ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Penn State’s path to its sixth NCAA wrestling championship in the last seven years will be a little more difficult than expected.

During Wednesday’s media session in advance of the three-day championships that began this morning, head coach Cael Sanderson revealed that freshman 125-pounder Nick Suriano won’t participate because of an ankle injury.

Suriano, 16-3 and seeded third, injured an ankle in the Nittany Lions’ NWCA National Duals match at Oklahoma State and did not compete in the Big Ten championships two weeks ago.

“We were trying to give him as much time as possible,” Sanderson said. “And it was going to be a day before-type of decision. And we were having to get him to a point where he would be competitive enough to compete and to protect himself. And I don’t feel like he’s in that position, so he’s not going to wrestle.”

“I just found out,” Penn State defending 149-pound national champion Zain Retherford said. “So, I mean, I knew as you guys know. I think the team’s going to compete the same way regardless. We want to score as many points as we can in the amount of time that we have out there on the mat, so that doesn’t change at all.”

Iowa’s Thomas Gilman, the top seed at 125, wishes Suriano could wrestle.

“Obviously, I’m sorry to hear that,” Gilman said. “You never want to hear someone getting hurt or not being able to compete. That’s no good. I always want the best to compete against me.

“But the way the bracket laid out, we would have met in the finals and he would have had to make it to the finals.

“It’s not a given I would make it to the finals, either. So I’ve just gotta take it one match at a time, and whomever they put out there and whomever steps out there, I’m ready to compete against.”

The loss hurts Penn State, but the Nittany Lions are still considered the favorite to capture the team title. PSU has seven wrestlers seeded fifth or better, including defending champion Zach Retherford (No. 1 at 149), national runner-up Jason Nolf (No. 1 at 157) and national runner-up Bo Nickal (No. 2 at 184).

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Sports Writer

Sports reporter for The Courier

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