PSU wrestlers highlight March events
As we prepare for a mid-month roar from the proverbial lion that doesn’t want to go quietly, the overlapping winter and spring sports seasons are as crazy as the month of March itself.
n What a thrill to watch the NCAA wrestling finals over the weekend. Bo Nickal’s amazing move from his back to pin Myles Martin to seal the deal was amazing, drawing emotion even from the always-stoic Cael Sanderson. But the moment that intrigued me came just before that match, when Nittany Lion alum and two-time National Champion David Taylor revealed during a mat-side interview that he never heard Coach Sanderson talk about wins or championships. Instead, explained Taylor, the legendary coach, and one of the winningest wrestlers of all time, tells his athletes to work hard, stay loose and be themselves. The rest apparently takes care of itself. Good advice in sports and in life.
The other moment I loved was seeing Mark Hall, the only Nittany Lion finalist to finish as runner-up, among the first to congratulate Nickal as he came off the mat. Just minutes after his own disappointment, Hall set his feelings aside to support his teammate and celebrate the program’s accomplishment. A good example in sports and in life.
n The NCAA basketball tournament once again proves that anything can happen on any given day. The signature Cinderella story of the first weekend of men’s action: UMBC upsetting top-seed Virginia, reminding us not just of the madness of March, but the magic. Big names took a beating through the opening rounds, but bracket-busters are what makes the big dance worth watching … underdogs have everything to gain and favorites, everything to lose. Can hardly wait to watch the Sweet 16.
n Congratulations to Saint Francis head softball coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift on reaching the 200-win milestone with a victory over Drake at the OSU Hall of Fame Classic. The Flash have started the season with trips to warmer climates in the Carolinas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, putting together a 16-15 record while gaining valuable experience in preparation for Northeast Conference competition; but their goals are even higher than league accolades.
Patrick-Swift’s team redefined its expectations while re-writing the record books in 2017, earning NEC season and tournament titles and the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory. Now, they’re ducking no one, starting the season ranked in the Fastpitch News Top 20. They’ll finally get to play their first home game later this month, with a bull’s-eye on their back as NEC favorites.
n It’s hard to believe NASCAR is already six weeks into the 2018 season. Defending Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. took the checkered flag at Fontana, snapping Kevin Harvick’s three-race win streak, but fewer fans seem interested this season. Television ratings are down by more than 15 percent from last year. NASCAR needs to improve its product … fast.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.