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Michigan State Opens Home Slate With No. 1 Penn State

Jan. 12, 2018

Dual #9:
Michigan State (4-4, 0-2 B1G) vs. No. 1 Penn State (5-0, 1-0 B1G)
 Date | Time Sunday, Jan. 14 | 1 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Jenison Field House
 Tickets $5 (adults)/$3 (senior/youth) | MSU Ticket Information
 Notes Michigan State | Penn State
 Statistics Michigan State | Penn State
 TV/Internet Coverage Live streamed on BTN Plus on BTN2Go.com
 Social Media @wrestlingmsu width=  |  Facebook width= |   Instagram  width=


MICHIGAN STATE OPENS HOME SLATE WITH NO. 1 PENN STATE
After a 64-day, 10-event stretch of road events, Michigan State wrestling hosts its first home dual of 2018 on Sunday, Jan. 14, taking on the tall task of going toe-to-toe with No. 1 Penn State (5-0, 1-0 B1G) at Jenison Field House. The match gets underway at 1 p.m. and will be streamed live on BTN Plus (BTN2Go.com).

MSU takes on its fourth consecutive ranked opponent, navigating through a daunting schedule in its ninth dual of the season. The Spartans and Nittany Lions meet for the 30th time in program history, and the first since Feb. 13, 2016.

SPARTANS IN THE RANKINGS
• Senior Javier Gasca - 141 pounds
No. 18 by Trackwrestling
No. 19 by FloWrestling
No. 19 by The Open Mat
No. 20 by InterMat
No. 20 by Amateur Wrestling News

• Freshman Cameron Caffey - 184 pounds
No. 22 by Trackwrestling

NCAA QUALIFIER HUGHES OUT FOR 2018 SEASON
Nationally-ranked 174-pounder and NCAA Qualifier Drew Hughes will miss the remaining 2018 season due to injury and will receive a medical hardship. Hughes, a sophomore from Lowell, Indiana, placed second at the MSU Open and helped the Spartans to a dual win at Buffalo with a 4-3 decision over Ryan Kromer. Last season, Hughes was Michigan State’s Outstanding Freshman Award recipient after becoming the first Spartan freshman to qualify for the NCAA Championships since Sean McMurray in 2011. At NCAA Championships, Hughes was one win away from earning All-America honors, and finished the season as the team’s leader in wins (29) and technical falls (6).

SPARTANS TO WATCH
• Redshirt senior 141-pounder Javier Gasca is one of MSU’s three returning NCAA qualifiers, and currently the highest ranked Spartan ... won the Michigan State Open 141 title in the open division for the third consecutive year, defeating three ranked opponents ... went undefeated with five wins at the event, collecting four decisions and a fall at 3:56 in the first round ... named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week by the conference for his performance at the MSU Open, his first career weekly conference honor and the first since Drew Hughes last season on December 20, 2016 ... posted a fall against Carter Happel of Iowa at 4:04 for the first Big Ten win of the season ... placed third at the 2017 Big Ten Championships, the highest individual finish for a Spartan wrestler since Frank Gomez won the Big Ten title in 2009 ... finished the season with a 27-10 record ... ranked No. 18 by Trackwrestling, No. 19 by FloWrestling and the Open Mat and No. 20 by Intermat and Amateur Wrestling News.

• Freshman Rayvon Foley went 6-0 in his first six dual matches at 125 to open his Spartan career as the team’s leader in dual wins ... earned his first collegiate dual match win in his first career start as a Spartan at No. 17 Central Michigan, giving MSU an early 3-0 lead after defeating Drew Hildebrandt, 9-6 (11/17) ... defeated James Szymanski from No. 24 North Carolina in a 7-3 decision for the Spartans’ only win of the match (12/30) ... claimed his first open tournament title as a Spartan, going undefeated through four matches, including a major decision in the final bout, in the freshman/sophomore division at the Eastern Michigan Open (11/11) ... took second place of the freshman/sophomore division at the MSU Open in his first competition in the Green and White (11/5) ... went 4-2 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (12/1) ... leads the team with 18 wins overall.

