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Penn State Wrestling Ready For Challenge Against No. 3 Michigan

Penn State wrestling’s 2021-22 season couldn’t have started much better than it’s already played out. The Nittany Lions currently lead the national rankings, boast an undefeated record, and haven’t skipped a beat in Big Ten play so far.

Although Cael Sanderson’s program is riding high, an upcoming battle with No. 3 Michigan poses an incredible threat. Nineteen of the 20 wrestlers expected to compete in the dual are currently ranked, which should produce a premier matchup for both programs.

Despite the heightened challenge, Sanderson feels his team is ready to roll once it hits the mat in Ann Arbor.

“You’re preparing for the big matches year-round,” Sanderson said this week. “It’s not a, ‘We’ve got a great dual coming up in three days, and we’re really going to shift gears now.'”

The dual against Michigan serves as one of Penn State’s three remaining top-10 matchups remaining on the regular-season slate. The Wolverines, on the other hand, face currently unranked opponents moving forward.

As meaningful as dual meets are, this is about as big as it gets for both teams. The matchup is a great measuring stick for both teams, especially the Wolverines, who might get some answers about how they stack up as a true national title contender.

“Everyone knows Michigan’s one of the very best teams in the country. That’s no secret,” Sanderson said this week. “But I feel like every weekend’s a test. The test is: Are we making progress as we move along and are the individuals making progress?”

Right off the bat at 125 pounds, newly minted Nittany Lion No. 7 Drew Hildebrandt will have a tough matchup against former Nittany Lion No. 1 Nick Suriano. 

Then, if started again over Creighton Edsell, No. 16 Brady Berge will find himself up against No. 10 Cameron Amine at 165 pounds — his most challenging matchup since returning to Penn State’s lineup last weekend.

Ranked No. 2 at 184 pounds, Michigan’s Myles Amine represented San Marino in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and came away with a bronze medal. He’ll face No. 1 Aaron Brooks, but the Nittany Lion star isn’t sweating his opponent’s experience.

“He’s an Olympic bronze medalist,” said Brooks. “This summer, I was blessed enough to be in Tokyo as a training partner and to see that level of wrestling and wrestle with the Olympic champion in that weight class, so I think that’s a huge advantage.”

Earning a win Friday night will be a challenge for Penn State, but it’s not an uncommon sight for the top-ranked program in the nation. In fact, the Nittany Lions are buying into their locker room and staff as they gear up to compete.

“I have full faith in my team,” Brooks said. “I see the work that these guys put in every day, so that’s the fun part, going out and competing. The hard part is practice, and you get into the grinder week, but when you get to competition time, I always have faith in my guys just like I said we do this day in and day out.”

No. 1-ranked 174-pounder Carter Starocci agreed and noted that Penn State’s year-in and year-out experience should stand above Michigan’s current hot streak.

“[Michigan has] a really good team, but I think we’ve got a great team,” Starocci said after a win over Rutgers. “I don’t think they’re impressive. I think they’re kind of basic. They’ve got some new coaches, but we have the best coaches, and we’re the best team.”

Penn State and Michigan will face off at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 21. The dual will air live on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Gabriel Herman

Gabriel Herman is a junior journalism major at Penn State from Minneapolis, MN. He writes about several sports-related topics. If you want to discuss great moments in Minnesota Twins history, you can reach him at [email protected]

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