Penn State Might Not Be Penn State On February 19
The Penn State team you've come to expect all season might be unrecognizable this weekend at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
When people analyze what separates the Nittany Lions from the field, and what has helped lead them to five titles in six years, everyone brings up Penn State's rampant bonus-point-scoring ability. In 2011, Ed Ruth and David Taylor were piling up the pins for PSU. This year's team has Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, and Bo Nickal as its bonus breadwinners. But there's a reasonable case to be made that this will all change when No. 2 Penn State heads to No. 1 Oklahoma State for the National Duals championship on Sunday. The Nittany Lions' bonus-point differential can typically be counted on, but considering the matchups, I think it could be negated or even eclipsed by the host Cowboys' bonus opportunities.
When looking at Penn State's big three, a path to bonus points will be particularly difficult. Retherford, the top-ranked wrestler at 149 pounds, and No. 2 Anthony Collica wrestled last year, and it was just a 4-1 decision. It was a 2-0 decision for Retherford when they wrestled in 2014. Since that time we've only seen improvement from Collica. Is an upset possible? Nobody would have given Iowa's Brandon Sorensen a shot at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, so perhaps Collica should be more heavily considered coming into this weekend.
The first time Nolf and Oklahoma State's Joe Smith wrestled we watched Smith give as good a fight as we've seen anyone give Nolf who wasn't named Isaiah Martinez. Though he lost by major at NCAAs, the security of a home crowd and a few adjustments could reasonably keep this match in the decision realm.
Nickal has been on a bonus rampage, and we have seen OSU's Nolan Boyd lose by bonus on two occasions this year (Sammy Brooks, Gabe Dean, both by major). So there's a chance the match goes down that way for Nickal as well. Even if we concede that much (though I believe Boyd has the skills to make this very interesting), I still think Oklahoma State could come out on top of the bonus-point output for this dual.
Why? Kaid Brock.
The Cowboys redshirt freshman is among the most dangerous and skilled point scorers at the 133-pound weight class. With Jered Cortez out for the year, George Carpenter will be taking the mat for the Nittany Lions. Against Cory Clark, Nathan Tomasello, Eric Montoya, and Zane Richards, Carpenter lost by tech, tech, tech and major decision, respectively. All four of those athletes are relative peers to Brock, so comparable results can be expected. Brock's feet to back potential makes a pinfall more likely. However, what Carpenter lacks in skill, he makes up for with a pretty strong fight when superior wrestlers are pouring it on. He won't go over easily.
So the bonus comparison can come down to Nickal's bonus output versus Brock's. If that's the case, there's a strong possibility that the difference between the two is either negligible or a slight advantage toward Brock and Oklahoma State.
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