This past season, Shayne Van Ness’ progress and improvement happened in front of the very eyes of Penn State Wrestling nation.
Following a true freshman campaign in which Van Ness only saw action in two total matches (2-0), he was inserted into the Nittany Lion Wrestling starting lineup at 149 for the duration of the 2023-2023 season.
And Shayne got off to a fantastic start by winning his first nine matches and racking up bonus points with a major decision and three pins. It appeared things were going very smoothly.
Well, that is until Van Ness stood across the mat from Iowa State’s Paniro Johnson and Wisconsin’s 2022 All-American Austin Gomez.
Shayne battled both of the highly ranked grapplers tough (3-2 loss and 6-2 loss), but he struggled to gain penetration on his shots. Which makes sense as both of those guys are able to defend from almost any position on the mat.
Van Ness shook off the losses and picked up bonus wins in his next two matches with a major decision against Michigan’s Fidel Mayora (14-4) and a fall over Michigan State’s Braden Stauffenberg.
But, again, he hit a bump in the road in the next two duals.
Actually, it was more of a landmine considering Shayne was going up against Iowa’s four-time NCAA qualifier Max Murin and Ohio State’s two-time All-American and 2021 runner-up Sammy Sasso.
The script for both matches played out differently but the end result against some of the nation’s best was the same for Shayne. A 4-1 loss against Murin and a 6-3 loss to Sasso.
Lather, rinse, and repeat.
But look, did Shayne Van Ness takes some lumps during the season?
Heck yeah he did.
But the important thing is that he continued to work hard, learn from each loss, and get better every single day. Which is everything in wrestling. Especially with the end of season tournaments looming not too far in the distance.
Riding a three match winning streak going into the 2023 Big Ten Championships, Shayne looked poised to make some waves in the toughest conference in the nation.
Van Ness blew through his first opponent in a lopsided 16-4 major decision and it was time for some revenge against Iowa’s Max Murin in the next bout. Only this didn’t happen.
Max Murin dec. over Shayne Van Ness 4-2
It was the same story. Fought hard, battled tough, couldn’t land any shots, loss.
Shayne won his next three matches and staring him straight in the face for the third place match was once again Murin.
Max Murin dec. over Shayne Van Ness 3-2
Man, something had to give for Van Ness, right?
You better believe it!
However it was far from an easy path that Van Ness took in the 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Shayne was on the ropes in each of his first three matches in Tulsa, but at no point did he ever panic. Van Ness remained calm, fought back, stuck to the game plan, and bested his opponent each time.
Unfortunately, his run in the championship bracket ended as his lone loss of the tournament came at the hands of the eventual champion, Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis. But the match was much closer than the 8-3 score indicated.
Van Ness actually led the match when he took the now four-time NCAA champion to the mat for the first takedown early in the third period.
It’s very possible this was the confidence boost Shayne needed to get over the hump against the best of the best.
And following his loss to Diakomihalis, Van Ness defeated both Virginia Tech’s Caleb Henson and Kyle Parco in back-to-back matches to finish in third place and snag his first ever All-American honors.
The two wins against Henson and Parco represented wins against a total of four All-American finishes.
Hey, message received loud and clear, Shayne!
It’s like the light switch just clicked for Van Ness.
And you better believe with Cael Sanderson and the talented roster that represents the best wrestling room in the nation, it’s going to be a tall, tall task for anyone to shut the switch off next year.