Taken as a whole, this may be the deepest, most talented recruiting class Cael Sanderson has assembled as he embarks on his sixth season at Penn State.
Most national ratings put the class at No. 1.
Of course, that assessment won’t be complete for four or five years, if or when the dozen recruits who are scheduled to join the team this fall finish their careers.
The class starts with the big three Ns: Nick Nevills (from Clovis, Calif.), Bo Nickal (from Allen, Texas) and Kittanning, Pa.’s Jason Nolf. Between them, Nevills, Nickal and Nolf won nine state championships and compiled a combined 559-13 record for a .977 winning percentage. InterMat rated the trio Nos. 4, 5 and 7 overall in the country.
The other nine are an interesting array from all over the Eastern part of the United States (listed by name, hometown, high school weight:
- Shakur Rasheed, Middle Island, N.Y., 160 — from the same high school, Longwood, that produced former Nittany Lion great Kerry McCoy.
“When I went to watch him, he’d go to his high school workout, then he would go to another workout. He’s just a guy who really works hard,” Sanderson says.
“He doesn’t wrestle freestyle. He’s not well-known in some of the rankings. I think he’s a guy who is flying under the radar. He’s very quick. He still has to learn how to wrestle a little bit. He still wrestles on one knee. He’s got a great cradle. If a kid’s tough on top, that’s a big deal. You think of all our guys who have dominated, they’re generally pretty good on top.”
Rasheed went undefeated his junior and senior seasons on his way to back-to-back New York titles.
- Devon Van Cura, Washington, N.C., 170 — finished senior season 37-1. Only loss in state finals.
- George Carpenter, Carrboro, N.C., 113 — won school’s first state title.
- Anthony Cassar, Montgomery, N.J., 195 —finished the season at 43-0, capping senior season with state title.
“We’re really excited about Anthony. He’s just a kind of a late bloomer. He was undefeated in New Jersey this year, a state champ. No one really knew about him. He’s a big kid, a big 197-pounder. Just a great kid. A great family. You see where he was a junior to where he was as a senior, he made a lot of strides,” Sanderson says.
“He was a kid who wanted to come to Penn State, so we’re very excited about him. He wrestles hard. He shoots with his left hand a lot, which is a big incentive when we’re looking at recruits because it’s a little more effective, efficiency is a little higher. He’s a state champ in New Jersey, which is kind of a big deal. It’s all one group. He’s another guy who is under the radar also. He came here because he wants to be the best and there’s not a better place in the world to train right now than Penn State.”
- Kyle Baker, Easton, Pa., 145
- Kenneth Yanovich, Brodheadsville, Pa., 120
- Michael Marino, Glen Mills, Pa. 132
- Nick Weldon, Clay, Ala., 182 — lost first match of junior season and then won 67 in a row to finish career, including two state championships.
- Jordan Pagano, Oradell, N.J.
Unless something unforeseen happens, don’t expect to see any of the 12 wrestle this season, other than unattached in open tournaments.
“I think it’s all case by case, but we’re planning to redshirt all of them, for the most part. We want to put our best team out there. The kids have to be on board and ready to go,” Sanderson says. “There’s not a big need for us to wrestle a true freshman.”