Penn State players put best foot forward at pro day, 7 wrestlers advance to NCAA quarterfinals, and more
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Pro day looms large
Wide receiver Chris Godwin began Penn State’s pro day on Thursday looking to capitalize on the momentum he built during the NFL scouting combine two weeks ago.
Defensive end Garrett Sickels, meanwhile, was looking to erase the memory of that event.
Linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White was looking to revive a career interrupted no fewer than three times by knee injuries. Fellow linebacker Brandon Bell was hoping to bounce back from the many nicks that have set him back the last two years.
The other five players who auditioned for scouts in Holuba Hall – center Brian Gaia, defensive end Evan Schwan, offensive lineman Wendy Laurent, long snapper Tyler Yazujian and running back Irvine Paye — were just looking for a chance. Just a sniff.
“It’s definitely hard and not a lot of people make it, but I think I can do it,” Gaia said. “If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be here.”
Godwin, who sparkled at the combine (notably running a 4.42-second 40 to alleviate concerns about his speed), did not submit to testing. He ran some routes.
“I felt really good about my numbers in Indy,” he said. “I stuck with those.”
Sickels, the only other Lion to participate at the combine, was not happy with his performance in Indy. On Thursday, however, he improved his 40 time from 4.9 to 4.81 and his vertical jump from 28 inches to 33. He again bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times.
“This was a day to really just check off some boxes for myself,” he said. “… Just shows these coaches what I’m capable of.”
Wartman-White saw his last two seasons ended by ACL tears — first to the left knee, then to the right. He also suffered a less-serious knee injury in 2012.
He is recovering from the last of those injuries and was unable to do much beyond some linebacker drills, and those were done at less than full speed.
Wartman-White feels he’s on the right track, however.
“I can’t see myself just giving up,” he said. “It’s a pride thing. It’s a football thing. I love football. I have too much pride to see myself 20 years from now and think, ‘What if I had tried?’ It’s better to try than not to.”
Bell can relate. He was one of Penn State’s finest defensive players the last two years, when healthy. But that rarely was the case.
“It is annoying,” he said. “There’s always something kind of nagging. I learned to play through it. I’m happy with the results.”
And he was OK with the results Thursday. He ran a 4.68 40, did 15 reps on the bench and had his vertical measured at 32 inches.
Maybe it will be enough to get a chance. .
Wrestlers lead at NCAAs
Penn State, seeking its sixth national championship in seven years, won 15 of 16 matches and seized the lead after the first day of the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
Seven wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals, and an eighth is alive in the consolation bracket for the Lions, who have 30.5 points. Ohio State is second with 26, while Iowa has 25.5 and Oklahoma State 24.5.
Per Tim Owen of Blue White Illustrated, coach Cael Sanderson wasn’t certain if his team was motivated by the absence of injured 125-pounder Nick Suriano:
“I think they want to win as a team. Having Suriano in there obviously [would’ve been a boost], but more than anything they feel bad for Nick because he’s a guy who has wanted to do great here and do well, but you have to be focused on your best. You can let the team motivate you a little bit, but for the most part you have to be focused on what you’re doing with your own hands and feet and brain. If you can add a little fire to that then so be it.”
Defending 149-pound champion Zain Retherford recorded technical falls over Arizona State’s Josh Maruca and Princeton’s Jordan Laster, and 157-pounder Jason Nolf logged tech falls against North Carolina State’s Thomas Bullard and Bucknell’s Victor Lopez.
At 184, Bo Nickal recorded a tech fall against Northwestern’s Mitch Silga and pinned Binghamton’s Steven Schneider.
Now comes the hard part, Sanderson told Owen:
“First day, you hope to get a few more pins, but the guys are still wrestling well. Again, it’s going to come down to those big matches tomorrow and which team wins. If you want to be a national champion then tomorrow is part of that process.”
Hockey team reaches semis
Nate Sucese had a goal and an assist and Peyton Jones made 30 saves as Penn State defeated Michigan 4-1 in a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal Thursday in Detroit.
The fourth-seeded Lions (22-11-2) face top-seeded Minnesota (23-10-3) in the semifinals on Friday, after No. 3 Ohio State (21-10-6) squares off against No. 2 Wisconsin (19-14-1). The Buckeyes defeated No. 6 Michigan State 6-3 on Thursday.
The championship game is Saturday.
Penn State, which strengthened its NCAA resume, built a 3-0 first-period lead on goals by Liam Folkes, David Goodwin and Sucese. Vince Pedrie made it 4-0 in the second period.