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January 29, 2014

BWI's Wrestling Notebook

With head coach Cael Sanderson unable to attend Wednesday's practice, associate head coach Cody Sanderson met with a half dozen reporters as the Nittany Lions prepared for their weekend road trip. They'll visit Michigan State for a Friday night dual and then travel to Michigan for a dual meet Sunday.

Since Cody doesn't often address the media, he was able to offer new insight into some of Penn State's most pressing topics, like the status of Andrew Alton (149 pounds) and Jimmy Lawson (285), the up-and-down season of Jimmy Gulibon and more.

What follows is a transcript from most of Cody's exchange with reporters:


On Zain Retherford...

"When you're talking about quick progression as a freshman, it's hard not to talk about Zain Retherford. With him, it goes back to the summertime when he was here for summer school. We saw the capability in him, but he's been able to really convert really quickly. He has figured out how to win on a big stage in those college matches, and it's with a maturity that he does it with that makes it very unique.

"He knows where he is, he knows what he needs to do, he doesn't get rattled when things aren't going right. He just stays focused and takes care of business. That's pretty darn unique for someone that age."


On Andrew Alton...

"No final decision (for his status this weekend.) We've been able to test him a little harder in practice the last couple weeks. With those shoulder injuries, we feel like he's made some significant progress since the last time you saw him out in the dual meet. If we can get a few more days like that out of him, I think there's a much better chance you'll see him wrestle again in a dual meet."


On Lawson...

"Anytime with this sort of (knee) injury it's a little slow, but (trainer Dan Monthley) likes what he's seeing. The range of motion that he's been able to get on his own has been pretty (good) as far as what our trainer is saying, but I have no idea when he'll be back to full-speed. Right now he's just doing the best he can, and we'll hope for the best for him."


On Jon Gingrich (285)...

"He's got a tough weekend. He's got two of the toughest guys in the country. One of the guys (Michigan State's Mike McClure), he was able to defeat last year so I think that is going to help his confidence going into it. Right now he's got a great opportunity to get on the national stage again and he's got a great opportunity to get some wins and be ranked. So right now his destiny is in his own hands.

"I saw some excitement in him last week. If he goes out there with excitement and is trying to score his points, he's going to be a tough guy to beat."


On Gingrich's ability to fill in for Lawson...

"I think he's done a good job with it. It's never easy to sit behind somebody especially when you have had success at this level. It's just not easy. It's hard for him to sit there and watch somebody else out there wrestle in his spot.

"But he comes to practice with that attitude and he was working hard and he wants to be in there. We tell our guys everyday that you have to train like you're the (starter) because you never know when you're going to have that opportunity. He has done that and the opportunity has presented itself, and right now he's made the most of it."


On Gulibon...

"I think some of the challenges you're seeing with him really aren't uncommon for a freshman coming into a Big Ten schedule and with the type of competition that we see. ...

"I think what's difficult about this situation here at Penn State over the last few years, our guys have come in as freshman and have come in and done very well, very quickly. So in some circumstances I think he's being compared to guys who weren't standard freshmen.

"That being said, he needs to get more points on the board and try to get his confidence in his offense because when he's attacking and scoring, that's when he's at his best. That's what we need out of him. We need more attacks. We need more offense. I like where he is right now much (more) than where he was in December. I'm not sure if that (is a result of) some more wins at the Southern Scuffle, or recent dual wins.

"I know it has not 100 percent translated out there on the mat yet, but where he is mentally, physically, I think it's a lot better. So I'm excited to see what he can do this weekend. It'd be great for him to get a couple wins going into the dual meets with Minnesota and Oklahoma State because they're going be some tough matches for him."


On Gulibon's success at away dual meets/tournaments compared to his matches in Rec Hall...

"Looking at the results that's definitely a conclusion that you'd draw, but having been in the corner, I think a lot of it has to do with some of the competition that he's faced.

"And a tournament situation can be a little bit different for the younger guys than a dual meet situation. There's different weigh-in times and it's a little bit more anonymous, which I think can help guys if your confidence has been taking a little bit of a hit. But I think more of it comes down to the (individual opponents) that he's been wrestling.


On Jordan Conaway (133)…

"Conaway is one of the most unselfish people that I've ever been around. He comes in here every day with the attitude that if he's not the guy out there, he's going to make sure the guy in front of him has a chance to be a national champ or an All-American -- whatever his goals are.

"Don't get me wrong. Conaway wants to be the (starter). He wants to be competing. There's some different things we can do down the road or in the upcoming years in the lineup. He's a guy that we want in there.

"He's exciting to watch. He has a lot of attitude out there and he never stops wrestling. He's a guy with a huge heart and the crowd loves it and we love coaching that. There's a place for him (in the lineup), but we just have to figure that out. I don't know the timeline, but there's a place for him in our lineup."


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