Looking Ahead: Sanderson has Plenty of Holes to Fill in Wrestling Ranks
The whistles have gone silent, the mats are rolled up, the singlets are washed and put away and the trophies are already starting to gather dust.
Another wrestling season is in the books and that included, of course, another national championship for the Penn State Nittany Lions.
That’s four and counting.
If Penn State wants to make it five in a row, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, it has some questions to answer, starting with its lineup.
125: Nico Megaludis has one more chance to win a championship. There is absolutely no doubt no one will outwork him this offseason or next season. After finishing second-second-third, Megaludis will work like a man possessed.
133: You would think this is a crucial offseason for incumbent starter Jimmy Gulibon. His first season as a starter showed glimpses of greatness and long bouts of underproduction. If he can’t start realizing the great promise the coaches clearly feel he has, it might be time to cede the spot to the less talented but more reliable Jordan Conaway.
141: Zain Retherford placed fifth as a true freshman and his ceiling is very high. He will be among the favorites to win a national championship at this weight in 2014-15.
149: With the feel-good story of the season, James English is finally gone, and this weight figures to come down to two others — Andrew Alton or Zack Beitz. Alton will be coming off another shoulder surgery. Beitz was the starter most of last season before losing a wrestle-off to English. Of course, true freshman Jason Nolf could emerge here, too.
157: In his senior season, Dylan Alton figures to have a lot to prove. He finished third at the NCAA tournament as a freshman and came up short his next two times. This is his last chance to grab the championship most thought he was primed to claim after his freshman campaign.
165: Who will replace David Taylor? No one. That’s impossible. But someone has to start here. It could be redshirt freshman Garrett Hammond or it could be incoming freshman Bo Nickal out of Allen, Texas.
174: Matt Brown is the starter here. He’ll be among the favorites to win the weight come March.
184: Who will replace Ed Ruth? No one. That’s also impossible. The start could go to Matt McCutcheon or Wes Phipps.
197: Morgan McIntosh is the starter here. He’ll be among the favorites to win the championship come March.
285: This figures to be Jimmy Lawson’s position to lose. Jon Gingrich is a capable backup. However, true freshman Nick Nevills may have something to say about who starts.
Penn State will have plenty of talent, but it will be an uphill climb to a fifth straight championship. However, if anyone can get it done, Cael Sanderson has shown he can.
Big Ten Rules
The Big Ten dominated the proceedings at the NCAAs, once again. The conference claimed 34 of 80 All-Americans, 43 percent.
The next best was the four-team Big XII with 11. Next came the EIWA with 10, ACC with 9, MAC 8, EWL 3, SoCon 2, Pac 12 2 and West Region had one.
The Big Ten had 10 finalists. The Big XII had 5. The Big Ten claimed six champions.
Franklin & Marshall 141-pounder Rick Durso placed eighth in Oklahoma City. He is the Diplomats' first All-American since 1981. F&M, by the way, is a Division III school in everything but wrestling.
ESPN has increasingly expanded its coverage of the NCAA Championships. Admittedly, it’s a tough tournament to cover. That's because there are eight mats of action going on at any one time through the first four sessions.
It takes a lot of research and a keen eye to put all of that activity into context.
Apparently, viewers like what they’re seeing.
An ESPN release says viewership this year was up 39 percent. That’s a significant increase -- one that will surely keep ESPN coming back. Any exposure wrestling can get, especially ESPN’s TV coverage, is great for the sport.
Turnbull out at West Virginia
His teams never won an NCAA championship, but WVU did claim its fair share of All-Americans and the occasional national champion.
Craig Turnbull always seemed to put a competitive team on the mat in Morgantown, W.Va.
After 36 years at the helm of the Mountaineers, Turnbull is out. Athletic Director Oliver Luck announced Friday he wouldn’t be renewing Turnbull’s contract and a nationwide search for his replacement has started.
So, this fall, a new coach will be in the Mountaineers’ corner for the first time since 1979.
Here’s hoping Turnbull was part of this decision and embraced it. Anyone who gives 36 years of their life to one cause deserves to at least be part of the conversation about when their career should end.
Done and Done
Oklahoma State 125-pounder Eddie Klimara gave new meaning to ending his season. The 20-year-old Cowboy did it with some finality in Oklahoma City.
At around 9:30 on Friday night, he was eliminated from the tournament, losing an overtime decision to Iowa’s Cory Clark.
Around three hours later, at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, he was arrested for suspicion of possession of cocaine and public drunkenness at a place called the Redneck Yacht Club.
Apparently OSU coach John Smith learned of his 125-pounder’s transgressions because only nine Cowboy starters appeared on the raised mat Saturday night to receive the NCAA third-place trophy. Klimara was the missing starter. He has been dismissed from the team.
An Eye Toward 2015
One final thought before we put this season to bed.
Lots of teams bring back wrestlers who scored points at this year’s tournament. But what are the Top 5, the de facto favorites going into next season?
Well, based solely on wrestlers who participated in this year’s tournament and scored points, here’s the Top 5 returning teams and the number of points they return. Nos. 2-5 should come as no surprise. No. 1 will make you shake your head.
1 .Edinboro, 57; 2. Minnesota, 55; 3. Cornell, 53; 4. Penn State, 51.5; 5. Oklahoma State, 50.