Coach Cael Sanderson said Tuesday that sophomore Frank Molinaro, who placed eighth at 141 pounds during last season’s NCAA Championships, will compete at 149.
Molinaro is taking the weight Bubba Jenkins wrestled the past two seasons. Jenkins, who is academically ineligible this semester, will likely redshirt during 2009-10.
“Molinaro is going to be wrestling the first part of the season at 149,” Sanderson said during the team’s annual Media Day. “I don’t know if that’s news or not, but he’s gotten bigger. He feels more comfortable at 149. We will see how that goes.”
The switch took no coaxing from Sanderson.
Molinaro said he felt uncomfortable throughout last season. He qualified for the NCAA Championships as a wildcard before finishing 4-3 in St. Louis. But he battled a variety of illnesses, including mononucleosis. To control his weight, Molinaro often ran for 11/ 2 hours in full sweats. Signs of Molinaro’s plight were noticeable as he struggled during third periods of multiple home matches.
“It wasn’t fun for me,” he said. “It was nice at the end of the year pulling that out of nowhere, but I don’t think last year was a reflection of how I wrestle in the room and how I want to present myself.”
Molinaro, an avid weight-lifter, wants to return to the form he displayed during 2007-08, when he went 17-2 and won three open tournaments. He said wrestling bigger practice partners such as 157-pounders Cyler Sanderson and David Taylor and 165-pounder Jake Kemerer should help with the transition to 149.
“The only thing I was doing last year was cutting weight,” he said. “I didn’t get much better. My freshman year I made some big jumps. Last year I was trying to survive all season.”
The possibility of returning to 141 remains because Molinaro certified at his 2008-09 weight earlier this fall.
Who are they?
Penn State’s biggest question could be at 133, where three wrestlers are competing to replace Jake Strayer.
The group includes sophomore Tyler Saltsman and redshirt freshmen Bryan Pearsall and Jack Chidester. Saltsman is expected to miss a few weeks because of a knee injury, which means Pearsall and Chidester are competing to start the Nov. 13 opener at Lehigh.
Neither wrestler placed in the PIAA Championships as high school seniors. Pearsall attended District 3 Warwick High School. Chidester graduated from District 1 Conestoga. The duo qualified for the state tournament at 125 pounds.
Redshirt freshman James English experienced a frustrating 2008-09, missing the entire year with a neck injury.
But English, a two-time PIAA Class AAA placewinner at 145 from District 3 Central York, has returned to the practice room and could add needed middleweight depth. English knocked off former Central Dauphin star Walter Peppelman and Cumberland Valley standout Joey Napoli to capture a District 3 title in 2008.
“He’s getting back to it,” Sanderson said. “It’s tough when you have to sit out a whole year coming out of high school because you don’t get to jump in there as a redshirt and utilize that year. But he’s a tough kid and a guy we have high hopes for.”
Living away from his Harrisburg home is nothing new for freshman Ed Ruth, who spent last season at Blair (N.J.) Academy after three years at District 3 Susquehanna Twp. High School. Ruth lived alone at Blair Academy, where he flourished under coach Jeff Buxton’s college-like system.
“Blair was really, really tough,” said Ruth, a two-time PIAA Class AAA semifinalist who captured national prep and senior national titles earlier this year. “I can’t tell you how much it helps. Buxton was really hard on us and then you come here and they are hard on us, so it’s no surprise.”
Former Penn State heavyweight Aaron Anspach, a coach with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, won the 120 kilogram title (264.5 pounds) during last weekend’s Sunkist Open in Phoenix. Anspach, a NCAA finalist in 2007, defeated Blake Gillis 1-1, 2-1, 1-1 in the finals.
Anspach also made his Mixed Martial Arts debut earlier this month, defeating Frank Armstrong by TKO in an event at Altoona’s Jaffa Shrine.