New Penn State Nittany Lion Drew Hildebrandt (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On Wednesday morning, the second-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions officially added 2021 NCAA All-American Drew Hildebrandt to their roster. In late November, Hildebrandt was listed as a student in the PSU directory, further confirming speculation that Hildebrandt intended on suiting up for PSU this season.
Hildbrandt was a senior in 2021, but had an extra year of eligibility remaining due to the Covid-year. Before the season, he indicated that he did not intend to use the year. A few months later, his name surfaced as a potential fit at 125 lbs for the Nittany Lions.
Getting Hildebrandt would be a massive boost for a Penn State team that has seen the combination of Jakob Campbell and Baylor Shunk go 1-5 in dual action at the opening weight.
For whatever reason, 125 lbs has been difficult for Penn State to fill since the graduation of NCAA champion Nico Megaludis in 2016. A year later, Nick Suriano had an excellent true freshman season, but was injured late in the year, didn't compete at nationals, and ended up transferring out. Since then, only Robbie Howard, in 2021, was able to qualify for NCAA's. Howard still has a lingering injury and is not competing this year.
The Nittany Lions are expected to be in a tight team race with Iowa and getting a returning All-American like Hildebrandt could nudge Penn State ahead of the defending champions. Including Drew, Cael Sanderson's squad could send out a lineup with seven returning All-Americans (with four national champs).
Hildebrandt is a three-time NCAA qualifier that went 14-2 last season and finished fourth in the nation at 125 lbs. His only losses on the year came to Spencer Lee (Iowa) in the NCAA semis and Patrick McKee (Minnesota) in the third-place bout. Hildebrandt was a two-time MAC champion and earned the sixth seed at the 2020 NCAA Tournament that ended up canceled.
Penn State returns to the mat on January 7th as they take on Maryland. Looking at the Nittany Lion schedule, some dates to circle, in reference to Hildebrandt are January 21st vs Michigan (Nick Suriano), January 28th vs Iowa (#1 Spencer Lee), and February 4th vs Ohio State (#16 Malik Heinselman).