Cael Sanderson on Tuesday gave a preview of his starting lineup for Penn State wrestling’s first dual of the season against Kent State on Sunday afternoon.
The probable lineup has a few surprises from the preseason projections. There were three weight classes up for grabs this offseason. Sanderson said he expects Devin Schnupp to wrestle at 125 pounds, Jarod Verkleeren at 149,, and Anthony Cassar at 285. As expected, dynamo freshman recruit Roman Bravo-Young will start at 133 lbs.
Verkleeren and Bravo-Young both said they had been told about Sanderson’s decisions for the first time earlier in the day Tuesday.
The full probable lineup for the weekend is:
125 lbs. – Devin Schnupp
133 lbs. – Roman Bravo-Young
141 lbs. – Nick Lee
149 lbs. – Jarod Verkleeren
157 lbs. – Jason Nolf
165 lbs. – Vincenzo Joseph
174 lbs. – Mark Hall
184 lbs. – Shakur Rasheed
197 lbs. – Bo Nickal
285 lbs. – Anthony Cassar
The ever cryptic Sanderson reluctantly revealed his plans for the lineup by mixing in plenty of “probably”s, methodically choosing his words, and acknowledging how much he hates releasing his lineups.
Schnupp gets the starting nod at 125 over Gavin Teasdale and Brody Teske, a pair of highly touted true freshmen who were a combined 337-3 in high school with eight state championships between them. Schnupp wrestled at 125 for Penn State for most of last season, going 1-14 until the arrival of midseason transfer Carson Kuhn.
Sanderson noted that he plans to keep both freshmen’s redshirts in tact for the foreseeable future by having them compete in open tournaments and then make a decision after the Southern Scuffle. FloWrestling projected Teasdale to start over Teske in March.
Sanderson has become known for waiting it out with true freshmen. Mark Hall and Nick Lee both wrestled unattached during the first two months of their freshman seasons seasons before burning their redshirts for the first dual of the new year. Both went on to place at the NCAA Championships, most notably when Hall won the 174 pound title in 2017.
A similar situation involving Iowa’s Spencer Lee ended with him winning a national title at 125 as a true freshman last season.
“A lot of it is letting things play out a little bit and have our redshirt guys hit open tournaments to see where they’re at,” Sanderson said. “We have five months to figure things out.”
Verkleeren gets the nod this at 149 this weekend over Brady Berge. As with 125, this decision isn’t final. The two redshirt freshmen have yet to wrestle off, and Sanderson expects Berge to also get action early in the season, most likely beginning with the Keystone Classic next weekend.
Cassar moved up to heavyweight this offseason to make room for Bo Nickal who elected to transition to 197. He gets the start over two-time All-American Nick Nevills, who’s coming off an offseason shoulder surgery. They will likely wrestle off for the first time before the Keystone Classic.
Cassar split time with Shakur Rasheed at 197 last year, going 16-2 but only earning four dual bonus points. Although he didn’t compete in the postseason, Cassar notched one of the biggest and most dramatic dual wins in program history by upsetting No. 1 Kollin Moore of Ohio State.
Nevills enters the season ranked No. 2 at heavyweight and with a career record of 61-15.
“We have two very good heavyweights who are among the best in the country,” Sanderson said. “We’re excited to see what [Cassar] can do for us.”
Sanderson and Co. seem confident in the Keystone Classic as a measuring stick for wrestlers in contested weight classes. Last year, Penn State entered Cassar and Matt McCutcheon in the early season tournament. Cassar solidified the starting job he won in the preseason, taking first and narrowly beating McCutcheon in the semifinals.
Unfortunately for Cassar, the team did the same thing for the Southern Scuffle with him and Rasheed. And well, Rasheed stole the show by pinning his way to first place and interjected himself into the race at 197.