Monthly Archives: January 2015

Penn State Wrestling Steadily Prodding Toward Next Title Shot

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Head coach Cael Sanderson is in his fifth year at the helm of the Nittany Lions Wrestling team, and he has already established an environment where anything short of a National Title will be a clear disappointment. The 35-year-old Iowa State University graduate is regarded as one of the single greatest amateur wrestlers of the past 50 years, so he is no stranger to having expectations and stakes that are higher than most.

Just a handful of weeks into the 2014–2015 schedule, Penn State is 5–0 overall, having only had one true test in the form of the Virginia Tech Hokies on Friday, December 19. The action had the hometown crowd in Happy Valley nervous at times. Penn State came away with a 16–14 advantage in overall takedowns, but that is a margin far smaller than fans are accustomed to or comfortable with.

Senior Jimmy Lawson is a very talented and plenty intimidating individual, and he sent the crowd into a frenzy during the final match of the evening when he overcame an interesting ruling to finish off his opponent in sudden victory. It would be safer to treat this close call as a small wake-up call than to treat this as an indication of any type of regression.

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The team proved that they are still on top of their game with a dominating performance at the Southern Scuffle, winning their fifth straight title at the tournament held in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Over the next month, Sanderson will attempt to successfully toe the thin line of pushing his team hard enough to plow through the regular season while making sure that all bodies and minds are in optimal working order come March, when the Big Ten Championships begin in Columbus, Ohio.

The most recent Intermat rankings were released on Jan 6, and they feature a total of eight Nittany Lions ranked near the top of their weight class. Headliners include Matt Brown coming in at #4 at 174, Morgan McIntosh with the same ranking at 197 and the aforementioned Mr. Lawson coming in at #6 in the gargantuan 285 pound slot. Don’t be surprised if the musclebound Senior out of Toms River, New Jersey dabbles in the UFC or other mixed martial arts as a professional.

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Also worth mention are Sophomores Jimmy Gulibon and Zack Beitz, both of whom cracked the Top-20 in their slots and are headed steadily upward as the team continues on its legitimate modern day dynasty. And we might as well show love for redshirt Freshman Matt McCutcheon, who currently stands at #16 overall at 184 with a 16-6 record.

The squad is ranked as the 7th best overall – a bit of a slight according to many in the know. The Lions will face the gauntlet of the Big Ten Conference schedule over the next two months before finishing up with matches against Oklahoma State in Stillwater and against Rider at home. The chance for them to run the board remains intact, but uncertain.

PSU 2014 Wrestling 4 Time Champs T-shirt (Order here).

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Nittany Lions 2014 Football Season Capped Off with Bowl Victory

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The 2014 Penn State Football Season was shrouded in uncertainty. It started with four straight wins, continued with four straight losses and ultimately culminated in a 6 – 6 season followed by an amazing and very impressive bowl victory. The bulk of the extensive NCAA ban was lifted in late September of 2013, paving a path for a football program that can once again fly at full mast. Taking all this into account, the season can be seen as a success.

When James Franklin was hired to be the head coach in January 2014, he simultaneously became the first African-American to ever hold the position and a man expected to turn the storied program into a winner as soon as possible. Early returns are positive, and early-season wins against UCF, Akron, Rutgers and UMass gave the fans plenty of reasons to be excited. But the ship ran aground on the final Saturday in September when the Nittany Lions lost at home to Northwestern by 23 points, followed by losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Maryland.

The ship was righted once again with consecutive victories against Indiana and Temple, but losses at Illinois and at home against a tough Michigan State team brought their record to an even .500. Thankfully, six wins is still enough to be qualify for a bowl game in an era where teams play about a dozen times instead of the classic and traditional 10. As a result, Penn State was chosen to play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, which has quickly become a New York City tradition. The baseball field can be converted into a football field with a few quirks and abnormalities. Nonetheless, the game sold out in a matter of hours and unfolded underneath a wintry forecast typical to the area and the time of year.

The announcers went out of their way to express that the game would be a slow-paced, grind-it-out type of affair starring the defensive units. This was true up until halftime, when the game was tied at 7, but both teams exploded with a flurry of offense in the second half, entertaining the several thousand fans in attendance and taking the game into overtime. Penn State kicker Sam Ficken was nails while banging a 45-yard field goal through the uprights with just a few seconds left in regulation.

Boston College scored a touchdown on their first possession in OT, but missed the oh-so-crucial extra point. Penn State knew exactly what they had to do in order to claim victory in front of a crowd that was noticeably in their favor. Three pinpoint Christian Hackenberg passes resulted in a game-winning touchdown, and the high-stakes extra point sailed through the uprights moments later. The Sophomore threw 34 completions in a total of 50 attempts, resulting in 371 yards and four touchdowns. The dramatic conclusion can and likely will serve as a clear indication that Penn State is primed and ready to do bigger and better things in the upcoming years.