Among those returning from last year’s championship squad is Junior Quentin Wright, the 184 pound champion of 2010. Wright was a heavy underdog in last season’s tournament, entering as the number nine seed before eventually beating Lehigh’s Rob Hamlin in the championship. Sophomore David Taylor will be looking to avenge his second place loss in last year’s 157 pound championship, during which he was pinned by former Penn State wrestler Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State. Jenkins wrestled at Penn State for four years before transferring and graduating as a Sun Devil in 2011, so Taylor should be the national favorite at the weight class coming into the season. Penn State only returns four seniors to this year’s squad, most notably of which is Frank Molinaro at 149 weight. Molinaro went home as the second place finisher at last year’s championship, losing to Kyle Dake of Cornell whom only allowed one point in the 2010 tournament. Dake will undoubtedly be the man to beat in 2011 as well, coming back as just a junior this season as part of the Big Red squad. The Nittany Lions also return Sophomore Ed Ruth of the 174 pound class, who took home the third place crown in his freshman campaign defeating Mack Lewnes of Cornell. Perhaps Penn State’s biggest loss from the 2010 roster was Andrew Long at 133 pounds, with Long finishing his career as the third place finisher last season.
Cael Sanderson was recently inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame back in June, and it was there that he also announced his comeback bid as well in his hopes to represent the U.S. at the 2012 world championships. Sanderson last competed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens where he took home the gold, and at Iowa State he finished as the most as the winningest wrestling of all time at 159-0. Before coming to Penn State, Sanderson coached at his alma mater leading the Cyclones to an NCAA second place finish and three Big 12 titles in his first three seasons as a head coach. It has taken coach Cael just two seasons at Penn State to reach the holy grail of coaching, but I fully expect for one of wrestling’s all time greatest competitors to be just as hungry for a second championship this season. Penn State opens up the year with an Intrasquad dual on November 3rd before having their first match against Bloomsburg on November 13. The Nittany Lions will get their first real challenge in the second match of the season on November 20th when they take on the Minnesota Gophers who finished 7th in nation last season.