It’s almost time for the nation’s premier wrestling program to start defending their national championship, and believe it or not, that first step kicks off on Friday night.
Plenty was discussed for Penn State wrestling’s media day earlier this week. Here is a breakdown of Monday’s topics.
The 125-pound class
The 125-pound weight class has been seemingly an endless question mark for a long time for the Nittany Lions. The picture got just a little bit cloudier when it was announced by head coach Cael Sanderson that Robbie Howard will likely not be wrestling this year at all due to injury. Gary Steen will be the starter in his place.
Steen, a native of a wrestling factory in Reynolds High School in northwest Pennsylvania, went 5-5 while wrestling in open tournaments last year during his redshirt season. He won a state championship twice, and also placed third twice in high school.
At the beginning of last season, Roman Bravo-Young said it would be his final season as a Nittany Lion. His plans changed, however, and he is back in State College for his final year of eligibility.
Some have wondered if Bravo-Young will do a full workload like years past, or he will do a more limited schedule like former Minnesota heavyweight Gable Steveson did last year.
“There will be some matches where if we can sit him, we’ll definitely be looking to do that,” said Sanderson. “Right now, I think the plan is for him to wrestle a handful of matches.
“We’re very excited to have Roman back. I think everyone in college wrestling is excited to see him come back. He’s a special one. He’s always working, always training.”
Dropping a weight
Beau Bartlett wrestled at 149 pounds last season while Nick Lee was busy taking the spot at 141 and coming away with a second national championship. Now that Lee has graduated, Bartlett has dropped down to 141 where he says is his natural weight.
“Physically, I’m eight pounds lighter, so I’m not force-feeding myself,” said Bartlett. “I wasn’t able to run, I wasn’t able to jump rope. If you do that, you start losing weight. Now I’m doing the things I’ve loved to do for 21 years. I’m at a natural weight. I feel great.
“No regrets about (bumping up a weight). I’m happy. I’m really grateful I got to do that instead of redshirting. Now I feel more prepared than ever.”
A lot can happen in a year
PSU 197-pounder Max Dean has had a lot happen since stepping on campus for the first time last year. For starters, he won his first national championship, which is an ultimate goal for anyone in college wrestling. Off the mat, it’s also been an eventful offseason as Dean got married over the summer.
It’s easy to say he’s become a fan favorite over the last year.
“I was the new guy last year, but everyone was really welcoming,” said Dean. “It felt like home really fast. It is nice being here over a year now.”
During his media availability, Dean pointed out a Nittany Lion Wrestling Club practice going on in the wrestling room. When asked what advice he would give to prospective college wrestlers, he had four simple words,
Come to Penn State.
“It’s hard not to get better here,” Dean said. “There’s so many Olympic golds, Hodge Trophy winners, NCAA champs, world medalists. All those guys have things you can learn from them. It’s almost impossible not to get better being here. You’d have to be a bum not to.”
Double the fun
There will be two dual meets held at the Bryce Jordan Center this season – one on Jan. 20 vs. Michigan and the other coming seven days later against Iowa.