Depth proves beneficial
By Mike Still
Collegian Staff Writer
As a coach driving his wrestlers to improve everyday, Cael Sanderson makes one thing clear to his team -- every weight class is open.
At any weight, any guy on the team could earn the starting spot with hard work and a hunger to represent Penn State under the lights at Rec Hall.
And at the 165-pound weight class, Sanderson has a few dependable options to choose from every match.
“Obviously as a team, when you’re trying to win and be at your best in March and be a national title contender, we need the best out of everybody,” Sanderson said.
This season, Sanderson has started three different 165-pounders in dual meets -- redshirt freshmen Jake Kemerer and Jim Vollrath and redshirt sophomore Nick Fischer.
Ranked the No. 7 recruit out of any weight class by InterMat coming out of Hempfield High School in Greensburg, Pa., Kemerer secured the starting job before the season began and has been ranked as high as No. 11 this year.
However, since starting the season 4-0, including a victory over No. 18 Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh on Nov. 14, Kemerer’s record now stands at 12-6.
Despite Kemerer’s struggles, including three losses to unranked opponents, Sanderson is sure the former high school All-American will come around.
“He’s just got some areas that he needs to work on,” the coach said. “He knows what they are, we know what they are. It’s just something he’s got to do. But we still have a lot of confidence in Kemerer because he’s gonna wrestle hard and he’s gonna try hard when he’s out there.”
Though Kemerer is listed as Sanderson’s starter, both Fischer and Vollrath have made an impact this season at 165 pounds.
While Kemerer recovered from an illness, Fischer earned a thrilling 5-1 decision over Ohio State’s Jared Kusar on Dec. 19.
And most recently, at the Virginia Duals on Jan. 7 and 8, Vollrath and Kemerer split matches in the Nittany Lions’ four dual matches over the course of the two-day tournament.
Vollrath went 1-1 with a 13-3 major decision over Edinboro’s Ethan Saylor and has gone 22-5 wrestling at both 157 and 165 pounds in attached and unattached matches.
A former high school All-American at Council Rock South High School, Vollrath has surprised himself with what he’s been able to achieve this season.
“Having Cael and all these coaches has been awesome,” Vollrath said. “They’ve been teaching me new things, little tricks here and there. And it just helps me to keep getting better.”
Along with the coaching staff’s tips and guidance, Vollrath and his teammates are also learning from each other.
Though they always have to be prepared to either compete or cheer their teammates on, the skilled 165-pounders take each practice as an opportunity to improve and help one another get ready for competition.
“We have so much talent,” Vollrath said. “It’s awesome to work with all these guys and keep getting better every week.”
Tags: Cael Sanderson, Jake Kemerer, Nick Fischer