Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 47 of 67

4 8 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M T he Penn State wrestling team brought Jimmy Kennedy aboard as a volun- teer assistant coach in 2021. Now it has dropped the first part of that title and installed him as a full- time assistant. The Nittany Lions were able to expand their staff because of a new NCAA rule allowing schools in certain Olympic sports to add another full-time assistant coach. Although his volunteer sta- tus might have suggested a less-formal level of involve- ment with the program, Ken- nedy has been an integral part of the Nittany Lions' success in recent years. He was a three-time All- American at Illinois and finished his college wrestling career with a record of 119-24. The Ingleside, Ill., native was the U.S. Open champion in 2016 and won numerous freestyle tournaments during his competitive days. He came to Penn State after serving as an assistant coach at Northwestern from 2018-21. "He's never tight. He's always goofy, cracking jokes, but it's subtle," three-time 184-pound NCAA champ Aaron Brooks told FloWrestling. "He's very tactical when it comes to the wrestling side of things." Lions Learn 2023-24 Big Ten Opponents, First Nonconference Foe Penn State is not expected to unveil its complete 2023-24 schedule until Sep- tember, but releases from other schools have shed light on the Big Ten portion of the Nittany Lions' upcoming slate. Head coach Cael Sanderson's team will take on Rutgers, Nebraska, Indiana and Ohio State at home. It's unclear which of those duals will be held at Rec Hall and which will take place at the 15,261-seat Bryce Jordan Center. The latter venue played host to two matches last season, a move that Sanderson viewed as a way to grow the program and the sport. Competing at the BJC "gives new op- portunities for fans to see the team, and we want to continue to build our fan base," Sander- son said. "It's hard to do that if people can't get in to watch your matches. We want to make sure we have a big match over there and let as many people as possible come watch a match. Hopefully, from there you can hook them and make them wrestling fans and Penn State wrestling fans." Penn State will face Iowa, M i c h i ga n , M a ryl a n d a n d Michigan State on the road. We also know that the Lions will host Lehigh during their nonconfer- ence portion of the schedule. Full dates and times will be released later this year. PSU Commit Wins Second Fargo Title Connor Mirasola once again came out on top at the prestigious US Marine Corps 16U Junior Nationals. A member of Penn State's 2024 re- cruiting class, Mirasola captured first place in the 195-pound bracket of the junior freestyle division. The Jackson, Wis., native won the 182-pound weight class a year ago and had no trouble this year after bumping up in weight. He won his seven matches by a combined score of 71-0, capping his performance with a 10-0 victory over Junior Robb of Okla- homa. A senior-to-be, Mirasola is FloWres- tling's No. 18 pound-for-pound wrestler in the country regardless of class. Four other future Penn State wrestlers also competed at the Junior Nationals, which took place July 15-22 in Fargo, N.D. Mirasola's brother Cole, another 2024 recruit, finished second at 220 pounds, while 2025 commit Dalton Perry of Renovo, Pa., was fifth at 132. Kyison Garcia (2024) of West Jordan, Utah, and Brock Weiss (2024) of Lycoming, Pa., both exited in the consolation round of 16 at 132 and 138 pounds, respectively. Current, Future Lions Shine On International Stage A pair of wrestlers with Penn State connections took part in the U20 Pan- Am Championships July 6-8 in Santiago, Chile, and both walked away with indi- vidual freestyle titles. Class of 2024 commit Luke Lilledahl won the 57-kilogram (125-pound) title, while incoming transfer Mitchell Mesen- brink took the gold medal at 74 kilograms (163 pounds). The pair also represented the United States at the U20 World Championships in Ammon, Jordan, with Lilledahl reach- ing his third consecutive world cham- pionship title match. Down 9-7 in the semifinals with time running out, he pinned his opponent from Azerbaijan with six seconds remaining to advance to the gold medal bout. In 2021, Lilledahl took U17 silver and won the gold in the same division last year. This year, he took silver after falling to Yuto Nishiuchi of Japan 5-0 in the gold medal match. Messenbrink reached the gold medal match, scheduled for Aug. 16. He took silver at the U20s last year. Class of 2024 commit Zack Ryder won his second consecutive bronze medal at the U17 World Championships. He cap- tured his first two matches, lost in the semifinals, but dominated Ismayil Asadli of Azerbaijan 12-2 to take third place. Two-time national champion Aaron Brooks will compete for the U.S. at the U23 World Championships, Oct. 23-29, in Tampere, Finland. Three former Nittany Lions will com- pete for the U.S. Senior World team. Nick Lee (65 kg), Zain Retherford (70 kg), and David Taylor (86 kg) are all on the men's freestyle team. The competition starts Sept. 16 in Belgrade, Serbia. ■ WRESTLING Lions Add Jimmy Kennedy To Staff As Full-Time Coach G R E G P I C K E L | G R E G. P I C K E L @ O N 3 . C O M Kennedy boasts a wealth of Big Ten experience. He wres- tled at Illinois and coached at Northwestern before com- ing to Penn State in 2021. PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS

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