• Redshirt freshman Jake Tucker is coming off his first Big Ten win and first win over a ranked opponent against No. 12 Jake Short of 14th-ranked Minnesota, with a 7-6 decision for the team’s only win of the match (1/7) ... owns a 15-9 overall record and 5-2 in duals ... leads the team in major decisions with six ... tied for second in dual wins with five and third on the team in dual points with 20 ... placed second at the EMU Open (11/11) and sixth at the MSU Open (11/5).

DON’T SLEEP ON THESE SPARTANS
Redshirt freshman 157-pounder Jake Tucker became the fourth Spartan to defeat a ranked opponent this season with his 7-6 decision over No. 12 Jake Short at No. 14 Minnesota on Jan. 7. Redshirt freshman Austin Hiles took down No. 14 CJ Brucki (then-ranked No. 17 Central Michigan) at 165 pounds in a thrilling, buzzer-beater and come-from-behind decision, 12-10. Redshirt senior Javier Gasca has defeated three ranked opponents so far this season (No. 12 Eli Stickley of Wisconsin, No. 16 Sal Profaci of Michigan and No. 14 Michael Longo of Oklahoma). 174-pound sophomore Drew Hughes also recorded a victory over Brucki from Central Michigan.

SUCCESS IN SOUTH BEACH
Michigan State made history as part of the first-ever South Beach Duals in Deerfield Beach, Florida, from Dec. 29-30. Competing in four duals over two days, the Spartans finished with a 3-1 record at the event, one of four teams to get to three wins out of the 12 participating Division I squads. The only school to go undefeated was No. 4 Missouri. MSU defeated SIU Edwardsville (31-8), Franklin & Marshall (25-12) and Binghamton (27-16) but fell in the last match to No. 24 North Carolina (30-6).

Through two days, the Spartans racked up four technical falls, three major decisions and a pin in bonus points. Freshman Rayvon Foley was 4-0 at 125 pounds to improve to 6-0 in duals and 18-3 overall. Redshirt freshmen Jwan Britton (149), Danny Kruse (184), Nick May (197) and Matt Lloyd (Hwt) all posted the first collegiate dual wins of their careers.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Four of Michigan State’s eight duals have been against nationally ranked squads, and the Spartans are slated to take on another this weekend in No. 1 Penn State. Eleven of the 14 teams from the Big Ten Conference are currently ranked in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, and five of those ranked teams are on the Spartans’ slate after this weekend. There are four Big Ten teams ranked in the top eight and MSU faces all four.

SCOUTING THE NITTANY LIONS
In dual meets, the Nittany Lions are undefeated through five, and will square off with No. 8 Michigan before coming to East Lansing. Seven of Penn State’s 10 starters are ranked in the top-10 of Intermat’s national rankings, including four No. 1 wrestlers. All seven of the ranked Nittany Lions have yet to drop a dual bout this season.

PSU leads the series with MSU, holding a 20-9 advantage. The last meeting between the Nittany Lions and the Spartans took place on Feb. 13, 2016, when Penn State defeated Michigan State, 41-3. Unranked Javier Gasca was the lone Spartan to put team points on the board for MSU, taking down No. 14 Jimmy Gulibon, 6-2.

