Winning a third consecutive NCAA championship is foremost on the Penn State coaching staff's mind, but it has also made sure to keep a keen eye on the future.
With the early signing period running from Nov. 14 through Nov. 21, three of the top senior high school wrestlers in the state of Pennsylvania signed their letters of intent to wrestle for the Nittany Lions, while head coach Cael Sanderson also secured verbal commitments from three talented walk-on candidates.
However, the Nittany Lions lose only two starters - 141-pound Bryan Pearsall and 197-pound Quentin Wright - to graduation after this season. So in a sport that must divide a limited 9.9 scholarships among its team members, scholarship dollars were limited for the 2013 recruiting cycle.
At this point, six prospects, all of whom hail from the Keystone State, have announced their intentions to wrestle for Penn State - with Zain Retherford of Benton headlining the class as the No. 3 overall prospect in the country as rated by IntermatWrestle.com.
While official team rankings have yet to be released, the Nittany Lions' class will likely rank among the top four in the Big Ten. Michigan, in all likelihood, will finish with the top recruiting class in the conference. The Wolverines hauled in seven recruits, including the No. 20-, No. 11- and No. 5-ranked prospects in the country.
Illinois is making a splash on the recruiting trail, too, after nabbing commitments from the No. 4- and No. 6- ranked recruits. Iowa and Minnesota each currently have three recruits committed. The Hawkeyes have commitments from the No. 69-, No. 36-, and No. 24-ranked recruits, while the Gophers nabbed two recruits that were ranked No. 8 and No. 27.
Ohio State, which currently has a starting lineup chock-full of talented freshmen and sophomores, was also restricted by scholarship numbers, but it still managed to take the No. 1 recruit in the country - 157/165 Bo Jordan of St. Paris Graham (Ohio).
What follows is an individual breakdown of each recruit that has committed to Penn State, including a future outlook from Blue White Illustrated assistant editor Tim Owen.
Devon Bentley - Trinity
- Newest member of the 2013 class ... 106-pound Section champion in 2012 ... two-time District 3 'AA' fourth-place medalist ... Cumberland Valley Tournament Champion in 2011 ... Career record of 64-15 (missed most of freshman year with a broken arm) ... Also considered Pitt, Bucknell, Air Force, East Stroudsburg and Shippensburg
Tim's Take: The son of a wrestling coach, Bentley certainly has the wrestling pedigree. He has a ton of room for growth, and he'll probably start his college career as a 125- or 133-pounder. And he very well could finish his career at 141, depending on his rate of growth. His No. 1 training partner was three-time state champ Ryan Diehl, who is committed to Maryland. He said, "I'm really excited for the opportunity that Coach Sanderson has given me, and I'm ready to work hard and grow as a person and a wrestler at PSU."
Watch a Devon Bentley match, here. (Bentley is wearing the blue and white Nike shoes)
Garrett Hammond - Chambersburg
- Ranked No. 58 overall by Intermat ... Ranked No. 39 overall by FlowWrestling... Signed letter of intent on Nov. 15 ... Entered senior season with 115-26 career record, including a 39-4 mark as a junior ... 145-pound state champion in 2012 ... two-time state finalist ... 2012 Super 32 runner up ... Also considered Maryland, Northwestern and Drexel.
Tim's Take: Hammond projects to arrive on campus as a 157-pounder. If he can stay at that weight class, he very well could be Dylan Alton's successor as a redshirt sophomore. In fact, Hammond has a similar style to Alton when wrestling in the neutral position. But opposed to Alton as a high school recruit, Hammond has established himself as an effective rider on top - an under-appreciated skill at the high school level since riding time isn't a factor.
Cody Law - Forest Hills
- Ranked No. 14 nationally at 160 pounds by FloWrestling.com ... Entered senior season with 81-26 career record, including a 36-2 record as a junior ... 2012 Super 32 fifth-place finisher ... 2012 FloNationals fifth-place finisher ... two-time freestyle and Greco-Roman All-American in 2011 ... Wrestles under former PSU All-American Jake Strayer, head coach at Forest Hills ... Also considered Pittsburgh-Johnstown
Tim's Take: Law will probably start his college career as a 165-pounder, but he has the body structure that makes me believe that he could effectively carry at least another 20 pounds. By the time he leaves Penn State, he probably will be at least at 174, or maybe even 184. Both are deep weight classes, even after Matt Brown's and Ed Ruth's graduation.
Matt McCutcheon - Kiski Area
- Ranked No. 29 overall ... Signed letter of intent on Nov. 14 ... Entered senior season with a 120-12 career record, including a 41-1 mark with 31 pins as a junior ... 182-pound state champion in 2012 ... 74 career pins ... Two-time Super 32 champion ... Also considered Pitt, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Tim's Take: McCutcheon projects as a 184-pounder, even if he won his second Super 32 title in October at 195. He has the strength to make an immediate impact at the college level and he has a pin-first mentality, which is made evident by his 31 falls last season. (30 more will get him the school career record.) He'll likely redshirt for his first year on campus to improve his riding ability and to adjust to collegiate speed and quickness. He and current true freshman Wes Phipps, both western Pennsylvania natives, will probably have quite a few preseason wrestle-offs as their careers progress. One of the two is likely to succeed Ed Ruth at 184 in two seasons.
Zain Retherford - Benton
- Ranked No. 3 overall by Intermat ... Signed his letter of intent ... 103-pound state champion in 2009 ... Cadet Freestyle World Champion and United States Champion ... Four-time Super 32 place winner, including a championship in 2012 ... Did not compete scholastically in 2011 ... Also considered Cornell and Lehigh.
Tim's Take: He might be a little light when he arrives at Penn State next year, but the world champ has a legitimate chance of grabbing the starting 141 spot as a true freshman with Pearsall graduating after this year. Retherford has built a reputation of having a non-stop motor, one that has drawn comparisons to current Nittany Lion 125-pounder Nico Megaludis. Retherford is the prize of this recruiting class, after having missed out on Cody Weircioch of Canon-McMillan who committed to Pitt.
PJ Steinmetz - Council Rock South
- Began senior season with a 100-22 career record, including a 43-4 record as a junior ... 195-pound third-place state medalist in 2012 ... Most Outstanding Wrestler at District 1 'AAA' tournament.
Tim's Take: With McCutcheon already on board before his commitment, Steinmetz will likely spend his Penn State career at 197 pounds. He is a fierce rider for an upper-weight with a Division I motor to go along with it. With Morgan McIntosh still having three years of eligibility remaining, Steinmetz probably won't crack the starting lineup until at least his third year on campus, but he is a hard-worker and a grinder who will only add to the competition in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex.
Watch a PJ Steinmetz match, here. (Steinmetz is in the singlet without the stripes on the side)