Southern Scuffle Preview: Penn State Seeking Eighth Straight Title

By Rob Dougherty on December 31, 2018 at 1:29 pm
Jason Nolf will be looking to win another Southern Scuffle title.

Jeff Curry - USA Today

1 Comment

No. 1 Penn State is back at the Southern Scuffle where they will look to win the tournament for the eighth straight time. The action is set to begin on New Year's Day at 10 a.m. EST, and will wrap up on Jan. 2. The Nittany Lions have had a ton of success in Chattanooga, Tenn., at one of the premier wrestling tournaments of the college season. Here is the competition Cael Sanderson's squad will face at the Scuffle: 

  • No. 4 North Carolina State
  • No. 6 Oklahoma State
  • No. 17 Virginia Tech
  • No. 18 Lehigh
  • No. 22 Iowa State
  • No. 23 Lock Haven
  • Unranked opponents are: Air Force, Appalachian State, Binghamton, Cal State Bakersfield, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Columbia, Drexel, Duke, Edinboro, Gardner Webb, George Mason, Navy, Ohio University, Rider and Stanford. 

Despite North Carolina State's ranking, they are not going to be the biggest competition for Penn State at this year's Scuffle, since they will not be sending their full lineup. Instead, Penn State's biggest competition will come from the familiar Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have looked impressive to start the season. Christian Pyles of FloWrestling compiled a list of the wrestlers both teams are sending to the the tournament:

The only thing that was missing from this tweet is that Gavin Teasdale is going to be wrestling attached to Penn State. 

Teasdale's participation in the Scuffle seemed to be in doubt, but he appears to have not only gotten the nod for the Scuffle, but also for the rest of the season. Brody Teske will be preserving his redshirt, and it seems like Teasdale will start post-Scuffle. The clear favorite at 125 pounds will be Oklahoma State's Nick Piccininni, but there is a lot of NCAA qualifier level top of wrestlers at the event. Teasdale is a former cadet world team member, and was one of the elite wrestlers in the country last season, so seeing him will be exciting for Penn State fans. 

The Scuffle is No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young's big chance to make a name for himself at 133 pounds. Bravo-Young's marquee performance came against No. 7 (125) Ryan Millhof in the Arizona State dual, but he still has yet to face a real contender at 133 pounds. Enter No. 5 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) who is a potential national championship contender type of wrestler. He's an absolute beast on top, and really can get creative with his offense too. Fix should be the No. 1 seed, and he would be Bravo-Young's toughest competition. There's also No. 10 Austin Gomez (Iowa State), who has had a very strong start to the season and figures to be a Round of 12 type of contender. If Bravo-Young can hoist the Southern Scuffle trophy, he can lay claim to potentially being a national title contender as well. 

At 141 pounds, this is the No. 4 Nick Lee and No. 5 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) show. These two are among the best in the country at this weight, but both have not been able to crack the elite tier of Yianni Diakomhialis (Cornell), Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) and Joey McKenna (Ohio State). An impressive performance by Lee here could catapult him to that elite discussion. Lee has done well without much fanfare this season, perhaps the most notable thing about his year to-date is wrestling with a knee brace. However, Lee and Brock are capable of having a high scoring matchup that could be a ton of fun to watch. Dominic Giannangeli will also be wrestling for Penn State here. 

Penn State is sending three wrestlers at 149 pounds with No. 10 Brady Berge, Jarod Verkleeren and Luke Gardner all going at this weight. No. 6 Mitch Finesilver (Duke) and No. 12 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) will be the roadblocks for Berge and Verkleeren. Berge has the talent to win this weight, but Finesilver is a very tough wrestler to beat, and Gfeller beat Lee at last year's Scuffle. 

Penn State will be sending No. 1 Jason Nolf and Bo Pipher at 157 pounds, do not expect a ton of competition here. Nolf is going to wreck the field absent injury, and Pipher can make some noise given his penchant to catch cradles. 

At 165 pounds, No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph is going to have a tough field. No. 3 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) and No. 8 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) figure to be the toughest obstacles for Joseph to repeat his Scuffle crown. Joseph has been mightily impressive this season, so expect him to win, but it may not be easy against either Marsteller or Lewis. Mason Manville will also be going for Penn State at this weight. 

174 pounds is probably the deepest field at the Southern Scuffle, with No. 1 Mark Hall being the headliner. No. 5 David McFadden (Virginia Tech), No. 7 Jacoby Smith (Oklahoma State) and Joe Smith (Oklahoma State) are Hall's main competition. Hall is coming off of a very impressive 4-0 win over No. 2 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) his last time out. He will be the favorite, but Joe Smith is a very talented wrestler, and McFadden is very plucky. This is no walk in the park for Hall as he seeks to win another Scuffle title. 

Penn State is sending No. 3 Shakur Rasheed and Francisco Bisono for 184 pounds. Rasheed has every reason to open up this one and really dominate the competition. Although it would be unfair to expect him to replicate his 2018 Southern Scuffle performance where he pinned everyone in about a minute, he can be dominant again. 

No. 1 Bo Nickal will be the heavy favorite once again, but this time at 197 pounds. He's had a very impressive season to date, and expect him to roll this field. No. 5 Willie Miklus (Iowa State) is going to be Nickal's toughest challenge, but expect Nickal to really just crush like he's been crushing so far. 

No. 5 Anthony Cassar and Nick Nevills will wrestle for Penn State at heavyweight. Cassar won their first matchup this year at the Keystone Classic in pretty comfortable fashion. So, this could be a case of seeing whether Nevills can somehow close this gap or pick up a win. Another Cassar win here could secure a starting spot for him, and with the way he's wrestling he could easily be a national title contender at heavyweight. The one to stop an all-PSU final will be No. 3 Derek White (Oklahoma State). White has a similar build to Cassar, and could make for an interesting matchup. We've seen Cassar dominate much bigger wrestlers, but he hasn't faced a very good "smaller" heavyweight yet, so it could be interesting. 

Penn State are the favorites at the Southern Scuffle this year, but the compressed field will hurt the Nittany Lions more than it helps them. Oklahoma State will be able to have guys place higher than they would otherwise at NCAAs for instance, so it could lead to a tighter team race than anticipated. 2019 is slated to be an awesome year for Penn State wrestling, so sit back and watch Penn State go toe-to-toe with the best in the country. 

1 Comment
View 1 Comments