Their travel itinerary is already planned. The Penn State wrestlers will arrive in Indiana on Thursday in preparation for their Friday night dual meet vs. the Hoosiers. Then they'll wake up Saturday, fly back to State College, fit in an afternoon workout and wait patiently -- or not so patiently -- for Sunday's home match vs. Northwestern.
"It's a good challenge for these guys," head coach Cael Sanderson said Tuesday. "When you're on the road for three days you get home just in time to have practice (Saturday) and to get ready for Sunday."
Jimmy Lawson's weekend will be especially challenging. On Friday he'll face Indiana's Jason Chalfant, who is ranked No. 7 by FloWrestling.com, and then on Sunday he'll draw third-ranked Mike McMullan from Northwestern, who recently downed top-ranked Tony Nelson of Minnesota.
It's a gauntlet, and the magnitude of Lawson's matches was made apparent by the scrum of reporters that surrounded him before Tuesday's practice. The junior 285-pounder from Toms River, N.J., answered each question thoroughly and with ease.
"(They're) great opponents to see what you're possibly going to see again in the national tournament," he said.
On at least three occasions in the five minute interview, Lawson talked about the NCAA tournament in March. He said how he's always reminded of his 1-2 record at the tourney last year, and of the feeling that came with it.
In order to avoid feeling that again, he spent most of the summer in State College focused only on wrestling. He didn't arrive at Penn State last season -- his first year of college wrestling, after spending two years playing football at Monmouth -- until the fall semester. So he said he feels like he's in better wrestling shape this season. He currently weighs between 265-270 pounds, or as he said, "a little bit bigger than last year."
"This year was great with the summer camps and one-on-one training with the Olympic guys," he added.
Sanderson said he's certainly seen progress in Lawson's technique since last season, but "he's still a puppy as far as his development goes."
Alton twins to wrestle in Hitchcock Open?
Although Andrew Alton (149) and Dylan Alton (157) made their return to the lineup last weekend vs. Purdue, it is unclear if they will wrestle with the team this weekend.
Instead, they are registered to compete at the "Shorty" Hitchcock Memorial Tournament at Millersville University Sunday. Sanderson said a decision has not yet been made, but theoretically they could travel with the team to Indiana and then compete at the open tournament instead of at the dual meet vs. the Wildcats.
"They're going to get some matches in and keep moving forward," Sanderson said. "The biggest concern is the unknown. So once they know (their shoulder strength), that's when they can start to work and make progress.
"There's a good possibility that they'll be wrestling in that open on Sunday rather than the dual meet. That's a decision we'll make later on. They're both registered there, so it's jut a matter of getting them matches at this point."
Strength coach no longer with team
Two team spokesmen confirmed to Blue White Illustrated Tuesday that weight training and conditioning coach Shawn Contos is no longer employed by the university. No additional comment was offered.
Contos had been at Penn State since Sanderson was hired in 2009. He also spent one year on Sanderson's staff at Iowa State.