This biggest story in college wrestling this summer has involved the standoff between Penn State and their star 125-pounder, Nick Suriano.
Suriano, who was the No. 5 overall recruit when he gave his verbal to Penn State in 2015, has sought a transfer, specifically to Big Ten rival Rutgers. Rumors of the transfer started swirling when Suriano, who was an undefeated (159-0), four-time state champion for Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. As the school year inches closer to beginning, however, the story has gotten bigger.
Penn State is reportedly blocking Suriano’s transfer. Big Ten rules require any athlete who transfers schools within to conference receive a waiver or they will lose a year of eligibility. This means that Suriano, who went 17-1 last season before an injury cost him his chance to compete for a NCAA title, wouldn’t be allowed to compete for Rutgers until the 2018-19 season – unless Penn State agrees to the waiver, which they reportedly informed Rutgers they would not.
On one hand, it’s easy to see why Penn State wouldn’t grant this transfer. Suriano is the favorite to win the 125-pound title this season and losing him would be a big loss for the Nittany Lions, the reigning national champions.
But head coach Cael Sanderson’s stance could make a long-term impact. Bergen Catholic is a powerhouse program in New Jersey. Last season was the first time they did not crown a state champion since 2011 and yet they still had six wrestlers medal in states – none finished lower than third. Sanderson’s handling of the best wrestler in the program’s history could impact his ability to recruit there later. Not to mention other wrestlers from across the nation who are eyeing this situation.
At the end of the day though, Sanderson’s job is to do what is best for his team, not solely Suriano and it is Suriano, not Sanderson, who is backing out of his commitment. Unless there is something drastic going on that hasn’t been reported yet, it’s hard to blame Penn State for refusing to allow one of their best wrestlers to change singlets without receiving anything in return.
To add to the drama, Suriano was briefly not listed on the Nittany Lions roster this morning before being added back. He was again removed from Penn State’s roster. FloWrestling has confirmed that Suriano’s absence from the roster is not a mistake.
If Suriano does get his wish, it is a big gain for Rutgers, who has never had a national champion. Suriano would join three-time All-American Anthony Ashnault, who was also a four-time New Jersey state champion.
A resolution will happen soon, just not soon enough. Suriano’s situation represents another athlete who has basically surrendered control of his personal life in order to wrestle in college.
This story has been updated to reflect the change in Suriano’s roster status at Penn State.