Penn State Wrestling To Enter Multiple Wrestlers At Contested Weight Classes In Keystone Classic
Penn State wrestling is expected to enter 20 wrestlers in the Keystone Classic on Sunday, according to a release from the team with its lineup. The early season tournament, which Penn hosts at the historic Palestra every November, has become a useful tool for head coach Cael Sanderson in sorting a team that’s consistently plagued with the first-world problem of having more top-flight wrestlers than lineup spots.
In addition to the many backups making the trip to the Palestra, multiple Penn State wrestlers will compete at 125 lbs., 149 lbs., and 285 lbs., all weight classes that have yet to be settled. At his Tuesday media availability, Sanderson didn’t divulge much of his plans for the weekend and left many of the possibilities for different weight classes up in the air.
Although both plan on wrestling this season according to Sanderson, neither Brody Teske nor Gavin Teasdale will make their debuts this weekend. Instead, two of their likely interim placeholders at 125 lbs. — Devin Schnupp and Justin Lopez — will compete for the Nittany Lions, who have won the tournament each of the last two years. B
Schnupp got the nod against Kent State, losing 12-8 to Jake Ferri. He’s 1-15 as a Nittany Lion after starting at the weight during the first half of last season. Lopez will have a chance to overtake Schnupp and break into the lineup with a strong performance in Philadelphia. He is 2-6 during his Penn State career while competing in open tournaments. Both wins have come during this season.
“[Schnupp and Lopez] both need to step it up a little bit,” Sanderson said. “Those guys should be excited for that opportunity.”
Jarod Verkleeren impressed in his Rec Hall debut with a first period throw and pin against Kody Kamara. He was starting while No. 15 Brady Berge continued his weight descent after competing at 70 kg (roughly 155 lbs.) over the summer. Listed on the team’s projected lineup, Berge appears ready to go at 149 lbs.
Verkleeren and Berge hadn’t wrestled off before the dual, but as two of the weight class’ top entrants, they could likely meet later in the tournament. The outcome will likely be the first of many indications that will help Sanderson identify what route he wants to take in replacing three-time national champion Zain Retherford at 149 lbs.
Fresh off a fourth-place finish at the Bearcat Open last weekend, sophomore Luke Gardner will be Penn State’s third entrant at 149 lbs.
Even more interesting than the 149 lb. battle is Penn State’s dilemma at heavyweight. No. 2 Nick Nevills, a two-time All-American and one of the team’s captains this season, sat out last weekend in favor of Anthony Cassar who moved up from 197 lbs. during the offseason. Cassar, who Sanderson has described as the “ultimate team player” is best known for upsetting then-No. 1 Kollin Moore in last season’s Ohio State dual. He looked great in his heavyweight debut against Kent State, turning in a technical fall win against Billy Bolla and showing little signs of struggle adjusting to his new, bigger weight class.
Both Nevills and Cassar won the Keystone Classic this season, so a finals matchup seems imminent. A bout this weekend would be their first wrestle-off. Sanderson remains confident in both wrestlers, who he considers to both be among the best heavyweights in the country.
“This is wrestling and you have to go earn your spot,” Sanderson said. “[Nevills] will have that opportunity, just like Cassar will have his opportunity, and just like everyone else on the team has the same opportunity.
“It’s up to them to figure out who’s going to represent Penn State as we get into March.”
Cassar is no stranger to entering the Keystone Classic with a starting job on the line. When he won at at 197 lbs. Last year, Cassar was one of two Nittany Lions to enter the field. A narrow win over Matt McCutcheon, a three-time national qualifier, solidified his starting job until Shakur Rasheed entered the mix following the Southern Scuffle.
The full list of Penn State’s anticipated entrants is:
125 lbs. — Devin Schnupp, Justin Lopez
133 lbs. — Roman Bravo-Young, Scott Stossel
141 lbs. — No. 4 Nick Lee, Dominic Giannangeli
149 lbs. — Jarod Verkleeren, No. 15 Brady Berge
157 lbs. — No. 1 Jason Nolf, Bo Pipher
165 lbs. — No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph
174 lbs. — No. 2 Mark Hall, Mason Manville
184 lbs. — No. 4 Shakur Rasheed, Francisco Bisono
197 lbs. — No. 1 Bo Nickal, James Hoeg
285 lbs. — Anthony Cassar, No. 2 Nick Nevills
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