Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State vs the Field at The Keystone Classic


Cael Sanderson’s boys travel to Philadelphia on Sunday to wrestle in their 3rd Keystone Classic, an invitational tourney hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, in the historic Palestra.

Each of the past two years at this tournament, the Lions crowned Champions at 7 of the 10 weight classes.

In 2016 (the 2017 team title season), Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Shakur Rasheed (174), Bo Nickal (184), Matt McCutcheon (197) and Nick Nevills (285) reached the top of the podium, with Rasheed (Geno Morelli) and McCutcheon (Kellan Stout) winning titles over teammates. I couldn’t find our BSD Recap, so here are recap details at Penn State Wrestling Club.

In 2017 (the 2018 team title season), Zain, Nolf, Nickal & Nevills repeated, and were joined atop the podium by Jered Cortez (141), Mark Hall (174) and Anthony Cassar (197). Here’s Clay’s recap from then.

Cael made himself available on Tuesday and answered questions, the quotes to a few of which can be found in the weight class breakouts below, but here’s the full video:

Joining PSU & UPenn are the following D1 teams: Appalachian State, Drexel, Duke, Franklin & Marshall, Harvard, Rider, Sacred Heart, and VMI. Addressing the relative competitiveness of the field, Cael said:

“It’s not the Scuffle but there’s good competition there. I couldn’t even tell you which weight classes are the most competitive. I’m just worried about our guys getting better today, being better tomorrow.”

But he identified what he’ll be looking for from his lads:

“When we show up at the Keystone, it doesn’t really matter who we wrestle. We expect the same thing — our best effort and an open mindset to improve. I’m not worried about who we’re wrestling as much as how we’re wrestling.”

Like Coach Sanderson, the BSD Wrestle Team still has lots to learn about these other programs and their wrestlers, so in the true spirit of the Internet, we’ll borrow heavily from one of our favorite wrestling resources: wrestlestat.com. They’ve got a great starting page for this event where you can see all the presumed (actual tourney registrations may, of course, vary) grapplers from each team. From there, you’re a click away from each wrestler’s profile which includes season and career results, and there are heaps of other great features throughout the site. Thanks in advance to our friends @WrestleStat.

Can Penn State crown 8 Champs this year? Or, 9 or 10?

Perhaps more pertinently, will the tournament serve as the de facto wrestle-offs for Penn State at two tightly-contested weights?

Let’s go weight-by-weight and check it out.

PSU expected attendees are courtesy of GoPSUSports.com, and rankings are Intermat’s.

125

Our Guys

Devin Schnupp (0-1) and Justin Lopez (2-2).

Quoth Cael:

“They both need to step it up a little bit, right, if they’re hoping to meet late in the tournament. You’ve got to get to late in the tournament, but yeah, those guys both should be excited for that opportunity.”

The Field


via WrestleStat

WrestleStat’s own rankings use an algorithm customized from the Elo Chess model. As such, early-season statistical variability is expected.

The Take

JP does this really cool thing where he makes my takes seem extremely inadequate because he does a fantastic job building up to it. Nevertheless, here we are. I’d call Tropea and Ferrante the favorite here, but Mininno looked pretty good in his collegiate debut at Northeast Duals last weekend. I’d like to see if Schnupp can get a pair of wins but I’m not overly enthusiastic.

133

Our Guys

Roman Bravo-Young (1-0) and Scott Stossel (0-0)

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

This should be RBY’s tournament for the taking. Cefolo and Zapf are young guns that could be pretty darn good for their respective squads, but neither is the caliber of prospect that Bravo-Young was and still is. It’ll be interesting to see whether RBY’s top game is as effective this weekend as it was a week ago and how he holds up in a tournament setting.

141

Our Guys

#4 Nick Lee (1-0) and Dominic Giannangeli (1-2)

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

Giannangeli is just fun to say. If you don’t say it with an Italian accent and a little chef’s kiss, you’re truly missing out. On a more fun wrestling note, Aronoff should be a fun kid to watch and we get the first of four Finesilver brothers at this weight. Nick Lee, however, is the heavy favorite and I’d be surprised and a bit disappointed if he didn’t bonus everyone he wrestles.

149

Our Guys

Jarod Verkleeren (1-0), #15 Brady Berge (0-0) and Luke Gardner (4-2).

Quoth Cael:

“He’s (Berge) wrestling hard, he’s made weight, but you want to do the right thing for the kid in the long run. It’s not a race to see how quickly we can get him out there. Part of the challenge is being ready to be at our best at the end of the season.”

“They’re (Verkleeren & Berge) definitely both ready, but do we want to have em both wrestle yet? That’s the decision we have to make.”

