Penn State Wrestling Excited, Relaxed Heading Into Big Ten Championships
Now that Penn State wrestling’s regular season is over, the team has spent the past few weeks gearing up the Big Ten Championships.
Despite the hype surrounding Iowa and Nittany Lions’ unfamiliar standing as underdogs, there’s a sense of quiet confidence among the team — and for good reason. Regardless of who’s actually competing this coming weekend, each member of the team is hard at work as preparing for his first step toward the national tournament.
“Everybody’s got smiles on their faces. Everybody’s excited,” Nick Lee said. “This is the fun part of the season, you know? The hard part and the long part is over, so now it’s the time to just have fun and enjoy it.”
As a true junior, Lee has placed third at each of his Big Ten tournament appearances, which both led to fifth-place national tournament finishes and All-American titles. He’s currently ranked No. 1 at his weight and stands undefeated this year at 18-0.
Unlike Lee, 157-pounder Bo Pipher is preparing to make his first Big Ten tournament appearance after recently moved to the starting spot after the departure of three-time national titleholder Jason Nolf. However, despite the added pressure, Pipher is simply looking forward to wrestling.
“I’m just really excited to go wrestle,” said Pipher. “But it’s the same as any other week. It’s just like other matches.”
As a redshirt junior, Pipher has been to this tournament before with the team. He thinks this has helped him know what to expect heading into the weekend.
“I’ve gone to Big Tens a couple times with the team, just traveling and warming guys up and being there as a workout partner,” he said. “So I’ve been there before, and it’ll be the same as any other weekend.”
His teammate, Roman Bravo-Young, likely agrees. After placing eighth in the NCAA Tournament as a true freshman last year, Bravo-Young’s mindset this postseason has been about confidence and not overthinking things.
“I believe in myself a lot more,” he said. “I think I’m the best, so I just gotta go do it.”
As a team, the guys have been centering on staying focused and just looking at this tournament as another chance to wrestle. Bravo-Young believes this will help them prepare for a chaotic NCAA Tournament.
“We’re ready,” he said. “It’s just another tournament. It’s not the big show, so it’s just more practice.”
Whether this weekend is an opportunity to compete in the postseason for the first time or just a chance to wrestle some more before the national tournament, veteran leader Lee has stressed the importance of recognizing how much it means for them to be here.
“Only 10 guys get to do this, same as the other teams, so it’s a very select group of people in the country that get to compete in [the NCAA Tournament],” Lee said. “With the Big Ten [Tournament], no matter where you’re from, you’re here and you should be proud of that.”
Penn State will begin the 2020 Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, March 7 against Rutgers. Broken up into four sections, Sessions I through III will be streamed live on BTN+, while the championship matches will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network.
More information about the tournament and a schedule of individual matches can be found here.
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