UNIVERSITY PARK - Talk about the Penn State wrestling team with anybody who follows it, and you're bound to hear things about last year and the offseason.
The conversation begins with the program's first national championship since 1953 and continues through some other interesting things like:
n Quentin Wright, a Bald Eagle Area, graduate struggling for most of the season and then winning a national title.
n David Taylor winning all of his bouts as a freshman until he was pinned by ex-Nittany Lion Bubba Jenkins in the NCAA finals.
n The legal issues of Andrew Long, who has been charged with attempted rape and has withdrawn from the university, and Ed Ruth, an All-American 174-pounder who was charged with assaulting a police officer when he tried to enter a Washington D.C. bar.
n What weight are the Alton twins going to wrestle?
The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 1 by most entering the season and will settle most of their lineup issues Thursday in an intrasquad dual before hosting Bloomsburg Nov. 13. Cael Sanderson, who brought PSU a national title in his second year, wants to look ahead instead of look back.
"Luckily, time keeps moving," Sanderson said Monday on media day. "We're moving forward and about to start this next season that we're fired up about. It's crazy that it's already here, but we're ready."
The Lions will have a target on their backs this season, but that's fine with Sanderson and his wrestlers.
"We don't feel pressure," Sanderson said. "We're excited about what we these guys were able to do last year, but last year is in the books. It's something that we can always be proud of, and we have a great chance this year to have a very successful season as long as our guys continue to attack with the same attitude and passion that they have in the past."
"I think the hard part is staying consistent and 10 guys wrestling hard," said senior 149-pounder Frank Molinaro, a three-time All-American who was an NCAA runner-up last season. "That's the hard part. The national championship takes care of itself. If we've got 10 guys that are staying consistent and staying on the same page as everyone else and everybody is keeping each other honest, I think we're going to have a really successful team."
Sanderson said he doesn't regret bringing in Long, a former NCAA runner-up whom the coach recruited at Iowa State.
"Long is a kid who I had a prior relationship with, and his family," he said. "You want to give a kid an opportunity. Even with his case, it's still pending. Hopefully, we'll find out if he's guilty or not guilty. We know he's guilty of making some bad decisions. It's just at what level? He's paying for those decisions now.
"He knew that [withdrawing from the university] was the right thing for him to do. He just [needed] to get out of town, let things settle and he's got to get through his trial, which is coming up in November 1 believe. He's done a great job since that point. He needed some help, and he needed to make some big changes."
Ruth injured his knee at the NCAA Championships, and he has bounced back after minor surgery, Sanderson said. Ruth's legal issues have apparently been resolved. Ruth was not available for comment.
"Ed Ruth is a guy we haven't had any issues with at all," Sanderson said. "He just put himself in a bad situation, and we dealt with that, and he's fine. I'm not worried about Ed Ruth at all."
Asked whether the off the mat problems were distractions, the wrestlers were all saying the same thing.
"That stuff is in the past," Taylor said. "We're working toward winning another national title right now."
"Right now, we're not focusing on past events," Wright said. "We're just looking toward the future."
"That's all in the past," Molinaro said. "We're ready to move forward, and this team has moved forward."
Andrew Alton, an NCAA qualifier who electrified crowds with his pinning prowess, will be redshirting this season, and Dylan Alton, who redshirted last season, will go at 157 after Taylor has moved up to 165.
"[Andrew Alton] was playing around with getting down to 141, but that's just not really going to happen," Sanderson said. "It would be a long, miserable year for him. As difficult as it is to redshirt an Andrew Alton, that's kind of the plan. He's a guy who we'll get more out of him in three years at 149 than we will this year at 141. The spark that he brought to the team last year was incredible."
"It will be pretty hard," Andrew Alton said. "I got a taste of competition last year and now I have to sit out, but at least I have a brother to watch."
There were rumors in the offseason about the Altons transferring.
"We never thought about transferring," Andrew Alton said. "We love Penn State, and we love the coaches here."
Penn State fans can't wait to see the Lions again. The Iowa match, which has been scheduled for Rec Hall for the second year in a row by the Big Ten, was sold out quickly. The wrestlers are even more anxious.
"I can't wait," Molinaro said. "I'm kind of bored to be honest with you. I've been training all summer and we've had this long, monotonous time..I'm just ready to get to [wrestle] Bloomsburg."