STATE COLLEGE — One thing Penn State’s wrestling program has been known for during the Cael Sanderson era is stepping up on the sport’s biggest stage — the NCAA Championships.
For Penn State senior Shakur Rasheed, the biggest thing that has stopped him from doing just that has been injuries.
Rasheed was rolling last season — he started 18-0 at 184 pounds — but an ACL injury would spoil a special season, which eventually ended with a 2-2 record and an early exit at the NCAA tourney.
“Health, health. Doing all the right little things to stay healthy,” said Rasheed on what he is looking to improve on this year. “When you’re having a good year, it doesn’t matter how good of a year you’re having because you can get hurt right before nationals. That’s what I feel like kills me all the time, I’m having a good year and I get hurt in January, February — it’s not a good feeling.”
Rasheed, who was an All-American in the 2017-18 season, would undergo offseason surgery to repair his injured knee — and the road back would start slowly.
“It was definitely a difficult road. It was very humbling ... you know I started out having to literally crawl to get water out of my fridge from my couch,” Rasheed said at Penn State’s media day on Tuesday. “It was a humbling experience and I think, if anything, it’s made me better and now I’m just climbing back.”
Rasheed could have called his college career a wrap after last season, but he was granted a sixth year of eligibility and knew he had to come back to finish what he started.
“It was a tough year last year, and I just felt like I didn’t do what I wanted to do,” said Rasheed.
Rasheed said he spoke with fellow sixth-year senior and 2019 national champion Anthony Cassar before they both announced they would return to the Nittany Lions program.
“(We) spoke about another year. Our situations were a little different because before last year we had the same goals and he accomplished that goal and I did not,” said Rasheed. “With him, he’s in a different spot, you know he didn’t have to come back. He did what he had to do. But with me, I felt like I had to come back.”
Rasheed is looking to end his career on top of the podium in March.
“I came here with a purpose and my purpose was to win a national title and end my wrestling career with a bang like that,” he said. “I didn’t get it done (last year), so my biggest goal now is to just have a healthy year and compete at the top level that I can possibly compete at and be the best that I can be. I figured why not give myself another chance to have a healthy year and get at it.”