Projected Lineup (Year, Overall, Duals)
125: Devin Schnupp (R-Fr., 1-9, 0-5)
133: Corey Keener (Sr., 9-2, 4-0)
141: Luke Gardner (R-Fr., 6-4, 0-0) -OR- Jered Cortez (R-Fr., 11-1, 4-1)
149: No. 1 Zain Retherford (Sr., 14-0, 5-0)
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (Jr., 14-0, 5-0)
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (So., 9-0, 4-0)
174: No. 2 Mark Hall (So., 15-0, 5-0)
184: No. 1 Bo Nickal (Jr., 14-0, 5-0)
197: Anthony Cassar (So., 12-2, 4-1) -OR- No. 10 Shakur Rasheed (Jr., 12-2, 0-0)
HWT: No. 8 Nick Nevills (Jr., 15-2, 5-0)

CHANDLER IN SECOND YEAR AS HEAD COACH
Michigan State head coach Roger Chandler is in his 21st season on the Spartan wrestling staff, but his second as head coach, taking over the reins of the MSU program from longtime head coach Tom Minkel, who directed the program since 1991, and retired following his 25th season at Michigan State in 2015-16.

In his first season as head coach, Chandler led the Spartans to a 10th-place finish at Big Ten Championships, the team’s best finish since 2012. MSU’s 38.5 points at the meet was their highest total since 2012, showing the signs of the program’s progress in Chandler’s first year acting as head coach. The Spartans also qualified three for NCAA Championships for the first time since 2013 in Chandler’s first year at the helm of the program.

SPARTAN ASSISTANT COACHES
• Former Spartan All-American Chris Williams is in the second year of his second stint on the MSU staff as an assistant coach. Williams had served as the head wrestling coach at Adrian College since November 2014, where he restarted the program and led the Bulldogs in their first season of competition in 31 years in 2015-16. He previously was an assistant coach at Michigan State, along with Chandler, for eight seasons (2005-13).
• Former Central Michigan All-American and U.S. Senior Nationals Champion Wynn Michalak enters his second season as Spartans’ assistant wrestling coach. One of the most successful wrestlers in Central Michigan history, Michalak was a four-time Mid-American Conference Champion (2005-08), three-time MAC Wrestler of the Year (2006-08), and a three-time NCAA All-American (2005, 2006, 2008), including a runner-up finish at 197 pounds in 2008. He won the 2015 U.S. Senior Nationals title at 97 kg/213 pounds on Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas, and competed in the past two U.S. Olympic wrestling trials.

COACH CHANDLER ON FINALLY HOSTING A HOME DUAL
“I think it’s great to finally be home, be in our own environment and have a sense of normalcy from the standpoint of having your own facilities, your own fans and having a clear sense of your surroundings and what’s going on. It definitely allows our guys to prepare a little bit more effectively.”

COACH CHANDLER ON PREPARING FOR NO. 1 PENN STATE
“As you go into a dual meet like this, obviously they’re the best team in the country and they’ve got five returning national champions. I think we have to continue to focus on the things that we need to do individually and go back and evaluate, and mark the areas where we need to continue to improve. Nothing has changed all year. We have to get better every time we step on the mat. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrestling the number one team in the country or wrestling the 20th ranked team in the country, the game plan stays the same, and in order for us to keep advancing as a program, we need to wrestle the best. This gives each guy an opportunity to get better individually.”

COACH CHANDLER ON WHAT THE TEAM LEARNED AFTER WRESTLING IOWA AND MINNESOTA
“There was a lot of growth from Friday to Sunday’s duals between Iowa and Minnesota, and it was getting back on track mentally with what we needed to do. I don’t think we did that very well on Friday. We were reacting a lot. On Sunday, we were able to initiate more attacking positions to put ourselves in the opportunity to score, and I think that’s what we need to do moving forward.”

COACH CHANDLER ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFERENCE BOUTS
“Any time you wrestle a conference match, it has a lot of meaning because it sets up seeding at the end of the year for the Big Ten Championships, so there’s no doubt that every conference match has an impact at the end of the season. We don’t put all of our focus on that; we’re going to focus on wrestling our specific match individually this weekend, and try to come out on the good side of things.”

NEXT UP
After the dual against Penn State, the Spartans have a split weekend against Indiana and Wisconsin, starting in Bloomington, Indiana, at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19. The match will be broadcast on Big Ten Network. Michigan State will host Wisconsin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 21 at Jenison Field House, and the match will be streamed on BTN Plus.
 

 

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