Wrestling Weight-by-Weight Analysis

We make projections at each weight class as Penn State shoots for a fourth straight NCAA title under Cael Sanderson.

The Blue-White meet has acted as the proverbial placement match for undecided starters in years past under Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson. But with the Binghamton Open hitting the Nittany Lions' schedule for the first time this fall, gone is the intrasquad match. In is the Open to help choose a starting line-up.

Sanderson said the program had always wanted to get an open tournament on its schedule, but the logistics never lined up. This year, it did, and with that in mind, we break down where things stand at each weight class just over a week until the event.

125: Nico Megaludis (Jr.)

Analysis: Sanderson said there was never much thought regarding potentially redshirting Megaludis this winter, and the wrestler said the same. The two-time All-American is as locked in as can be at this spot.

"We have talked about that and Nico has talked about that, but that's not the plan right now. We want to put our best team out there most of the time," Sanderson said. "There are exceptions based on the individual and the team that we have, but this is a very competitive year this year. There are some very good teams and we want Nico in our lineup."

133: Jordan Conaway (So.) OR Jimmy Gulibon (RS-Fr.)

Analysis: Sanderson, asked if Conaway was a 133-pounder or had potential to bump at 141, said the Lion sophomore, at least for now, is slotted at 133. In the same answer, he said: "It would be great to get he and Conaway and Nico all in the lineup this year. But looking down the road that is probably not the best move for our team." All things considered, it seems to be Gulibon's spot to lose heading into the season, and we'll peg him as the starter here.

141: Zain Retherford (Fr.) OR Zach Beitz (RS-Fr.) OR Nate Morgan (Jr.)

Analysis: Arguably the most intriguing starting battle taking place inside the Lorzeno Wrestling Complex, Retherford comes to University Park fresh off a 47-0 senior campaign at Benton (Pa.) Area that won him the 2013 PIAA 138-pound state title. Beitz is coming off a redshirt season that saw him go 24-9 in open tournaments. And Morgan was injured in his only dual bout last season, a 6-2 decision loss to West Virginia's Colin Johnston. Sanderson said he isn't "set on anything at this point" when asked if Retherford would redshirt. He also said Beitz is "doing really well" and mentioned Morgan as a part of "some solid candidates in that weight class that will compete there." It's difficult to handicap this race, but we'll give the early nod to Retherford, who brings a wealth of talent and background to Lorzeno.

149: Andrew Alton (RS-Jr.) OR James English (Sr.)

Analysis: As previously mentioned, this job will be English's until Alton is ready to return, and there's no guarantee the job will be given to the Lock Haven product upon reaching full health. That said, Alton won the job back a year ago.

157: Dylan Alton (RS-Jr.) OR James Vollrath (Sr.)

Analysis: The situation at 149 transfers over to 157, with Vollrath primed to take all the bouts until Alton is ready to battle him for the job. Vollrath was plenty serviceable in 2012-13, finishing 23-5 and recording three falls.

165: David Taylor (Sr.)

Analysis: With Dake in the rearview mirror, Will Taylor return to the top spot on the medal podium? It seems only Oklahoma State Tyler Caldwell stands in his way.

174: Matt Brown (Jr.)

Analysis: A 2-1 tiebreaker loss to Oklahoma State's Chris Perry was the only thing that separated Brown from his first NCAA title last fall. He's back, and so is much of the top echelon of wrestlers in the weight class, including Oklahoma's Andrew Howe, Nebraska's Robert Kokesh, Minnesotas Logan Storley and Iowa's Mike Evans.

184: Ed Ruth (Sr.)

Analysis: No one has stopped Ruth in two consecutive seasons. That trend turns into three by the end of March.

197: Morgan McIntosh (RS-So.)

Analysis: Fully recovered from a knee injury that forced him to redshirt last season (but he was 12-2 in limited open action), McIntosh will attempt to return to the form that made him a fan favorite at Rec Hall during a true freshman year campaign that saw him go 18-10 and reach Big Tens and NCAAs.

"He had a solid year," Sanderson said. "He is a guy that we expect to be able to dominate, just like our other big guns. He is a guy that we are looking forward to being a big gun and to score a lot of points. He is a lot bigger this year. We asked a lot out of him to step up as a true freshman and to wrestle.

"We were looking down the road and at the lineup and we thought (redshirting) would be the best thing for our team. He was willing and he had some great wins and was very close to being an All-American (as a freshman). He learned a lot and with that experience. He is planning on winning this year. He better be."

Heavyweight: Jimmy Lawson (Jr.) OR Jon Gingrich (Jr.) OR Nick Ruggear (Jr.)

Analysis: Sanderson was coy as to who would open the season at heavyweight. But it's hard to imagine the job isn't Lawson's to lose after he posted a 23-9 mark and reached Big Ten's (placing eighth) and NCAA (DNP) in his first year back on the mat after playing football at Monmouth.

"It's still a competition. Every weight class goes back and forth. We ended up making that coaches' decision to wrestle Lawson at the end," Sanderson said. "They are all capable. Nick Ruggear is back, he was hurt last year, but he is in the mix and we are excited to see him compete. It's been a while since any of those three have competed, so we will see where they are at. We see them in practice all the time, but we want to see them on the mat."

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