UNIVERSITY PARK -- James English has spent the better portion of the last year inside hospital rooms, doctors' offices and physical rehabilitation centers.
He would have preferred to be on wrestling mats.
English, a fifth-year senior for Penn State who missed all of last season with a severe shoulder injury that worsened over the course of a rugged career, is now ready to make his return.
If called on.
English, who beat sophomore Seth Beitz 5-1 in the team's lone 149-pound bout at wrestleoffs last week, is expected to start when the two-time defending national champions welcome Lehigh to Rec Hall next Friday if Andrew Alton cannot wrestle.
Alton is recovering from an unspecified ailment that has kept him off the mat this preseason and is considered day-to-day by the coaching staff.
"I don't really look at it as I'm No. 2 at that spot. I think it's anyone's spot until we have the wrestle-off," English said. "But no matter who's out there this year, whether it's me or Andrew you're going to have to have someone with the same goal and that's to be a national champ."
English, a graduate of Central York High School, couldn't pinpoint the cause of multiple shoulder injuries that required surgery late last December. He guessed one injury turned into multiple issues while he tried to tough it out and continue wrestling.
After surgery, he started physical therapy, returned to cardiovascular exercise in May before easing himself back into light wrestling practices in June. He returned to the mat for his first match in the University World Team Trials in August where he went 0-2.
"I was a little rusty then but I'm feeling a lot better now," English said. "I wouldn't say I ever feel 100 percent. I'm still banged up, but I don't know any wrestlers after five years of wrestling who aren't banged up."
English has made a stellar comeback from a season-ending injury before. After he missed all of his freshman season with an injury coming out of Central York High School, English bounced back with a solid 2009-10 campaign. As a redshirt freshman, English compiled a 17-7 record in open tournaments and filled in admirably for a then-injured Frank Molinaro.
He made his biggest mark at the University Nationals, outscoring all comers in a loaded 70-kilogram weight class 51-14. English finished 6-0 to win the 70-kilogram championship for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
"He's one of the most disciplined and hardest working kids we have in the program," Sanderson said. "He's right there and he's as good as anybody. We feel very comfortable with him."
Andrew Alton on the mend: Due to the nature of the sport, Sanderson is closely guarded when it comes to injuries to his wrestlers.
That was no different Tuesday when he would only describe Alton's status as "day-to-day." Alton, who is expected to return to the team's lineup after redshirting last season following a 30-10 freshman season, was more upbeat.
"I feel great physically. If I had to go, I'd easily go," Alton said. "I'm not hurting at all anymore, I'm just going to sit out a couple of weeks."
The injury, which has not been confirmed by the team, could potentially postpone an Alton Family reunion, as Andrew's twin brother Dylan returns to the lineup at 157 pounds following his third-place finish last season at NCAAs.
The two have not wrestled in the same lineup since their days at Central Mountain, as Dylan redshirted as a freshman at Penn State.
"Ending my freshman year the way I didn't want to makes me more hungry this year," Andrew Alton said. "And then I get to wrestle with my brother this year which I haven't for two years and I'm just excited about the whole team and the environment this year."
Alton will look to replace the 103 bonus points departed 149-pounder Frank Molinaro provided during a 33-win season at the weight class last season.
He's confident he can contribute on a similar level.
"My maturity level is a lot higher than it was as a freshman," Alton said. "Now I know I can beat these guys and maybe I had a little doubt my freshman year but now I'm 100 percent positive that I can beat anybody in college."