Penn State’s wrestling team is so stacked with talent that even two-time All-American Nick Nevills couldn’t find a regular spot in the rotation.
Because of weight limitations, Nevills, a senior heavyweight, had to accept his standing behind teammate Anthony Cassar, who is 25-1 and seeded No. 2. But coach Cael Sanderson said Nevills, who finished seventh last year and fifth in 2017, could have made an impact at the NCAA Championships this week.
“They’re not going up a weight because there’s no other weight,” Sanderson said of the heavyweights. “And Nick Nevills is two-time All-American, great wrestler. We have a ton of confidence in him. If he was in the tournament, I think he could do really well.
“But Cassar moved up and earned that spot. And that’s wrestling. You get a chance to earn it.”
Oklahoma State coach John Smith said that’s what he likes about the sport.
“The nice thing about wrestling is you get to put the two guys out there and see who wins. You don’t have to pick or choose, necessarily,” he said.
Sanderson, whose team has won seven of the past eight national championships, admitted there could be “more and more transfers” in the future.
“That’s more on the NCAA and them trying to kind of bend to accommodate student-athletes,” he said.
Pitt coach Keith Gavin said transfers could be a problem, but it’s no more than in other sports.
“Just from talking to other coaches at Pitt, I think everybody deals with that a little bit,” he said. “You have 10 spots (in wrestling) and if a guy is pretty good and (the backup) is not getting in there, he’s going to look to go wrestle somewhere else because he only has four years to do it.
“I’m not sure what the solution is to that, or if there needs to be one.”
Sanderson said an even greater dilemma is limiting wrestling teams to 9.9 scholarships for 10 weight classes.
“We should be fighting for more than 9.9 scholarships,” he said. “I don’t know why that isn’t brought up more. But this tournament, sold out. You can’t get a ticket here. Dual meets are growing. The popularity in the sport’s growing.
“We should be getting more scholarships. That would be in the best interests of wrestling, yeah.”