Can Jimmy Gulibon Help Lift Nittany Lions to NCAA Title?

Jimmy Gulibon could be Penn State’s wild card at the NCAA Championships.

Yes, the four-time PIAA champion from Derry Area earned an automatic bid by finishing eighth at 141 pounds in the Big Ten Tournament, but what the Nittany Lions will get from him in St. Louis is anybody’s guess.

For his part, Cael Sanderson says he isn’t worried.

“We’re just looking for his best effort,” the Penn State coach said at his press conference on Monday in State College. “I think we’ll get that. I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful. I think he’ll wrestle well.”

Consistency is Key

Gulibon enters the tournament with a 14-10 mark and is unseeded. He entered the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 2 seed and preceded to go 1-3, losing by fall in all three of his matches, but Sanderson said he doesn’t think Gulibon’s confidence is sagging.

Penn State_Gulibon“I think he’s in good spirits right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t think he was really low or down on himself after the Big Ten. I think he was frustrated because he was wrestling great, but he obviously didn’t have a great tournament. The effort wasn’t great.”

Sanderson said Gulibon’s work in the mat room has never been an issue.

“He’s a tough kid,” Sanderson said. “He works hard. He’s been very consistent in his training from Day 1, the first day we stepped on campus. He has the ability to wrestle well. He can go with anybody in the country. But he has to make that decision. He has to be willing to do that.”

Gulibon has been maddeningly inconsistent in his college career. He went 18-15 as a redshirt freshman. After a disappointing sixth-place finish at the Big Ten Tournament as a sophomore, he went 4-2 at the NCAA Championships to place fifth at 133 and become an All-American for the first time. His 26-9 mark pointed toward a very strong collegiate career.

Making the Jump

But he moved up to 141 last year and struggled throughout the season. He entered the Big Ten Tournament with a 12-9 record and was the No. 8 seed, only to stun No. 1 Micah Jordan of Ohio State in the quarterfinals, then beat Michigan State’s Javier Gasca III to reach the finals, where he lost to Rutgers’ Anthony Ashnault.

Gulibon went 2-2 at the NCAA Tournament and did not place, but his strong finish to the season led many to believe that he had grown into the 141-pound weight class and this would be his year.

That hasn’t happened, though, and Sanderson has faced more questions about his 141-pounder. Gulibon was seeded second entering the Big Ten Tournament despite a 14-10 record. Gasca pinned him in the opener and things went downhill from there.

Gulibon’s Last Shot at Glory

Now, Gulibon gets one final opportunity – starting with Gasca in the opening round – to make a major impact for the Nittany Lions.

“Jimmy can win that match,” Sanderson said. “If he can just start winning and getting on a roll, he can do a lot of damage in helping our team be successful this weekend.”

Gulibon is one of the biggest question marks in a Penn State lineup that faces more of them going into the tournament than possibly any of the teams that have won five of the past six NCAA titles. It starts with Nick Suriano’s ankle and includes where Bo Nickal will place if he isn’t the sure-fire finalist he looked like two weeks ago.

So how should we expect Gulibon to bounce back from the Big Ten letdown? Not even his coach knows.

“We’ll find out on Thursday, right?” Sanderson said.


Leave a Comment