Four Potential Lineups For Penn State

Juan Garcia Nick Lee

Now that the school year has started, wrestling season is right around the corner. We have about a month until the official start of practice, which means it's time to start taking a look at some lineups.

There is little that needs to be said about Penn State that hasn't already been discussed ad nauseum -- the five returning champions, the transfer of Nick Suriano to Rutgers, Cael Sanderson's new contract, and a strong incoming recruiting class. In spite of that, there are still questions about the lineup PSU will roll out this season, so let's go over four options.

The heavy digging on this lineup look will occur at the first three weights, which are where the only real question marks exist. Some people may consider them a weak spot; others just consider them young. But they still have a considerable amount of potential.

Our own Andrew Spey looked specifically at the Nittany Lions' 125 situation in early August, so we'll rehash that a little bit here.

Here is one potential lineup for the 2017-18 season.

PSU Option 1

125: Devin Schnupp
133: Corey Keener
141: Jered Cortez
149: Zain Retherford
157: Jason Nolf
165: Vincenzo Joseph
174: Mark Hall
184: Bo Nickal
197: Matt McCutcheon
285: Nick Nevills

Right now, it sounds as though Devin Schnupp is the favorite to start at 125. However, there is still about two months until PSU's likely first competition, which is enough time to figure out if Corey Keener can make 125 for the first time since March 2014.

This first option makes sense from an eligibility perspective. Schnupp is a redshirt freshman. Keener is a senior, and Jered Cortez is a junior. This would allow Nick Lee to redshirt and Keener to start in his final year of eligibility, which theoretically is a big part of why he transferred.

Another option happens if Keener cannot make 125 and gets beat out for the 133 spot by Cortez.

PSU Option 2

125: Devin Schnupp
133: Jered Cortez
141: Nick Lee
149: Zain Retherford
157: Jason Nolf
165: Vincenzo Joseph
174: Mark Hall
184: Bo Nickal
197: Matt McCutcheon
285: Nick Nevills

Cortez only has 30 career college matches, including his time at Illinois and a redshirt season. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining, and he can be used this year if he remains healthy. At this time, Cortez may feel he has outgrown 133, though he is listed as a 133/141 on the Nittany Lions' roster.

A third lineup emerges in which Keener lands at 133 and Cortez loses the 141 spot to Lee.

PSU Option 3

125: Devin Schnupp
133: Corey Keener
141: Nick Lee
149: Zain Retherford
157: Jason Nolf
165: Vincenzo Joseph
174: Mark Hall
184: Bo Nickal
197: Matt McCutcheon
285: Nick Nevills

If Keener can make and hold 125, there is one final lineup that theoretically projects to the most team points at NCAAs.

PSU Option 4

125: Corey Keener
133: Jered Cortez
141: Nick Lee
149: Zain Retherford
157: Jason Nolf
165: Vincenzo Joseph
174: Mark Hall
184: Bo Nickal
197: Matt McCutcheon
285: Nick Nevills

We all know what Penn State is doing between 149 and 184, so let's just quickly run through the rest of its roster.

Zain Retherford had one of the greatest collegiate seasons of all time in 2016-17. How dominant was he? His official record was 28-0, with one forfeit, two decisions by one point, a major, and 24 TECHS OR PINS! Of his 27 actual matches, 24 of them were early match terminations. That's 89 percent, which is absurd.

Jason Nolf was like 97 percent as good statistically as Retherford, the new version of Ed Ruth and David Taylor. Nolf "only" had 22 match terminations (14 falls + 8 techs) but also had three majors. His closest match all year was a 9-4 decision against NCAA third-placer Michael Kemerer at Carver Hawkeye in which all of Kemerer's points were escapes.

Nolf wins his first NCAA title


There are any number of reasons people feel Vincenzo Joseph is the most likely of the "PSU Five" to regress, at least in terms of NCAA placement. Keep in mind though that he was the No. 3 overall recruit from the class of 2015, higher than either Bo Nickal or Nolf were in their years.

Mark Hall won his second junior world title this summer and continues to make it hard to bet against him. If Zahid Valencia goes up to 184, which isn't for sure but is potentially in play, then Bo Jordan is the main guy left who could be considered a threat at NCAAs.

Nickal and Ruth share an interesting stat. In their sophomore years, which for Ruth was 2012 and last season for Nickal, they both scored 27.5 team points at the NCAA tournament. With Gabe Dean gone, Nickal's main competition is Myles Martin, with the potential of Valencia as well.

Nickal pins Sam Brooks in Carver last year


Matt McCutcheon may also be playing baseball after his final season ends. There is of course the possibility that Anthony Cassar winds up with the 197 spot, but based on his injury track record and McCutcheon being a three-time NCAA qualifier, that seems unlikely.

Nick Nevills will start the year in the top five and is a smart bet to be in that range again this coming March in Cleveland. He is the third-highest returning placer from last year, but Adam Coon, Amar Dhesi, and Sam Stoll are all coming back from injuries.

After six titles in seven years, the hype for this year's Penn State squad was to break the all-time scoring record. That took a major hit when Suriano left, but the Nittany Lions still walk in to the 2017-18 season as the favorite to win their third team title in a row. Much of that will hinge on how the lightweights shake out, and the whole wrestling world will have an eye on it for the next several months.

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