Storylines abound days before a pair of wrestlers -- 165-pound 2012 national champion David Taylor and 174-pound 2013 All-American Matt Brown -- depart for the NWCA All-Star Dual at George Mason Nov. 2. Will head coach Cael Sanderson and his Lions win their fourth straight Big Ten and NCAA titles? Will Taylor reclaim gold after losing to Cornell's Kyle Dake in last year's final?
When will the position battles be decided? And why isn't 184-pounder Ed Ruth trekking to the All-Star dual?
We begin to answer those questions in our first Wrestling Roundup of the 2013-14 season.
Ruth Staying Home
News broke earlier this week that Ruth, a two-time national champion rarely challenged over the last three dual seasons, withdrew from the All-Star meet and was replaced by Jake Swartz of Boise State.
Sanderson said Tuesday that it was a coach's decision to keep Ruth out of the dual, but elaborated no further. Asked if it was to motivate him, Ruth didn't see that as the case.
Either way, the wrestler who is 102-2 over his Penn State career and a perfect 44-0 in duals will be ready for the regular season, and frankly, that's all that really matters.
"It was made several weeks ago, I think they just released it recently," Sanderson said of the decision. "He can always get better. He wants to be an Olympic champion, and he's going to have to get better to be an Olympic champion and do things a little differently. "His technique has to improve in some areas," the coach added. "He found that out a little bit (last) summer. But looking at what he's done so far, it's nothing short of amazing in his career. There is always room for improvement."
So what was Ruth's take?
"My coaches have always made decisions for me, and if they make decisions I kind of go along with it. I always feel that, they always make it in my best interest. It's not to … to show me something. It's always been in my best interest."
Altons & Ailments
To say Penn State 149-pounder Andrew Alton and twin brother and 157-pounder Dylan Alton took plenty of heat last season is an understatement.
The former finished 7-2 in duals and 27-6 overall after missing a portion of matches early in the year due to injury. He finished fourth in the Big Ten Tournament and did not place at NCAAs.
The latter went 21-4 in duals, 28-8 overall, finished sixth at Big Tens, and made the round of 12 at NCAAs.
But both struggled to meet expectations at times, and neither was helped by a mid-season suspension for a violation of team rules. It led to questions of their commitment, their abilities, and so on and so forth.
A tweet from Sanderson this summer revealed that the pair had both needed shoulder surgery. Andrew had the labrum in his right shoulder repaired, an injury he said he wrestling with since the mid-way point of 2012-13. Dylan tore his left labrum, an injury he said started bugging him after last year's NWCA dual.
Sanderson said both are ahead of schedule in their rehab, but that neither will be ready until at least December. The duo may be out as late as January.
"Any time that you have a major shoulder injury like that, that requires surgery, it takes time," Sanderson said. "They have both been doing a great job and I think they are a month ahead of schedule. Something like that, they won't be wrestling here for a while still."
Both credited Lions' trainer Dan Monthly with the timeliness of their recovery.
In the interim, it appears James English will go at 149 and James Vollrath at 157. Both filled in at different times last season, meaning any initial hiccups shouldn't be a concern.
Here is what the brothers had to say about their injuries:
Andrew Alton, on how the injury impacted him last season: "The more you do, the more you can't use it. I can't tell you when (he hurt it), but I was working on my shoulder all year last year, doing rehab, jumping on the bike at the end of practice instead of doing extra live.
"We're just play wrestling in the room (this year) to work on conditioning. I get my shoulders tired so they build up."
Dylan Alton, on whether he considered shutting down last season due to the injury: "No, it was never really a consideration. Just wrestle through it. People always have to wrestle through injuries, unfortunately, but I just want to stick it out. I believe last year I could do anything, and even though I had an injury, I believed I could win it last year."