Senior eager for nationals
By Ryan Loy
Collegian Staff Writer
Dave Erwin almost missed out on competing in the biggest event in his sport.
The senior 184-pounder was a highly touted recruit out of Urbana, Ohio, but injuries and struggles in conference tournaments kept him out of the NCAA championships.
Now, in his final season as a Nittany Lion, Erwin has overcome those obstacles that slowed him in the past and is preparing to compete in his first NCAAs, which begin Thursday.
"Dave had a solid, injury-free year and kind of got the monkey off his back," said Aaron Anspach, a club coach for the Lions who had problems similar to Erwin's in his Penn State career. "It was super important for him to have some really good wins against some tough guys."
Anspach was the national runner-up at heavyweight as a senior after injuries limited his earlier seasons, so he can relate to Erwin's excitement for the national tournament. Especially after Erwin's season didn't start off smoothly.
The senior lost to Justin Ortega at 174-pounds in the team's intrasquad dual.
That was followed by a major decision loss in the Nov. 13 season opener against Lehigh's Robert Hamlin.
With his future and place on the team in doubt, Erwin turned his season around after moving up to 184. Erwin doesn't know if cutting weight hampered him at 174, but he knew he wasn't wrestling to his potential early in the season.
Despite Erwin's struggles, the coaches didn't give up on him, which was a key to his turnaround.
"The coaches knew what I was capable of," Erwin said. "It was there, but I just wasn't coming out with it. [Their support] helped a lot."
Junior Brad Pataky said the 184-pounder has a laid-back personality. While Pataky said Erwin doesn't get caught up on success or failure, he believes the senior is happier and enjoying wrestling more now that he's winning.
After going 29-7 at 184-pounds -- including a 3-2 record and fourth-place finish at the Big Ten championships -- Erwin is ready to test his abilities at the national tournament.
Anspach said Erwin needs to focus on one match at a time and look to continuously score points. He believes Erwin is hard to beat when he controls the tempo and looks to score often.
As his final collegiate tournament nears, Erwin knows he has work left to do.
"I've come a long way, but I've still got a ways to go," Erwin said. "My goal wasn't just to qualify for nationals, so I have this weekend to go out and try to reach my goals."
Tags: Aaron Anspach, Brad Pataky, Justin Ortega