College wrestling is in a strange time of the season. Penn State has only had one dual meet in almost three weeks – a 32-7 victory over Army West Point at Rec Hall on Nov. 18.
The Nittany Lions will have a pair of dual meets this weekend, one on Friday in Philadelphia at Penn, and the other on Sunday afternoon for their second home dual meet of the season against Lehigh.
After Sunday, it will be another two weeks until Penn State competes again at the Collegiate Wrestling Duals in Florida due to finals being right around the corner.
As far as early season dual meets go, the two this weekend are as important as any for Penn State because it will be the only competition they will see in a month’s time.
“It gives us a good amount of time between matches to prepare for the next match,” said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. “Being this time of the year, we like the way the setup is.”
Interestingly enough, Friday will be the first dual meet of the season for the Quakers. They did wrestle in a couple tournaments, including a first place finish in the 8-team Keystone Wrestling Classic at The Palestra. The Quakers had four champions in the tournament, and had wrestlers in the finals in eight of the 10 weight classes.
Penn has five wrestlers ranked by InterMat in Michael Colaiocco (No. 12 at 133), Carmen Ferrante (No. 28 at 141), Anthony Artalona (No. 23 at 149), Lucas Revano (No. 33 at 165), and Nick Incontrera (No. 21 at 174).
As for Lehigh, Sunday will be their fifth dual meet of the year. The Mountain Hawks are 2-1 with wins over Oregon State (21-12) and Pitt (26-9), and a loss to Campbell (22-11). Lehigh will be making a weekend road trip as they also wrestle at nearby Lock Haven on Saturday afternoon.
Lehigh also has five ranked wrestlers in Jaret Lane (No. 14 at 125), Malyke Hines (No. 22 at 133), Josh Humphreys (No. 10 at 157), Brian Meyer (No. 27 at 165), and Jordan Wood (No. 10 at 285).
When the Nittany Lions go to Philadelphia for Friday’s dual meet at The Palestra, they will find a couple well-known former Penn Staters in Bryan Pearsall and Mark Hall.
Pearsall was a member of the three national championship teams in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2013, he placed fifth in the Big Ten Championships and was an NCAA qualifier at 141 pounds.
Hall, who had one of the most decorated careers in a Nittany Lion singlet in recent history, was a 2016-17 NCAA champion at 174 pounds. He was also the NCAA Tournament’s top seed at the weight in 2020, but the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
Sanderson sees former wrestlers that become college coaches like Pearsall and Hall, and Vincenzo Joseph at Stanford, as a helpful recruiting tool.
“It’s great we have kids that if they want to come to Penn State and they have aspirations to be college coaches to see them get picked up and put on top level staffs right away,” said Sanderson. “(Hall and Joseph) have kids their age still competing, and they’re on college staffs. That’s a good thing.
“I’m glad we didn’t show them everything we know. We have a couple more tricks up our sleeve. You’ll see more of that as we get older as a staff.”
Nittany Lion 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young, who was teammates with Hall, is looking forward to seeing him on Friday.
“Those relationships never go away,” said Bravo-Young.
College athletes don’t always get to go home for holidays. Penn State football was getting ready for a game at Michigan State last weekend during Thanksgiving.
Even though the wrestling team was off for the holiday, some of the wrestlers didn’t travel home. Bravo-Young is from Arizona, so going home is a little tougher than someone who lives only a few hours away.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable for last year’s NCAA champion at 133 pounds to get a much-needed break for a few days.
“It’s good just to get a little reset,” said Bravo-Young. “Sometimes college, school, practice everyday, it kind of gets old. It’s just the same routine.”
Instead, RBY and a few others celebrated Thanksgiving in State College, but he did say he will get to celebrate Christmas at home in Arizona.
“There are things more important than wrestling, and we love wrestling,” said Sanderson. “But spending time with your family is important. The next month, we’ll give them time for Christmas break. We want them to spend as much time off as we can.”
Hopefully Bravo-Young can bring back some warm weather when he gets back to State College.
Sanderson was asked earlier this week if the team ever goes sight-seeing while on road trips like the one they will take Friday to Philadelphia. Of course, the city in eastern Pennsylvania has plenty of historical landmarks to offer for tourists.
Bravo-Young said he had no interest in doing any sort of tours, but Sanderson seemed to be a little more open-minded about the idea. That doesn’t mean the Nittany Lions will be doing anything of the sort any time soon.
“We should do that. I’d like to go see some of those things,” said Sanderson. “We do kind of just go take care of business. A lot of these guys have homework and they’re managing their weight. I don’t know if they’d want us to take them around on a tour.”
State College to Philadelphia is over three hours away one way, and likely even longer in a bus. It’s probably best that it’s strictly a business trip for college athletes.