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Stine: How Difficult was Haines Decision for Sanderson, Penn State Wrestling?

Photo by Penn State Wrestling: Levi Haines

Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson faced an interesting decision Friday night for 157-pounder Levi Haines: sit the freshman to conserve his redshirt season, or burn the redshirt and send him out to face Iowa’s Cobe Siebrecht. Sanderson decided on the latter, and it’s likely that Haines will start the rest of the way at 157 pounds.

It makes one wonder if it was all that hard of a choice for Sanderson and Penn State wrestling to burn Haines’s redshirt.

Haines has been outstanding all year, and he showed it with a 3-2 decision over Siebrecht.

If Haines didn’t wrestle against Iowa, Penn State might as well have kept him redshirted and started Terrell Barraclough. Had Sanderson sent out Barraclough, who knows how the Iowa meet, which Penn State won, turns out? For that matter, who knows how the rest of the season plays out?

Haines has been outstanding all season. He’s now 13-1 with his only loss coming to Northern Colorado’s Vincent Zerban, 8-6, back in November at the Binghamton Open. Zerban is now ranked 31st in the nation. Haines is up to No. 9. It also wasn’t like Barraclough was struggling.

Barraclough was 6-3 and ranked 30th at one point by InterMat. But one of the deciding factors had to be that Haines beat Barraclough, 2-1, for the championship at the Black Knight Open.

Haines is cashing in on every opportunity he’s getting. The true freshman keeps getting big wins and the moments haven’t been too large for him.

Even in the Bryce Jordan Center duals where you won’t find more fans packed in anywhere in the country when it comes to college wrestling.

But the decision to burn the redshirt might not have been all about what Haines has done on the mat. Some of it has to be the off the mat issues that all college sports face in today’s world. The transfer portal and NIL, in particular, have changed college athletics as we know it.

It’s hard to say if Haines would have transferred had he been redshirted. Even if he did redshirt, he still would likely be the starter next season, and he’s still wrestling for easily the America’s most dominant program.

He also would have still had four years of eligibility left.

It’s going to be interesting to see where Haines’s season goes from here. He’s ranked ninth at 157, and he’s climbing higher in the rankings as rapidly as he’s improving on the mat. He’s already beaten better wrestlers than what he’ll face for the rest of the regular season. After that, the question will be where he ranks among the best, both in the Big Ten and nationally.

I’m not sure if there’s any way to legally bet on college wrestling, but if it’s possible, don’t bet against Haines anytime soon.

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