The MSU wrestling team has another busy weekend on the road as they begin the toughest part of their schedule.
The Spartans (4-3, 0-2 Big Ten) travel to Clarion, Pa., to take on Clarion and North Carolina beginning at noon Saturday before heading to State College, Pa., for a tilt against No. 1, and two-time defending national champion, Penn State at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve got a very difficult stretch ahead over the next couple months, but I have a feeling that we’re starting to get into somewhat of a grove so we can compete well,” head coach Tom Minkel said.
After they take on the No. 1 team in the nation, the next opponents for MSU include No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Minnesota, No. 11 Central Michigan, No. 12 Nebraska and No. 16 Northwestern, according to InterMat rankings.
With wins against Bucknell and Lindsey Wilson on Sunday, Minkel said the Spartans feel confident about their chances heading into the busy weekend.
“Clarion and North Carolina are both solid programs, and we just need to control what we can control, which is how we wrestle, our intensity, and fundamentals,” he said. “Penn State presents a little bigger challenge. It’s like us playing Alabama in football, and they have everybody back, and it’s at Penn State.”
Minkel said all three duals will feature the same lineup as the Bucknell dual from last weekend, headlined by 19th-ranked 157-pounder David Cheza, who still is undefeated this season, and fourth-ranked heavyweight Mike McClure.
McClure will be the only favorite when the Spartans face the Nittany Lions, and said he is excited to make his first trip to the well known wrestling power.
“I’ve never been over to Penn State to wrestle, but I’ve heard their atmosphere over there is just awesome, and they fill the crowd up so it should be exciting,” McClure said. “Me being favored at heavyweight, it’s a good feeling, but I’m just going (to go) in there and wrestle hard.”
Penn State has sold out all of their home dual meets this season, and only have a few standing room only tickets available for every home match remaining.
For the Spartans to have success as a team, each of the individual wrestlers need to give it their full effort, and nobody knows that more than senior 149-pounder Dan Osterman.
“We’re getting ready to go into the Big Ten stretch, and there’s really no better conference in wrestling, and it’s going to be a battle but you’ve got to be ready for it,” Osterman said. “We’ve put a lot of hard work in over break and this year, so the most important thing is to trust in what we’ve done.”
Knowing it’s going to be a long weekend, Osterman said the team must push through the pain and fight for the full seven minutes, while keeping in mind the pressure is on the opponent.
“You have to keep it simple and remember it’s just another match,” the senior said. “(With) us going in as underdogs, nobody’s expecting us to do well, so we’ve just got to go in there, wrestle hard and try not to overthink it.”