Penn State Wrestling: No. 1 Nittany Lions Open Season Against Navy to Begin Their Title Defense

By Rob Dougherty on November 10, 2019 at 9:00 am
Mar 23, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Penn State wrestler Anthony Cassar (blue) reacts after defeating Oklahoma State wrestler Derek White (not pictured) in the finals of the 285 pound weight class during the NCAA Wrestling Championshipsat PPG Paints Arena.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Penn State will open their NCAA title defense on Sunday afternoon against EIWA-foe, the Navy Midshipmen at Rec Hall. The dual will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET and air on BTN+. For the first time since 2015-16, Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf will not be wrestling in the Penn State singlet, but the Nittany Lions return a fierce lineup that has them as the favorites going into 2019-20, despite missing two all-time greats.

Projected Matchups for PSU vs. Navy
Weight Penn State Navy
125 pounds Devin Schnupp (Jr.) or Brody Teske (Fr.) Logan Treaster (Jr.) 3-0
133 pounds No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (So.) Casey Cobb (Jr.) 1-1 or Jacob Allen (So.) 1-0
141 pounds No. 3 Nick Lee (Jr.) Cody Trybus (Jr.) 2-1 or Wyatt Long (Jr.)
149 pounds Jarod Verkleeren (So.) or Luke Gardner (Jr.) Morgan Fuenffinger (So.) 1-2
157 pounds No. 6 Brady Berge (So.) or Bo Pipher (Jr.) Scout Skidgel (Jr.) 1-2
165 pounds No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Sr.) No. 11 Tanner Skidgel (Jr.) 2-1 or Dillon Taylor (Jr.) 0-0
174 pounds No. 1 Mark Hall (Sr.) No. 17 Spencer Carey (Sr.) 2-1 
184 pounds No. 3 Shakur Rasheed (Sr.) or Cameron Edsell (Fr.) Andrew Buckley (Jr.) 1-2
197 pounds No. 3 Kyle Conel (Sr.) Jacob Koser (Fr.) 3-0
285 pounds No. 1 Anthony Cassar (Sr.) John Birchmeier (Fr.) 1-2

The Nittany Lions have eight ranked wrestlers to start the season, with three returning NCAA finalists in Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, and Anthony Cassar. They all will be looking to finish their NCAA careers with another NCAA title. Nick Lee, Roman Bravo-Young, Shakur Rasheed and Brady Berge will be looking to take that next step this upcoming season. All of these guys have the potential to be All-Americans and possibly finalists, as reflected by their lofty pre-season rankings.

Sunday is also potentially might mark the first start of Brody Teske's career. Ever since Nick Suriano's injury in 2017 and eventual transfer, the Nittany Lions have been struggling at 125 pounds. They have not scored a single team point at NCAAs in the 125-pound weight class since Nico Megaludis won the NCAA title back in 2016. Teske was a highly-rated recruit in the Nittany Lions' famed class of 2018 but had an inconsistent redshirt freshman season competing at open tournaments unattached. Penn State fans will be eager to see him wrestle at Rec Hall, and hopefully, cure some of Penn State's longstanding issues at 125 pounds.

Jarod Verkleeren is in line to be the starter this season at 149 pounds with Brady Berge moving up to 157. Verkleeren was a solid hand last season and nearly pulled off some big wins, including a very gritty 10-8 defeat against an NCAA finalist in Micah Jordan (Ohio State). He also wrestled Berge very tough at the Keystone Classic. He has the potential to do damage at NCAAs later this season. It would not be a surprise if Berge did not wrestle today following his head injury at the U23 World Championships. The sophomore was knocked unconscious in a repechage match, but it's unclear what his condition is. Should he be unable to go, talented backup Bo Pipher will wrestle in his stead.

Replacing the big shoes of Bo Nickal is going to be Kent State graduate transfer Kyle Conel. Conel already is famous in Penn State circles for defeating No. 1 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) twice in the NCAA Tournament in 2018, results that gave Penn State the chance to snatch a national title from the Buckeyes. Conel is talented and very dangerous in upper body locks, so do not be surprised to see some fireworks. 

Prediction - Penn State 43, Navy 0

Despite the fact that there will be two ranked matchups in this dual, they are at two of the weights Penn State is strongest. Tanner Skidgel and Spencer Carey are very talented wrestlers and should be at the NCAA Tournament in March, but they are not on the level of Joseph and Hall. Outside of them, every match here is winnable for Penn State, and do not be surprised if we see Rasheed lock up a cradle or see Pipher pull off something crazy. The Nittany Lions are ready to roll and kick the season off with a bang.