The Sacred Heart University men’s wrestling team is looking to continue their growth as a program in the 2021-22 campaign.
For the first time since 2007, the Pioneers had two wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament and Nick Palumbo became the first SHU wrestler to earn a spot in an Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) championship match.
Sacred Heart added some toughness to their upcoming schedule by adding nine-time national champion Penn State to the schedule for a dual meet on Friday, November 12 at a location to be determined in Pennsylvania.
The day after the dual meet with the Nittany Lions, who finished second in last March’s NCAA Division I tournament behind Iowa, the Pioneers will compete in the Journeyman Classic tournament on Saturday, Nov. 13, in Spooky Nook in Manheim, Pa., where the EIWA championships were held last February.
The Pioneers are also scheduled to travel to Las Vegas in early December to compete in the 39th annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational that will include at least seven teams ranked in the top 10 at the end of last season – North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Minnestoa, Michigan and Arizona State.
Sacred Heart head coach John Clark is excited for the opportunity to meet the Lions on the wrestling mat.
“It’s amazing. They are returning all of their kids and they’ve won eight of the last 10 NCAA tournaments (that were contested),” he said. “We’re trying to build something here. It will be our own dual day of the day.”
It will be the first time that the Pioneers have faced Penn State in a dual meet and will be the first time since 2015-16 that Sacred Heart will face a top 10 team. The Pioneers lost to then-No. 3 Michigan at the Journeyman Northeast Duals in Albany in December 2015.
Penn State will have four returning national champions in their lineup – Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks. The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 2 in the final coaches poll of the season in February.
Sacred Heart’s tentative schedule for 2021-22 has just three meets at home in Fairfield against Binghamton (Dec. 19), Virginia Military Institute (Jan. 14) and Franklin & Marshall (Jan. 15). The Pioneers will have two road meets in New England at Harvard (Jan. 16) and at Brown (Feb. 20).
The season opens on Nov. 6 at American University in Washington, D.C.
The EIWA tournament is scheduled for March 6-7 at Cornell with the 2021 NCAA Division I championships set for March 19-21 in Detroit.
In its history, Penn State has only wrestled six New England schools in dual meets including two teams from Connecticut — Coast Guard and Yale. The Lions wrestled Coast Guard in 1946 while PSU had a 4-0 record against Yale. Penn State has also wrestled Brown, Boston University, Harvard and Springfield.