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Cael Sanderson, Roman Bravo-Young Open Up About Penn State’s COVID-19 Complications

After a long break, Penn State wrestling was finally ready to begin its shortened 2021 season last Sunday against No. 19 Rutgers. Well, until positive coronavirus tests put the program on pause, that is.

Due to undisclosed cases among the team’s top personnel, the Nittany Lions have needed to deal with many complications as they prepare to open their season on Sunday against No. 20 Michigan State.

Head coach Cael Sanderson commented on the challenges during Tuesday’s media availability. He noted that although team activities were paused following the positive tests, Penn State resumed practicing with student-athletes who tested negative and weren’t identified as “high risk” through contact tracing.

“We have had a good number of kids in the room. We had practice today, we had practice yesterday. We’ve been rolling,” Sanderson said. “Whoever is available and allowed to get in there and go, they’re going.”

Pauses during a shortened season can cause a lot of issues to work through, especially in the sport of wrestling. Interruptions from factors outside a team’s control, much like positive coronavirus tests, can throw of wrestlers’ conditioning habits.

“Obviously in our sport, a big concern is not just that we are on pause, it’s that these guys have to manage their weight and be ready to compete one hour after they make weight,” Sanderson said. “If we are on pause and then all of a sudden not on pause two days before a match, we are going to have to make a decision if we are ready to go.”

Sanderson said that the program had only one or two positive tests over the past few months, but a team decision to travel home for the holidays may have led to more recent positive cases.

Although letting the team travel home over winter break was risky, Sanderson said he and the team stand by the decision.

“It wasn’t a good idea as far as keeping COVID out of the room, but I still think being able to spend holidays with the family is worth it,” Sanderson said. “It’s what the student-athletes wanted, and I support that 100%.”

All-American Roman Bravo-Young was especially appreciative of being able to go home and spend some time with close family during the holidays.

Hailing from Arizona, Bravo-Young doesn’t get many chances to see family, especially now amid the pandemic. He and Sanderson have no regrets about choosing to visit with their loved ones over the holidays.

“Listen, that’s the coach you want, right? We will worry about the wrestling when it comes, but going home means a lot to me,” Bravo-Young said. “Obviously no one wants [COVID-19], but I don’t think anyone regrets going home.”

Currently, Penn State appears to still be on track to wrestle in its next dual meet in Rec Hall against Michigan State. The matchup will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, January 24, and be televised on BTN+.

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About the Author

Max Tolson

Max is a senior majoring in print journalism. He hails from the small town of Millsboro, DE and loves to watch the Eagles and Penn State wrestling. Follow him on twitter @TolsonMax or send emails to [email protected] Go Birds!

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