Wrestling Team Adds Heavy Hitter

Three-time New Jersey state champion is about to join Cael Sanderson's powerhouse program. He is transferring in from Monmouth, where he played football.

Three-time New Jersey state wrestling champion Jimmy Lawson was looking for a change of scenery when he decided he was leaving the football team at Monmouth University. He knew he wanted to go somewhere that had experienced a lot of recent success.

Under Cael Sanderson, Penn State has emerged as the dominant wrestling power in the NCAA, as the Nittany Lions have won the last two national titles.

So now, two years since he last wrestled, Lawson has transferred to Penn State to wrestle. The move will become official when he begins the second summer session of classes at PSU next month.

“I needed a change of scenery and colleges, that was the biggest thing,” Lawson said. “I talked to Cael and kind of reconnected with him, and I feel like it is the best fit for me after being out of wrestling for two years because of everything they have.”

Lawson -- who currently weighs 270 pounds -- pinned his opponent in 37 of 39 matches during his senior year of high school, including a jaw-dropping 43-second fall in the state final. Though Rutgers was the first school Lawson reached out to when he decided to transfer, Penn State came calling out of the blue.

“Rutgers is really close to me, and they were the first ones to find out I was transferring and not playing football,” Lawson said. “I don't know how Penn State found out about me, but they called and I went up to see the Pittsburgh match and talk to the coaches, and I loved it. That was a big part of my decision.”

Lawson -- who will be eligible for two years -- will slide into a heavyweight battle with returners Jon Gingrich and Nick Ruggear. All three are trying to replace departed Cameron Wade. Lawson intends to compete for the top job immediately.

“I don't plan on redshirting,” he said. “I plan on starting right away and battling for the starting spot. Coach Cael gave me the opportunity to fight for the starting spot, and I'm going to start doing that as soon as I get there.”

Style-wise, Lawson said he likes working from the top position the best. But he feels comfortable in all three positions.

“I don't have any position I feel better in than others or any favorite moves to do,” he said. “I only have been wrestling since my eighth-grade year, and wrestled all the way to my senior year, and felt comfortable overall in every position.”

Lawson knows going to Penn State will help him quickly improve.

“They won a national title last year, and have a good program and good workout partners, and that's the fastest way I can make improvements,” he said. “The fastest way to make improvements is to go to where they won a title.

“They definitely work hard, and they put in the time to win a championship, and the best thing to be around to succeed and get to a higher level just like you want to is that type of atmosphere,” he added.

Lawson can't wait to actually be a part of the Penn State wrestling scene he experienced during his visit.

“The atmosphere was great, and a lot of people come out and show support,” he said. “Everything is good and the whole overall feel is something I like.”

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