Wrestling Wednesday Weekly Preview: Freshmen
While there are various returning distinguished wrestlers on this year’s team, there are also some newcomers who will play crucial roles in defending Penn State’s Team National Championship. Below, we’ll highlight some of the newcomers to watch this season in duals and open tournaments and through their next four years of eligibility.
The One True Freshman
Nick Suriano, 125
The only true freshman in Cael Sanderson’s starting lineup, Nick Suriano has a pair of big wrestling shoes to fill as he replaces four-time All-American and reigning national champion Nico Megaludis at 125. Despite the comparison, however, Suriano is already expected to be in contention for the national title at 125 and has the track record to back up the hype. He had one of the best high school careers in New Jersey history, going 159-0 with four individual state championships and four team state championships at wrestling factory and national powerhouse Bergen Catholic.
Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
Anthony Cassar, 197
Anthony Cassar had been in the discussion to start at 197 for a good portion of the offseason, but an injury prevented him from winning the job. Once he returns to the mat, Cassar should give Penn State a strong alternative at 197, considering the tear that he has been on since his senior year of high school. After never qualifying for the New Jersey State Tournament during his first three years of high school, Cassar capped off a 45-0 senior season with a state title at 182. Later that year, he won the 45 kg Junior National Freestyle Championships. He went 15-8 while wrestling unattached last season.
Vincenzo Joseph, 165
After an impressive 11-0 redshirt season with three pins and five technical falls, Vincenzo Joseph enters the season ranked eighth in the nation at 165 and he’s ready to make an impact for the Nittany Lions this year. While at Central Catholic High School, Joseph was 136-21 and won two state championships. He has the potential to cement himself into Penn State’s already lethal Murderers’ Row of young middleweights: Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Shakur Rasheed (174), and Bo Nickal (184).
Kellan Stout, 197
Until Cassar returns from his injury, either Kellan Stout or Matt McCutcheon will get the nod at 197 and the responsibility of replacing three-time All-American Morgan McIntosh in the lineup. Wrestling at 184 in open tournaments last year, Stout was 11-3. While at Mount Lebanon High School, Stout amassed a 138-18 record and placed twice in the PIAA State Tournament, winning the title at 182 during his senior season.
Anticipated Redshirts to Watch
Mark Hall, 174
Had Penn State’s roster not been so loaded with dominant middleweights, Mark Hall would probably be in the lineup for the first matchup on Friday night against Army. Due to the Nittany Lions’ talent and depth around his weight, he is expected to redshirt this season, despite having one of the best résumés in the nation. Hall boasts a laundry list of accolades which include being the first wrestler in Minnesota to win six state titles, going 277-4 in high school with 189 pins, ending his prep career on a 171-match winning streak. He reached the quarterfinals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and won the Junior Wrestling World Championship in France earlier this semester.
Hall could easily step in and compete for Penn State as a true freshman, but for the moment, he is being relegated to a redshirt. The Nittany Lions, though, are just a critical injury away from burning that redshirt and sending him out to the mat for a dual at Rec Hall.
Bo Pipher, 141/149
One other notable freshman expected to redshirt this year is Bo Pipher. Pipher is a three-time Colorado state champion and was 170-7 at Paonia High School with 131 pins. Like Hall, Pipher is surrounded by a wealth of talented, older wrestlers yet remains in the hunt to shed his redshirt and fill in if needed. At the very least, he’ll provide a viable option next year once Jimmy Gullibon graduates.