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez, the nation’s top 157-pounder and by a total of two points. With Martinez moving up to 165 this season, Nolf is ranked No. 1 at 157 and is the favorite to win the national title. Nolf was one of the most dominant wrestlers in dual meets last season, leading the Nittany Lions in dual points, bonus points, pins, and takedowns. Nolf has always been a premier talent who is no stranger to having his arm raised. He has only lost four scholastic matches since beginning high school. During his redshirt season, he went 15-1 in open tournaments as an unattached wrestler and in high school, he was 176-1 with three state titles.
With the sophomore tandem of Nolf and Nickal, as well as junior stud Zain Retherford, the Nittany Lions have an abundance of talent and consistency for the foreseeable future.
Shakur Rasheed, 174
In this talented sophomore class of wrestlers, Shakur Rasheed is primed to join Nickal and Nolf in the upper echelon of college wrestling. Rasheed went 17-7 last season while splitting time at 165 with Geno Morelli, who eventually represented the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Rasheed wrestled in the majority of dual meets though, going 8-3 in dual action compared to Morelli’s record of 1-4. Expected to wrestle up a weight class at 174, Rasheed is ranked No. 18 in the country at his weight and projects to be one of this season’s breakout grapplers.
Devon Van Cura, 184/197/HWT
Wrestling in three different weight classes last season, Devon Van Cura worked his way into the lineup in a variety of ways and finished with a 7-4 record. With Nickal holding down 184 and Nevills expected to wrestle at 285, barring another injury-plagued season, 197 is really the only uncertainty on this loaded Penn State team. 197 seems to be up for grabs among Van Cura, junior Matt McCutcheon, redshirt freshman Anthony Cassar, and true freshman Kellan Stout. McCutcheon though might be the favorite considering his overwhelming experience.
Kenneth Yanovich, 125
During his redshirt freshman season, Kenneth Yanovich only competed in open tournaments, going 9-5. Wrestling unattached the year before, Yanovich was 9-11. With true freshman standout Nick Suriano ranked tenth in the nation at 125, Yanovich likely once again won’t be a dual meet wrestler.