Lions prep for Lock Haven
By Brandt Gelman
Collegian Staff Writer
Going into its first single-team dual meet in almost a month, the Penn State wrestling team is facing some uncertainty in its young season.
The No. 5 Nittany Lions (5-0) will take on Lock Haven (2-1) at 2 p.m. Sunday, and will look for a strong performance to motivate the team in its last match before the Big Ten season opens next Sunday with a home meet against No. 22 Ohio State. Penn State has won its last eight matches against Lock Haven.
The most pressing issue for the Lions is the health of All-American Quentin Wright. The redshirt sophomore is currently out of the lineup with a left shoulder injury, which coach Cael Sanderson said may keep Wright out until mid-February.
Sanderson said freshman Andrew Church will wrestle in place for Wright this Sunday, making his 184-pound match against Lock Haven freshman Jacob Bachman one of the most anticipated matches of the day.
Church has been wrestling at 174 pounds for the majority of the season, yet Sanderson said his bump to 184 pounds should not be a problem.
“Church is a kid that will go out there and compete hard,” Sanderson said. “He trains hard every day.”
With the depth the Nittany Lions have, the 184-pound match will most likely not determine the final outcome on Sunday, but as Wright’s injury will take time to heal, the Lions need to find stability at that weight class.
Redshirt freshman Ed Ruth, and junior Frank Molinaro will look to bounce back Sunday after both wrestlers received their first loss of the year in last weekend’s Nittany Lion Open.
Both wrestlers lost in the final of their respective weight classes at the Open, but Sanderson is not worried about either of his wrestlers.
“Molinaro is a competitor,” Sanderson said. “Right now Frank is still cleaning the cobwebs out.”
The Nittany Lions will also come into this Sunday’s match dealing with deservedly high expectations. Both redshirt freshman David Taylor and true freshman Andrew Alton, who is now 11-0 with nine pins on the year, saw the largest increase in individual rankings.
Taylor is also undefeated at 11-0 and is currently the No. 3-ranked 157-pound wrestler in the country, while Alton has moved up to No. 10 in the 141-pound weight class. Junior Cameron Wade, who cruised through the Nittany Lion Open at 6-0, has moved up to the No. 6 heavyweight spot, while despite his loss in the Open championship, Ruth has moved up as the No. 12-ranked 174-pound wrestler in the country.
Dealing with injuries and high expectations to fulfill, it could be easy for the team to overlook an outmatched Lock Haven opponent. Sanderson said that is not something he is expecting.
“Lock Haven is a good team,” Sanderson said. “They have a solid history, and this is one of those meets where it is important to keep the rivalry going.”
Sanderson avoided calling the match a tune-up for the Big Ten season, and wants his team to keep the same intensity no matter who the opponent is.
Redshirt sophomore Justin Ortega said he is looking forward to this weekend’s meet. Ortega said this match will act as a chance for the team to get back into its routine.
“I’d say it’s a tune-up for us,” Ortega said. “Right now we are doing individual workouts because last weekend’s Open kind of killed us all.”
Tags: Andrew Alton, Andrew Church, Cael Sanderson, Cameron Wade, David Taylor, Ed Ruth, Frank Molinaro, Justin Ortega, Quentin Wright