Penn State Wrestling’s Roman Bravo-Young Quickly Wins Over Rec Hall Fans
There’s something about wrestlers’ first matches at Rec Hall. It’s when fans first fall in love and get a taste of what’s to come, and when wrestlers first hear the roaring applause and their names chanted.
Penn State freshman Roman Bravo-Young had his welcome-home moment on Sunday afternoon when he pinned Kent State’s Tim Rooney in the third period of his Rec Hall and college debut.
After 1:30 of feeling each other out, Bravo-Young took down Rooney to score the first points of his collegiate career. Bravo-Young said that takedown relieved the nerves he had felt entering the match, given the magnitude of making his debut and the atmosphere in a sold-out Rec Hall.
From there, he dominated the remainder of the match. He rode Rooney out for the rest of the period, scoring four back points in the process to take a 6-0 lead. That lead grew to 9-0 following another takedown and a stall point against Rooney in the second period. Having amassed nearly two minutes of riding time during the first five minutes of action, Bravo-Young began the third period on top and used an elementary sequence of moves to promptly pin Rooney, breaking him down and turning him with a half-nelson.
The fall put the Nittany Lions on the board against Kent State and triggered a run of nine consecutive bonus point wins, including six other pins. It was also the first of what, given the hype surrounding Bravo-Young and the enamor of this small sample size, projects to be many, many more pins in his college career.
When the referee’s hand hit the mat to signal a fall, the freshman from Tucson, Arizona leaped up to do a flex of celebration in front of his new home crowd. Rec Hall, which always loves a showman, welcomed the 2022 No. 15 overall recruit’s firepower and the swagger by baptizing him with a standing ovation and its first cheers of “ROMAN!”
“I didn’t know what to expect. [The Rec Hall crowd] was really fun, and I can’t wait to get back in there,” he said. “After one match, I learned not to worry about what happens and just go for it. Now, I’m over the nerves of my first college match and am ready to go.”
Given the precedent set by Bravo-Young’s teammates over the last few seasons, his start to his college career seems quite fitting. “This is what they do at Penn State. I just need to follow them,” he said casually after the dual about his pin.
The last five months since Bravo-Young first arrived in June have been quite a learning experience — one that would make any high schooler’s jump to the collegiate level seem like a smooth transition.
On any given day, he practices in a wrestling room that includes as many as eight national champions, depending on which members of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club are present. Sure enough, Bravo-Young has taken advantage of the opportunity. He said he enjoys the challenge of training with some of the bigger wrestlers in the room, such as current 141-pounder Nick Lee and three-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford.
“It’s amazing. I look up to them and try to follow in their footsteps. Maybe one day, I’ll be one in them,” he said. “What has surprised me the most though is that my wrestling is there.”
That type of championship standard is what drew Bravo-Young away from sunny Arizona, where another nationally recognized program on the rise is taking shape.
Bravo-Young said that once Cael Sanderson contacted him, picking Penn State “was a no-brainer” — even if it meant trading the year-round sunshine for seven months of gray skies. He said he’s since made do by having his mother buy him some jackets and boots as he prepares for his first Happy Valley winter.
The flurry of points early in the bout on Sunday gave a pretty good glimpse of what to expect from Bravo-Young. The 133-pounder is shifty and aggressive with a penchant for scoring. Both he and Sanderson have described his style as being fun to watch, given the amount of points he is capable of putting on the board.
However, his diligence in the wrestling room is what has stood out to his coaches and teammates in the short time he’s been on campus.
“[Bravo-Young] is really competitive, a great athlete, and has great speed,” Sanderson said in a rare moment of commendation at the team’s preseason media availability. “He has the tools and the mindset to be very successful. I’m excited. He’s the type that you want ten of those guys.”
“[Bravo-Young] is a beast. He’s looked really good in the room so far. He just needs to get over some of the things that are hard for freshmen in this sport, like going into tough places like Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where I lost right away,” junior 174-pounder Mark Hall said. He’s a gamer, though, so he’ll do just fine.
“Year in and year out, we have great freshmen who come in. They’re all always hard workers, and that’s what you notice. Talent’s also important, but that’s what stands out: who’s staying after, who’s winning the morning runs, and working hard in the weight room.”
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“As a community, we bear a responsibility to make sure that things like this do not happen and that all members of our community are welcomed.”