Penn State Wrestling: Young Team Includes 'Great Leaders,' Sanderson Says
If there's one certainty surrounding the vast uncertainties in the Penn State wrestling program, it's that anything not pertaining to Penn State wrestling is irrelevant.
"We're preparing to compete like always, and I'm focused on the team," Sanderson said Monday when asked about his off-season wrestling accomplishments.
"We had a young team last year, and we have a young team this year. But we have some great leaders in the room with Frank Molinaro and David Taylor," Sanderson said. "You don't see guys like that often."
At the team's media-day gathering, Sanderson was asked in a variety of ways about the team's off-season issues, mainly the arrest and subsequent absence of 133-pound star Andrew Long from the 2012 roster.
"Andrew withdrew from classes right after his incident, and that was best for him," Sanderson said. "He had some things he needed to take care of, and he needed to get some help, and he's doing a great job with all of that."
Nico Megaludis, a true freshmen from Franklin Regional, will be looked to as the replacement at the always-vital 125-pound weight. He's already garnering respect, being ranked 19th by Intermat heading in to the season.
"Everyone here knows their stuff; it's pretty awesome," Megaludis said of his first impressions of Penn State. He was a three-time PIAA state champion in high school, but even he knows the jump from the PIAA to the Big 10 is a big one.
"Put it this way: High school is a lot easier. Every day you walk in here, there are so many good guys in here, and I'm just the little guy on the totem pole," Megaludis said.
As for the 133 spot vacated by Long, Frank Martellotti or Derek Reber will wrestle in another tough weight class nationally.
The Nittany Lions, who won the national championship last season, now have eight wrestlers ranked by Intermat, including three listed at No. 1. They include defending national champion Quentin Wright at 184 pounds, who finished 21-6 a year ago and is ranked first in his weight class; Molinaro, who will again wrestle at 149; and Taylor, who grabbed top honors in the 165-pound division after bumping up from 157 a year ago.
"I feel better, stronger, and quicker then I ever have in my life," said Taylor, who had to cut down from 185 pounds this summer to drop in to the 165-pound slot.
"I knew I could compete with the best guys last year, and now I'm going out to dominate the best guys," Taylor said.
The biggest news of the day may have been Sanderson's confirmation that Andrew Alton will redshirt this year after a dominating freshman campaign at 141 pounds that saw him win 30 matches, 18 of them by pin.
"Andrew would have had a miserable year trying to stay at 141 pounds; he's a 149-pounder now," Sanderson said.
"It's tough for a guy like him to redshirt, especially after having the year he had last year, but we'd rather get a great three years out of him at 149 instead of pushing him this year at 141," Sanderson added.
Additionally, Adam Lynch has gone from a member of the 2010 national championship squad directly to a position as director of operations. Sanderson expects the move to have impact.
"Anyone that watched Lynch wrestle can fall in love with him; he's that kind of guy," Sanderson said. "The attitude he brings fits right in with what we're trying to do, and he has a love and passion for Penn State that fits right in with our staff."
- Cameron Wade, Dylan Alton, Ed Ruth, and Morgan McIntosh round out the ranked wrestlers for Penn State, with Ruth earning the highest mark, sitting at No. 2 in a competitive 174-pound division.
- The 141-pound slot vacated by Andrew Alton looks to be filled by either Bryan Pearsall or Sam Sherlock. Sanderson said both have been winning matches heading in to Thursday's Intrasquad scrimmage at 7 p.m. at Rec Hall.
- Ruth is completely healthy after off-season surgery to remove cartilage in his knee.
- Penn State declined to attend the NWCA National Duals again this year, as Sanderson cited "different philosophies" as the reason for the Nittany Lions' not attending the national meet for the second year in a row.