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Penn State Wrestling: Backups Making Most of Time on Mat

Penn State wrestling is looking to win another national championship
Photo by Penn State Athletics: Cael Sanderson

Depth has become a topic of conversation around Penn State wrestling lately.

One of the many things coach Cael Sanderson  does well is getting his backups ample time on the mat.

That was on display again Sunday.

Penn State sent out Donovon Ball at 184 pounds and Seth Nevills at heavyweight. Ball came up with a 10-3 win. Nevills recorded a first period fall.

Ball is 11-3 on the season while wrestling for No. 1 Aaron Brooks, and he actually has more matches under his belt than Brooks, who is 9-1. Nevills, who also spent time with Penn State’s football program, only wrestled his second match Sunday. He’s also made the most of his time. He won his previous match by major decision.

Penn State’s had 32 wrestlers compete this season. Most of the backups could form their own team, and it would probably do well even against a Big Ten schedule.

“That’s going to happen when you have a roster of 36 or 37,” Sanderson said. “You have kids from all over the country. You’re going to get better together. When there’s depth, it makes the stronger better. It makes the second and third guy in the weight class better. It all works together.”

The one starter that probably needs the most work and more mat time is 125-pounder Gary Steen. Steen is 5-12 on the season and there are only a handful of wrestlers that have been in more more matches than him. Marco Vespa has filled in for Steen a few times this year.

Roman Bravo-Young doesn’t take many matches off, but his backup at 133 had a chance to give fans some local flavor this season. Centre County product Baylor Shunk has wrestled a couple dual meets this year. Karl Shindledecker also has gone 6-6 this year, including getting time in one dual meet against Lehigh in December.

Terrell Barraclough started at 157 for the first half of the season until Levi Haines took over. Even with Haines starting, Barraclough has been on the mat a couple of times. Before the new year, when he was still the backup, Haines got plenty of matches.

He’s 17-1 on the season. Only Beau Bartlett and Max Dean have wrestled more matches.

Out of everyone that’s seen action this year, only five Penn State wrestlers have losing records.

That’s incredible, and you probably won’t find another program in the nation with those kind of numbers.

There will be one more opportunity this coming weekend against Clarion for some of those backups to shine, and we’ll probably see a couple take the mat again.

Who knows what next season’s starting lineup could look like. But right now, there’s plenty of reason to believe that not a whole lot is going to be changing in terms of Penn State wrestling being dominant anytime soon.

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