Big Ten

6 Takeaways From Penn State Media Day

6 Takeaways From Penn State Media Day

Here are six takeaways from Penn State coach Cael Sanderson's media day.

Nov 8, 2021 by Kyle Klingman
6 Takeaways From Penn State Media Day

Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson addressed the media today through a Zoom call. Below are six takeaways from the press conference. Check back throughout the day for more coverage. 

Starting Line-up

Sanderson doesn’t have a starting line-up set but there are enough returning starters and returning All-Americans in the line-up that it’s fairly easy to predict who will occupy most of the weight classes this season. He touched on 125, 157, and 165  and said that all will be more competitive this year. Sanderson mentioned Beau Bartlett by name as the 149-pounder this season and that the remaining weight classes will have “the usual suspects.” 

“Some of those weights we’ll play with as we go along,” Sanderson said. “It’s November and we have a long and exciting season ahead. We’ll work with the line-up issue as we go along.”

Carter Starocci’s Leadership Role

Carter Starocci enters his third season at Penn State as the returning 174-pound NCAA champion during his first varsity season. He is in a unique position to win five NCAA championships due to the COVID relief year. The Nittany Lion squad doesn’t have many seniors so the team might look to Starocci for leadership this season. 

“Carter works really hard and we have to convince him to take his foot off the gas as we prepare for competitions,” Sanderson said. “He leads by example in that he works really hard and he competes. He’s a very confident kid.”

Women’s wrestling

Sanderson was asked about his role to promote women’s wrestling and if people reach out to him to help guide the women’s wrestling movement.

“My role is to coach the Penn State wrestling team and the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club," Sanderson said. "We’ve had four girls training in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. We’re not worried if you’re a man or a woman — we want to help you reach your goals.

“As far as the growth of women’s wrestling, I don’t know what my role is in that. At this point, I’m trying to do my job and take care of the kids and the people in our program right now. That’s been taking up a lot of our time and energy. I get asked about that sometimes and I have a pretty good relationship with Wrestle Like a Girl and the movement there. I think we’ve made strides (for women’s wrestling) in the last year or two (within the club). It’s been very organic on who has joined the club and I think that’s probably the role I’ll take in that movement.”

197 pounds: Max Dean or Michael Beard?

Max Dean transferred to Penn State following NCAA tournament finishes of eighth in 2018 and second in 2019, both at 184 pounds. Dean expects to be in the line-up at 197 pounds for the Nittany Lions, a spot occupied by Michael Beard last season — a seventh-place finisher at the NCAA Championships as a freshman. 

Sanderson discussed the 197-pound weight class and how Dean found his way to State College after four seasons in Ithaca. It should be noted that Dean did not compete at the 2021 NCAA Championships since Ivy League schools canceled participation in all winter sports. 

“That was a situation where I think they were leaving where they were and he was restricted in the transfer portal,” Sanderson said. “We didn’t know there was any interest in Penn State. I got a text from Coach Gabe Dean and he said Penn State would be one of the programs he’d consider. 

“Max is just a really, really good dude. He works really hard and brings a lot to the table for the team. Michael Beard has definitely elevated his game. This is a blessing for both of those guys to have that competition and having to compete at a higher level in practice just to make the team. We are comfortable with both Max and Mike at this point.”

Who is starting at 125?

Sanderson was asked specifically about the 125-pound weight class and why it has been a revolving door for the team. True freshman Robbie Howard occupied the spot last season and qualified for the national tournament — but there are no guarantees he will be in the line-up this season. 

“That’s a weight that will work itself out as we move along here," Sanderson said. "We have more guys competing in that weight, initially at least, than we will at any other weight. Howard filled in for us last season — last-second — coming off of surgery right after his high school state tournament as a senior. He didn’t really have time to prepare, then he had to jump right back into surgery right after the NCAA tournament. 

"He’s not back to full speed there but we have several kids there that are working hard and are competitors. It’s not like other weight classes where we have established guys and there’s no question about who’s going.”

Potential candidates for the spot are Howard, Baylor Shunk, Bucknell transfer Jake Campbell, Brandon Meredith, Marco Vespa, and Gary Steen.


Roman Bravo-Young returns to the line-up after winning the 133-pound crown in 2021 after battling MRSA (a type of staph infection) this summer. Sanderson said it was scary stuff since it can get in your joints but Bravo-Young is good to go for the season. He also praised his 133 pounder’s work ethic and his willingness to train year-round. Similar to Starocci, Sanderson said there are times he has to slow him down since he’s training all the time. 

“He’s always in shape and he’s a very hard-working kid,” Sanderson said. “He’s a tough young man and he’s firing on all cylinders.”