The injury to James Woodall was a devastating blow to the Nittany Lions chances of being a postseason surprise. Woodall and the university will petition the NCAA for a sixth year of hardship eligibility.
Though Ive heard some early guesses both ways, the truth is nobody knows how the NCAA will rule. The fact that Woodall missed virtually another entire year of eligibility with a shoulder injury will weigh in his favor, the fact that the torn ACL occurred relatively late this season will factor against him.
Though it is conceivable that Woodall could wrestle again this season, the prospect of his being anything close to effective is minimal. Heres hoping the NCAA can do right by a true student-athlete and give him one more chance to compete in the sport he has dedicated so much time and effort toward.
The Woodall injury brings up another issue that the NCAA needs to readdress. While most agree that the rules concerning weight loss have largely been effective and have made the sport better, there needs to be better flexibility given in certain circumstances.
Penn State would have loved to move Nathan Galloway to 149 pounds and inserted Jarrad Turner at 157 for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, even though Galloway did certify at 149 pounds, the fact that he had not weighed in at that weight for competition through December prevented Penn State from being allowed to make that move.
The health of the wrestler should be paramount in the concerns of the NCAA and for that matter, the coaches and schools. But, in a situation where a wrestler can clearly drop a weight class without any risk to his health, the NCAA should allow it. Instead, Penn State was forced to bring Jack Decker out of a planned redshirt year and insert him into the lineup.
With all of that being said, the competition Decker will face the remainder of this season should prove invaluable in his development.
The Penn State/Lehigh rivalry remains as intense as any in college wrestling. Jon Trenge doesnt have much time remaining to learn how to control his temper. The 197-pounder clearly possesses Olympic-caliber skills, but until he passes anger management classes, he has no chance of surviving the international scene, where questionable officiating is a way of life.
Fortunately, for everyone involved, Trenges dangerous cheap shot against Joel Edwards did not result in any serious injury. While Trenge was disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct, it certainly could have been a much more tragic situation than having Lehigh give up seven team points.
Though the passion of fans is one of the things that makes sports truly worthwhile, and being frustrated with the official is a bond that brings fans together, the throwing of a water bottle following Trenges disqualification needs to be dealt with severely. Following the meet, referee Bob Doerr reportedly said he planned legal action against the fan who threw the bottle that hit Doerr in the back of the head.
Heres hoping its not an idle threat and that the courts act accordingly. If I were the judge, there would be a heavy fine, a few days jail time and a requirement that that individual not be allowed to attend another wrestling meet for a two-year period. If it was learned that ban was violated, the fan would be jailed for a year. You just cannot allow officials to feel unsafe in the conduct of their duty. They are asked to deal with plenty for not a lot of money. The least we can do is ensure their safety for the duration of a sporting event.
One other item that may have been overlooked in the whole Trenge saga was the conduct of Edwards. After being slammed off the mat illegally, Edwards first reaction may very well have been to come up swinging, which could ultimately have cost his team any advantage it had gained. Edwards kept his wits about him in a scene bordering on chaos. Although both wrestlers were certainly to blame for some unnecessary roughness leading up to the disqualification, Edwards showed great composure and should be commended.
Its too bad that the dual meets fans were expecting Sunday didnt come off. West Virginia was ravaged by a virus that forced the Mountaineers to forfeit three bouts. I know Mountaineers head coach Craig Turnbull felt bad about the situation not only for his program but also for fans who wanted to see a highly competitive dual meet. Unfortunately, it just wasnt in the cards.
WVUs No. 1-ranked 184-pounder Greg Jones is truly a special wrestler. His quickness is unmatched at that weight class and although the any given match scenario is certainly possible at nationals, I dont see anyone seriously challenging Jones. Eric Bradley is one of five or six wrestlers in contention for runner-up honors. The seedings will be important and a No. 6 seed would be better than a No. 4 or No. 5 seed at this weight because it would keep you away from Jones until the final.
Penn State looked flat against Pitt and I think part of that was due to Pitts aggressiveness, part of it that the intensity was taken out of the afternoon with five forfeits over the two matches and part of it was that Penn State just had an off match.
The Nittany Lions will be unable to afford an off match against the meat of the Big Ten schedule, which begins this weekend with a very difficult challenge at Michigan and matchup at Michigan State.
The Nittany Lions will be further hampered this weekend as Josh Walker has been left behind because of ongoing back problems. Walker deserves a better fate than he is receiving in this his senior year. He is truly a great ambassador for the Penn State program and wrestling and his absence will be felt this weekend.
The Nittany Lions have not had a wrestle-off yet at 197 pounds, and both Phil Davis and Edwards will make the trip to Michigan this weekend. Whichever wrestler emerges with the job will have a great chance at earning All-American honors this postseason.
On a personal note, nobody seems to be taking me seriously that the starting time for the Michigan State meet Saturday night should be changed to allow me to watch the beloved Steelers beat up on the Jets. This lack of cooperation is very disappointing. That being said, Id like to thank Coach Troy Sunderland for having the foresight to not schedule a wrestling match on Super Bowl Sunday this year so that all of the Steelers fans can enjoy watching Pittsburgh whip up on the Eagles without any distractions.