By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson is always looking for those who give the team the best opportunity to find success and ultimately win a national championship. Last weekend, Sanderson introduced a new wrestler to the lineup.
Nick Lee, a freshman from Evansville, Indiana, made his Penn State dual debut with wins against Sal Profaci of Michigan and then-No. 20 Javier Gasca of Michigan State.
"I thought Nick did great," Sanderson said. "He's just consistent and that's what he does. He just brings a lot of energy with him and enthusiasm which is great for the team."
Lee went 4-1 at the Southern Scuffle just a few weeks ago, with his success as an unattached wrestler propelling him into the starting lineup, a similar path to that of NCAA national champion Mark Hall just a year ago.
"I would say it's a source of motivation that someone has done it before and has been through it before," Lee said. "(Mark) is kind of a source of experience that I can tap a little bit just to help me out."
The true freshman, who was homeschooled in his final year of high school, didn't visit Rec Hall until last year, but says it's an unparalleled experience in college wrestling.
really paid attention to Penn State wrestling before I committed here," Lee
said. "But, the first time I came to a dual here it was something else. It was
a big surprise to me. I had actually been to a few college duals, but nothing
like at Rec Hall. It's really a fantastic atmosphere and is probably the best
fans I've ever seen."
While Lee gears up for his first performance in front of a Rec Hall crowd, he's ready to feel the energy that the fans provide, having visualized himself out there on the mat for a while.
"Just a lot of energy," Lee said. "A lot of people that wrestle in Rec Hall will tell you it's a lot of energy. Luckily for us, it's positive energy. Energy is energy I think though, so it'll be a little loud but I'm pretty excited."
The Nittany Lions also recently introduced a new member to the team. Carson Kuhn, a transfer from the now defunct Boise State wrestling program has joined the roster, now looking to compete at 125 pounds.
The journey wasn't easy for Kuhn, who had to graduate from Boise State before applying to a graduate program at Penn State before he could join the squad. Kuhn, who is in his final year of eligibility has had a tough career spotted with injuries, but is looking forward to facing the top wrestlers in the nation at 125 pounds.
"It'll be exciting," Kuhn said. "I know that I'm at that level, I know I am because I've wrestled at that level for a long time. I wrestled at the U.S. Open a few times, at senior level tournaments, internationally and I've beaten top-ranked opponents before so I know that I'm at that level we just have to get the right training program and the right plan to compete my best."
When first contacted by Sanderson, Kuhn saw the name of his feature head coach at the bottom of the message and thought nothing but one thing - awesome. Kuhn, who is 25-years-old with a wife and baby girl, now enjoys being around all of his younger teammates in the room at Penn State.
"I'm kind of over the nerves of wrestling," Kuhn said. "I've done this for a long time so I'm just kind of excited. Obviously I want to set an example, but there is not much of an example to be set because everyone sets an example here. Everybody's on task and doing great. I am 25, I'm married and I have a baby girl so I'm kind of a little bit older, but it's fun to just jump in with these younger wrestlers."
The Nittany Lions are back in action on Friday night, hosting Purdue in Rec Hall at 7 p.m. before heading to Maryland to round out the weekend with a Sunday outing against the Terps at 4 p.m. Sunday."Our focus is on Purdue now," Sanderson said. "Purdue has tough kids, they wrestle hard. I think the last time they were here every match was a dog fight. They were ready to go and motivated so we've got to be ready to compete because they can be hard."