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

This is, by far, the best and most exciting weight in the tournament. Finesilver was a bloodround guy a year ago and should be an All-American contender again this year. Artalona was an absolute stud coming out of high school in Florida and a huge get for Roger Reina and Co. Wilson and Zovistoski could (and maybe should) both be NCAA qualifiers this year and Fidelibus isn’t a pushover. For Penn State, it’s all about the redshirt freshmen. Verkleeren started his PSU career with a pin last week, but we didn’t learn much about him in the match. This will be Berge’s first time cutting to 149 and if he can get by his first match, he should get stronger as the day progresses. The two will likely be separated in the bracket, but there’s no guarantee they both make the finals.

157

Our Guys

#1 Jason Nolf (1-0) and Bo Pipher (2-2)

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

Our old friend Gary Dinmore is here for Rider and he got big! Ladnier of Harvard is a solid kid and former NCAA qualifier, but this weight is all about Nolf. He’s going to dominate this tournament for the second year running and I’d be shocked if any of the matches went seven minutes.

165

Our Guy

#1 Vincenzo Joseph (1-0)

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

The race to see who gets to get whipped by Cenzo in the finals should be fun. This bracket just doesn’t have the same level of umph without Chad Walsh at Rider. Ebed Jarrell had a nice showing at Northeast Duals to move into the top 20 and should be considered the favorite to make the finals opposite Cenzo, should the bracket fall that way.

174

Our Guys

#2 Mark Hall (1-0) and Mason Manville (3-2).

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

As it turns out, wrestling like 10 folkstyle matches a year has not been great for Mason Manville. We’ll see if getting on the mat more regularly helps the former top-five recruit find his form on the mat. Mark Hall should roll to the finals and will likely meet No. 17 Matt Finesilver in the finals.

184

Our Guys

#4 Shakur Rasheed (1-0) and Francisco Bisono (0-0).

Cael, on Rasheed competing at his 4th different weight class this year:

“Oh, I think it’s a very natural weight class for him. He’s really strong at 84. He had one of Kent State’s best wrestlers (last year at the Clarion Open), obviously Conel was in and out of the lineup for them. But he looked good. He looked slick. Good solid shot, quick finish, right to back points…Yeah, I never really thought of it like that, but four years, four different weight classes, that’s Kyle Dake kinda stuff. You just don’t have the three titles right now, but Shak wants to be a National Champion, and he’s working for it.”

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

Shakur should absolutely rip through this bracket and bonus his way to the win unless something goes very, very wrong. I think we’ll likely see Anthony Mancini reach the finals to take on Shak, and while true freshman Anthony Walters may not be there yet, I expect him to be a really solid piece for Drexel going forward.

197

Our Guys

#1 Bo Nickal (1-0) and James Hoeg (1-2).

The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

Bo is gonna hurt people, because that’s generally what Bo does. Loiseau, a PA native, went 32-11 a year ago and won a match at the NCAA championships. I’d be pretty surprised if he didn’t reach the finals opposite Bo. Randall Diabe of App State is another wrestler to watch. He’s been hot and cold at times but has some solid wins on his resume.

285

Our Guys

Anthony Cassar (1-0) and #2 Nick Nevills (0-0). We haven’t yet seen the surgically repaired 2019 version of Nevills, but 235-pound 2019 Cassar looks ready.


The Field


via WrestleStat

The Take

Quoth Cael:

“You just gotta be up front and honest with them. As soon as we knew that Cassar was planning to go to Heavyweight, yeah, we talked to Nick about it. And he said (with Cael shoulder shrug) “alright!” I mean, what are you gonna say? But he had a great attitude about it. He’s working hard. Cassar’s working hard too. Obviously he knew…97 was gonna have Bo or Shak, you know, and heavyweight was gonna have Nevills.”

When asked if he anticipates alternating the two, until it settles out, Sanderson paused to choose his words carefully so as not to box the staff into a fixed plan:

“We just have to see how things play out and just be patient. I don’t know if we’re going to wrestle Nevills this week at the tournament. There’s a good chance he’ll wrestle, but we just want to make sure he’s ready.”

So, what to make of that last part? The fact that Cael left it open makes me think there’s a pretty good chance we don’t see Nick this weekend and if we do and he reaches the finals, one of the two may default out. Both will have a decent road to the finals, assuming they’re on separate sides of the bracket. Goodhart is a two-time NCAA qualifier ranked No. 18 on The Open Mat. Pelusi is also a two-time qualifier who went 2-2 a year ago at NCAAs and is ranked just outside the top 20. Either would prove the first real test for Cassar up at heavyweight or for Nevills who is only just getting back toward 100 percent. I think if they both wrestle, we see them both in the finals, but I don’t think either of those things is a lock.


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