Penn State hosts Clarion Sunday at 2 p.m. It is the final dual meet of the season and like every season, the university will recognize the seniors who will be wrestling their final match in Rec Hall. But this year might seem different.
Before the match Penn State will honor eight graduating student-athletes, but two of them -- 165-pound David Taylor and 184-pound Ed Ruth -- should go down as arguably the two best wrestlers in school history.
Before practice Tuesday, head coach Cael Sanderson acknowledged their lasting impact on the program.
"(What) we'll miss more than anything is their consistency, their love of competition," Sanderson said. "The bigger the match, generally, the better they wrestle. Poise -- that's something you can't teach. Young kids look at that. People look at your stars and that's (what) they associate with how your team wrestles. If you look back over history, you're always judged by your stars and the way they compete. They give us a very good name and reputation. Kids want to wrestle like David Taylor and Ed Ruth and they want to come to Penn State, and obviously those are the guys we want."
Asked how they want fans to remember their Rec Hall careers, Taylor replied, "When it's all said and done, if people just remember the way I wrestled and competed when I was in Rec Hall, when I was in a Penn State singlet I think that's more than a certain match or win."
Ruth said, "Just that I had fun. I don't want people to think that he was this or he was that. I think people will remember me enjoying (wrestling), rather than me worrying about it and thinking bout it -- just enjoying it."
Talyor and Ruth to the NLWC?
Sanderson said today that he fully intends to have Taylor and Ruth train as members of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club as they prepare for a bid in the 2016 Olympics. "I believe they both have the ability to win a gold medal in 2016," he said.
The NCAA champs both confirmed that they plan on staying in State College after their eligibility expires. Ruth said he "definitely" will, while Taylor said, "No doubt. I'm here trying to win the Olympc title in 2016. That's been a goal of mine since I was 8. Ed has the same goal, so we'll still be able to be on the same team, trying to accomplish the same thing."
Eight to be honored on Senior Day
In addition to Taylor and Ruth, 149-pound James English and 157-pound James Vollrath exhaust their eligibility this year and will be recognized before Sunday's dual.
Sanderson said Vollrath "just makes the whole room better. The whole standard has improved. The same thing (goes) with James English. He's a great example to our guys of just wanting it. He's fought through adversity and injury. I mean, he's back for a sixth year -- that just shows you."
Redshirt juniors 149-pound Kyle Moran, 133-pound Nate Morgan, 157-pound Seth Beitz and 133-pound Cameron Kelly also will be honored before Sunday's dual meet. Each graduate this year and are unlikely to return for a fifth season.
"That's a very good group of guys who have had a ton of success here in four years, good students, and we're going to miss those guys," Sanderson said of the four who may bypass their final season of eligibility. "I'd like those guys to come back for another year until they're done with their eligibility, but that's a tall order.
"It's a pain to go to school just to wrestle. Also with the lineup being very tough and if you don't know if you're going to be the starter, that's a tough thing to do. That's another reason why you look at James English and admire him for what he's doing. And James Vollrath for what he's doing. They came back knowing there's a lot of competition at (149 and 157)."
Lawson expected to return
Starting junior heavyweight Jimmy Lawson is expected to make his return to the starting lineup Sunday after missing roughly a month of action due to a knee injury.
"Our plan is for (Lawson) to wrestle this week," Sanderson said. "He's supposed to wrestle live today. We've been going real slow with him because there's no reason not to. Jon Gingrich has done an amazing job. Last week vs. Oklahoma State, I know it wasn't their starter but he still went out there and scored some big points and hit some nice shots. But you'd like to get (Lawson) a match before the (Big Ten Championships March 8-9)."