Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios For Penn State

Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios For Penn State

The 2017 World Team Trials are just around the corner and I want to take a closer look at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club and see how things could go for their program. Penn State has been building a dynasty in college wrestling over the last seven years

Jun 5, 2017 by Mark Bader
Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios For Penn State
The 2017 World Team Trials are just around the corner, and we're taking a closer look at how the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club will fare on Saturday in Lincoln, NE.

Penn State has been building a dynasty in college wrestling over the last seven years, and one has to wonder, will this translate into the Nittany Lions having the same success at the next level?

Could this be the year that we start to see the program dominate on the senior level inside the United States, or could 2017 prove that PSU is just not ready to have that kind of success yet?

Let's take a look at what the best-case and worst-case scenarios are for the NLWC at this weekend's WTT.


At 57kg, the Nittany Lions have 2016 NCAA champion Nico Megaludis, who will likely enter the tournament at around the four seed. You might think it's a stretch to say Megaludis would end up winning the mini-tournament and then the championship series as the fifth-best guy. But 57kg is an extremely close weight class when you analyze the ability of the top wrestlers. 

In 2014, Megaludis met Tony Ramos at the World Team Trials in the mini-tournament finals. It was Ramos coming away with a 1-0 win, but no real scoring actually happened. Ramos was awarded one point on a ridiculous "almost takedown" rule that UWW, for some unexplainable reason, decided to implement. That rule is, of course, no longer in effect.

Moving up in the weight classes, 65kg is the next division in which the Nittany Lions could have a world team member. Zain Retherford, the 2017 Hodge Trophy winner, finished third at the U.S. Open after losing a close one to Jordan Oliver in the semifinals. Retherford gave Oliver all he could handle but Zain's folkstyle habits cost him as he gave up two points from hands to the face. 

The savvy Oliver was then able to win the match with a late correct throw that ended up being the difference. Oliver recognizes Retherford as his biggest threat, and considering the adjustments that Zain made at Beat The Streets, regarding hands to the face, I would say he absolutely is capable of beating Oliver.

Although he has officially taken a position at Virginia Tech, 2016 Olympian Frank Molinaro wrestled at the 2017 U.S. Open, representing the NLWC. We are expecting a mini-tournament final between Molinaro and Retherford, with the winner to move into the Championship Series final against Oliver. Molinaro was oh-so-close to scoring a late takedown against Frank Chamizo and beating him in the bronze medal match at the Rio Olympics. It's not unrealistic to think Molinaro could make the team again.

Moving up to the 70kg weight class, the NLWC has NCAA champion Jason Nolf. While Nolf was fourth at the U.S. Open, he showed moments of brilliance against eventual champion James Green in a 9-8 semifinal loss.

The final guy with a shot at making the world team for the NLWC is the Magic Man, David Taylor. While Taylor is probably the guy with the best shot at making the team from the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, standing in his way will be returning Olympic bronze medalist J'den Cox. This also happens to be the most intriguing match of the entire 2017 World Team Trials. 

The two wrestlers have contrasting styles and a Cox-Taylor final series screams excitement. That's not only because they are two studs who have never wrestled but also since the matches themselves should be plenty entertaining. Taylor is an offensive machine who shoots and shoots and shoots. Cox, on the other hand, is much more picky about when he shoots. It's also tough to get to his legs and damn near impossible to score on them. Look for fireworks in the 86kg best-of-three series final.

So, the best-case scenario for the NLWC is that it puts four wrestlers on the team, representing half of the total spots. In the worst-case scenario, the Nittany Lions put nobody on the team, which is a real possibility. 

Of the four NLWC wrestlers mentioned, I feel like Taylor has the best chance of making the world team. Retherford is the second most likely, and I put him ahead of Molinaro because I think Zain has a better chance of beating Oliver twice. I would put Molinaro as No. 3 on this list with Nolf having the toughest time ahead of him with guys such as Jimmy KennedyNazar Kultchskyy and Chase Pami in the mini-tournament before he would see Green in a best-of-three series.

My pick: I think that Penn State will have two guys make it through the challenge tournament and have zero guys representing the United States at the World Championships this fall.

How many wrestlers will the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club put on this year's world team? We will find out this Saturday at the World Team Trials in Lincoln, NE.

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