One of the hottest topics for Penn State wrestling, as far as off the mat subjects go, is the possibility of wrestling more dual meets in the Bryce Jordan Center. Their first dual meet in the much larger arena compared to Rec Hall came in 2013, so it’s not exactly a new venture now for the Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions will return to the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night in a home meet with Ohio State before returning to Rec Hall on Sunday for a noon match with Nebraska. Both dual meets can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
PSU head coach Cael Sanderson spoke this week about the possibility of wrestling more dual meets in the BJC. Rec Hall is normally sold out in every dual meet and very rarely can there be empty seats seen, except when there has been inclement weather. That was the case a couple times so far this season.
“I think each year (the BJC) begins to feel more like a home environment,” said Sanderson. “It’s something we should think about as a program of having more matches over there just because it gives new opportunities for fans to see the team. We want to continue to build our fan base, and it’s hard to do that when people can’t get in to watch our matches.”
There is something to be said for Rec Hall and the atmosphere it provides. Smaller settings usually make for better crowd noise, and it’s probably pretty intimidating coming into Penn State with fans seemingly right on top of the action.
On the other side, when there is a full house, the Bryce Jordan Center can certainly get rowdy, too. Ask any of the PSU wrestlers that made the trip to Iowa last week about that. The Hawkeye fans packed 15,000 people into Carver Hawkeye Arena for the dual meet against the Nittany Lions.
And it was pretty unkind to the visitors at times.
“Their fan base is into it. That’s one way to put it,” said PSU 197-pounder Max Dean, who was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week for his performance in an 8-3 win over Iowa’s No. 4 ranked Jacob Warner.
“I really enjoyed the experience. I don’t hear the specifics of what they’re saying. I heard some stories later in the night because my family was there. Maybe some people get a little too rowdy and a little too fired up, and say something they might regret the next day. For us, it’s fun. Those opportunities to wrestle in front of 15,000 people are few and far between.”
I’m not advocating for anyone to say something inappropriate to any visitors at Penn State, but the intricacies of wrestling in the Bryce Jordan Center should be very apparent after last week.
After the win over Iowa last Friday, Sanderson said he thought his team could have wrestled better than it did. He addressed those comments this week, saying he didn’t think they wrestled poorly.
“It’s just a tough environment and our team did what they needed to do to win and move on,” said Sanderson. “But we just know we have different levels and we expect to continue to get better as the season goes on.”
Think about what Dean has gone through over the past couple seasons to get to this point. After finishing as the NCAA runner-up in 2019 while competing for Cornell, the NCAA Tournament was canceled in 2020, and the Ivy League didn’t compete in the 2020-21 season.
It had been about 20 months since Dean actually competed in a sanctioned match until November. And he’s now doing so in a rugged Big Ten, and he’s hardly skipped a beat with a record of 13-1 coming into Friday.
“I didn’t have all those opportunities last year,” said Dean. “It feels really good to be back in college wrestling and doing it with Penn State. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The 157 problem
It’s hard to say who is going to be wrestling at 157 for Penn State in any given meet. Between Terrell Barraclough and Tony Negron, the two haven’t exactly set the world on fire this season.
It makes you wonder if Joe Lee has been available. Lee was the starter at 165 last season, but he hasn’t wrestled in a dual meet yet this season. He did see action in the Southern Scuffle.
Sanderson said this week that Lee was “banged up” to start the season, but he hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup since.
“I think Joe is capable of great things,” Sanderson said. “He’s a very talented wrestler. At this time, it’s just not there.”