Drew Hildebrandt Sparks Success Atop Penn State Wrestling’s Lineup

Following his transfer to Penn State wrestling in December, two-time All-American Drew Hildebrandt hasn’t wasted any time becoming a dominant force at 125 pounds.

With only five official bouts under his belt in the 2021-22 season, Hildebrandt has managed to stay ranked within the top 10 on InterMat’s latest rankings. He even opened his Nittany Lion career with a tech fall against Maryland’s Zach Spence in early January.

Hildebrandt’s successes on the mat speak for themselves, but head coach Cael Sanderson thinks the Central Michigan transfer adds far more than skill to his team.

“I think leadership is just being consistent and basically sharing your passion for what you’re doing with the rest of the squad,” Sanderson said. “He is a great example of those things, just very consistent and obviously a very good wrestler.”

Most of the squad also looks up and learns from the veteran wrestler, who’s now in his sixth year of collegiate wrestling, on a daily basis.

“I know a lot of our kids and other guys in the program around those weight classes are wanting to train and workout with him,” Sanderson said.

This includes Penn State’s Robbie Howard, the previous 125-pound starter, who is currently out due to surgery. Hildebrandt is proud to help be a leader for the sophomore out of Cranford, N.J.

“It shows what a good athlete and what a good person he is,” Hildebrandt said. “I love to show what I have and I got some tricks that I like to show, and it means a lot.”

Before even deciding to take on this new leadership role within the Nittany Lion program, Hildebrandt found himself with a big decision: continue wrestling or give it up for good. Ultimately, Penn State helped him make the right choice.

“I was kind of a little burnt out on the sport, and I thought I was done,” Hildebrandt said. “Then, I started to miss it a little bit and decided to try a new approach at a new school, and what a great place to reignite your love for a sport.”

This has become especially prevalent in tough Big Ten play against competitors such as Michigan’s No. 1 Nick Suriano and his upcoming match against Iowa’s No. 11 Drake Ayala.

In his first loss of the year, Hildebrandt fell in a 2-1 decision to Michigan’s Suriano this past Friday. However, he impressed with a 4-2 victory over then No. 31 Dylan Shawver of Rutgers the week prior.

“I gotta really start to get my offense going more and compete,” Hildebrandt said. “Knowing I am that guy and I can win a national title.”

After finishing his previous season at Central Michigan ranked fourth overall, Hildebrandt is looking for a championship in his final season.

“I came back to win a national title and help this team, so every win I get or every bonus point I get is a benefit to this team,” Hildebrandt said.

No. 7 Hildebrandt and the No. 1 Nittany Lions will face their biggest opponent yet at 9 p.m. this Friday night against No. 2 Iowa in Iowa City. The highly-anticipated clash will air on the Big Ten Network from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a senior staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music or Penn State wrestling and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs in Beaver Stadium. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected].

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