Penn State opens its Big Ten schedule Sunday at noon as it welcomes Ohio State into Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions are the country's top dual meet team, while the Buckeyes are ranked No. 7 by the USA Today/Amateur Wrestling News coaches poll.
Anytime you face another top-10 team, that match gets circled on the schedule. But for Penn State, this match has been circled for another reason.
After serving a one-month suspension that stemmed from a DUI charge on Nov. 13, 184-pound NCAA champ Ed Ruth will make his return to the wrestling mat vs. Ohio State.
"(The suspension) has felt pretty long," Ruth said before practice Tuesday. "But at the same time I've only wrestled at the beginning of the year. I haven't been really competing. I haven't started yet. It's been a long break, so this is the start of my season right now."
In all, Ruth has compiled a 10-0 record so far this season, winning a championship at two open tournaments (Binghamton Open and Mat Town Open.) His current win streak sits at 78.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said he has seen Ruth respectfully accept his punishment while maintaining focus on his final season at Penn State.
"Ed is a good kid, he's a humble kid, and he's an honest kid," Sanderson said. "That attitude there means a lot, and when you have somebody like that, you'll go to war with him. And go to bat for him. I think (the suspension) has been tough for him but he understands and he knows that he messed up. Now its time to move forward."
Ruth, the top-ranked 184-pounder in the country per FloWrestling.com, is expected to face fellow Harrisburg, Pa., native Kenny Courts, ranked No. 9.
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Gulibon is expected to get the start against No. 9 Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State.
Gulibon and No. 14 Jordan Conaway have been battling it out for Penn State's undetermined starting spot at 133. Gulibon lost at Boston University to Dane Harlowe last week in overtime and didn't wrestle vs. Pittsburgh in the Bryce Jordan Center. "He wasn't feeling very good," Sanderson said.
Instead, Conaway faced No. 13 Shelton Mack and fell by decision.
If he indeed starts, it will be Gulibon's first home match. Sanderson said that an opponent like DiJulius should provide a measuring stick with which he'll help determine whom his full-time starter should be.
"It's a moving team and a moving lineup," Sanderson said. "That's a tough kid. Either one of those kids getting a win over a DiJulius-caliber of a kid would be a good thing. … That's a good matchup for the weight class. It'd be big for either (Gulibon or DiJulius) to get a win in that dual."
Checking on the Alton twins
No. 15 Andrew Alton (149) and No. 5 Dylan Alton (157) continue to heal from off-season shoulder surgery, despite each being medically cleared to wrestle. They have, however, been wrestling live in the practice room and their recovery appears to be on-track.
Yet Sanderson said a timetable for their return has not been set in stone. Asked if they would be ready to return for the Southern Scuffle (Jan. 1-2), Sanderson said, "Good question. I honestly couldn't give you a yes or no on that one. We'll know as we get a little closer."
Sanderson added that since the Scuffle is such a highly competitive tournament -- "This is probably the toughest Scuffle in the history of the event," he said -- that it might not be ideal to "throw them in the fire" for their first match since surgery.
"You do want to ease into things a little bit when you're talking about injuries," he said. "Mentally and experience-wise, this is nothing new to them. So it's just a matter of them being ready physically. If they are, we could even take them there and wrestle some matches and then withdraw them out of the tournament."
197-pound sophomore No. 7 Morgan McIntosh revealed Sunday that he suffered a slight hyperextension of his right elbow recently. He won an overtime match over Pitt's Nick Bonaccorsi, but his right arm was heavily taped from the forearm to the biceps.
McIntosh said it wasn't an injury that he is overly concerned about and he didn't think the wrap restricted his motion. His head coach added that the tape was for "precautionary" reasons.
"It's nothing major," Sanderson said. "Anytime you have your arm taped up its probably going to slow you down a little bit. He's fine. He can wrestle. He's been wrestling well. He might have been a little tight in that match on Sunday, but he's another one of those guys who we want to see that attitude from and score points and establish himself as a Taylor or a Ruth -- that kind of kid. That's what he's going to be."