If we were living in a normal time, this wrestling season would have started well over two months ago. We would be talking about the season starting to wind down for Penn State, rather than just beginning.
But that is the challenge of playing any sport in the middle of a pandemic. You aren’t quite sure what to expect, and things can change at the drop of a hat.
Of course, the Nittany Lions have had their first two dual meets against Rutgers and Michigan State postponed. Head coach Cael Sanderson said in his weekly Zoom press conference on Wednesday that the Lions should be good to go now as they head to the Chicagoland area for a tri-meet on Saturday at Northwestern with Indiana.
And this is now the fun part for Penn State. All frustrations about not having wrestled yet this season can be taken out in two days.
LISTEN: Weekly PSU wrestling segment with Andy Stine on “Sports Central with Cory Giger” on WRTA in Altoona.
Imagine the mental toll that the past couple weeks must have taken on the PSU wrestlers. Just a few days before their first dual meet against Rutgers, the program was put on pause due to positive COVID-19 results.
About a week later, there is hope that the home dual with Michigan State can go on as scheduled. Ultimately, that meet was called off out of an abundance of caution.
Last weekend, the University of Michigan put a pause on all athletics for two weeks. Penn State was scheduled to go to Ann Arbor for a Feb. 7 tri-meet with the Wolverines and Wisconsin. So even if the Lions get through this weekend without any issues and the tri-meet with Indiana and Northwestern goes on as scheduled, they already know next weekend’s competitions are in question.
Sanderson said Wednesday that they are still planning on wrestling the dual with Wisconsin next weekend, but the logistics of the meet are still in the works.
Cael also said that out of the three postponed meets so far, they will try to reschedule at least a couple of them. But that is tough now with not too many opportunities to reschedule, unless they schedule a match during the week.
All of this, and by the time that Penn State finally takes the mat on Saturday, they will only be five weeks away from the Big Ten Tournament.
With all the problems that they have faced in just trying to get the season going, I do expect Penn State to go out and get two wins in dominant fashion on Saturday. Indiana is unranked and has just one ranked wrestler by InterMat in their lineup. The 16th-ranked Wildcats will probably give a little bit of a better battle with five ranked wrestlers, but again, they aren’t on No. 3 ranked Penn State’s level.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that any match, or even the entire season, can be shut down at a moment’s notice. That reason alone should give the Lions a reason to seize every opportunity they get this season.
One of the interesting ways that Sanderson has tried to emulate such a unique season as this year was to hold wrestle-offs in Rec Hall. Wrestle-offs are typically done in the practice room, but the move took place to try to imitate what a dual meet with no fans will look like this season.
RBY’S POST-WRESTLING CAREER
It’s natural for wrestlers in the Big Ten to have a desire to compete in the Olympics. A wrestler’s options to what they want to do in the sport after college, other than the Olympics, are pretty limited.
PSU 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young said last week that he still wants to wrestle for about 10 more years. After that, he wants to take up a career in mixed martial arts.
RBY is in his early 20s now, meaning that he would be over 30 years old should he start an MMA career after 10 more years of wrestling. When you get over 30 years old, most athletes are starting to think about retirement in their sport, and not starting one.
Man, wrestlers are just wired differently.
Follow Andy Stine on Twitter @RiseAndStine