Penn State wrestling program suffers another postponement, can't get 2021 season started

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Cael Sanderson

For the second time this season, Penn State wrestling will postpone its season opener. The Nittany Lions will not take the mat against Michigan State Sunday as they were originally scheduled, just as they didn't take on Rutgers Jan. 16.

Penn State and Michigan State mutually agreed to postponed Sunday's match "out of an abundance of caution surrounding the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff," Penn State said in a brief release. Last week's dual was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests among Penn State's Tier 1 personnel, which includes players, coaches, match day staff and others.

"The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the broader community are of the utmost importance," the program said last week. "Therefore, as part of the protocols established by the Big Ten Conference and Penn State Athletics medical staff and in consultation with university, local and national officials and guidelines, individuals with a positive test have been put into isolation. In addition to isolation, contact tracing procedures have been implemented, which includes quarantine and testing for those individuals who might have been exposed, even if asymptomatic."

The program — just as it will with Rutgers — will work with Michigan State and the Big Ten to reschedule the dual at a later date.

Prior to the season, coach Cael Sanderson cautioned that the Nittany Lions could be without several wrestlers for an extended period this season due to COVID-19. Any athlete who tests positive must sit out at least 17 days until they can come back to competition, but flexibility within scheduling that will allow extra matches at duals and changes to qualification standards will allow some wrestlers who must sit out to qualify for NCAAs.

"Say you miss the Big Ten tournament, you can still apply and get a wild card to nationals, but you have to have four matches to qualify for a wild card right now," Sanderson said Jan. 12. "So, assuming that there's going to be missed matches, unfortunately, because of COVID, this just gives you the chance to get more starters four matches. Because, a positive COVID test and you're missing 17 days minimum."

Penn State's next opportunity to open the season is set for Jan. 30, when the Nittany Lions are slated to take on Indiana and Northwestern on the road in Evanston, Illinois, in a tri-meet.

The wrestlers aren't the only Penn State athletes missing out on competition this weekend, as women's volleyball's two-match series with Michigan planned for Friday and Saturday has also been postponed "out of an abundance of caution." Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics announced Wednesday that there have been 16 positive COVID-19 results among student-athletes out of 1,590 tests from Jan. 9-15.