Many people scratched their heads this football season when the National Football League scheduled games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many wondered how that would work with so little time to prepare before their next game.
Penn State wrestling finally wrestled for the first time this season this past Saturday in a regularly scheduled tri-meet at Northwestern with Indiana. Penn State announced the next day that the wrestlers were going directly to Wisconsin for a dual meet on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT) that was originally scheduled for this Sunday.
And the move was probably great for both sides.
A Division I wrestling’s fan’s first thought when hearing this news was probably that a dual meet on a Tuesday afternoon would be really weird. And it probably was to a lot of fans.
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But around that time is when most college athletes go to practice anyway. Ask anyone from Penn State or Wisconsin’s team if they would rather have a Tuesday afternoon dual meet or a Tuesday afternoon practice. I bet the choice would be unanimous, or pretty close to it, to skip practice for the day.
It made a lot of sense in a geographical sense for Penn State. This weekend’s dual with Wisconsin was supposed to be part of a tri-meet with Michigan, but the University of Michigan has a pause on all athletic activities until Monday.
So the Nittany Lions were in Evanston, Illinois on Saturday evening. Rather than fly home to State College and have to go to Wisconsin this weekend, why not take a bus ride of just over two hours to Madison? Practice for a couple days in Wisconsin, and then wrestle Tuesday before flying home to help limit travel during this pandemic.
It also made a lot of sense for academics. Wrestlers could easily get their work done in hotels, especially in today’s world where most classes are being held remotely anyway.
A lot of people probably wouldn’t want to make a weekday dual meet a habit. Some people maybe even hated the thought of competing after so little practice time. But the best way to go through this season is to just embrace the weirdness in order for the season to go on.
If you would have told me last week that Penn State’s first dual of the season against Indiana would come down to the heavyweight bout, I would have laughed.
But when you don’t have a 125-pounder medically cleared and are forced to forfeit the weight, and combine that with a huge upset of the Hoosiers’ DJ Washington over PSU’s fifth-ranked Carter Starocci at 174, it’s easy to see how it became so close in a PSU 24-15 win.
Give Indiana credit. They gave the Nittany Lions all it could handle, and they followed up that effort by upsetting No. 24 Northwestern in the other dual of the tri-meet.
In case you were wondering, Washington also got a key pin in the Northwestern dual, and found himself ranked 17th at 174 pounds this week by InterMat. Don’t be surprised to maybe see Washington, and the Hoosiers, on the rise.
Ever since that scare to Indiana, Penn State has been much more dominant. They lost just two bouts in the dual with Northwestern and also won six of the nine extra matches. They also only gave up the forfeit at 125 to Wisconsin, and went on to win the next nine matches plus four more extra matches.
I tuned in to watch Iowa’s dual meet with Illinois this past Sunday. It was the first time I’ve got to see them so far this season, and they’re even more dominant than I thought.
In the dual with the Illini, the Hawkeyes put together three pins, three major decisions and two more decisions in a 36-6 rout.
For the season, Iowa has five pins, two technical falls, and eight major decisions in a total of 30 bouts. In other words, they are getting bonus points in half their bouts.
I’ll never say it is impossible, but right now it feels like Penn State would be a major underdog in their next competition if Las Vegas released betting odds for college wrestling.