Penn State Wrestling Wins Keystone Classic Behind Eight Champions, 21 Falls
The Keystone Classic was a good representation of any competition featuring Cael Sanderson’s Penn State wrestling team. There were a lot of pins, Penn State had more good wrestlers than it needed, and no team posed much of a challenge.
The Nittany Lions won the team tournament for the third year in a row with 192.0 total points, well ahead of second-place Drexel, which earned 109.5 points. Of the 18 wrestlers representing Penn State at the Palestra Sunday, 14 placed and eight came in first place. For those keeping track at home, 23 percent of the place winners in the 10-team tournament came from Penn State and only two first-place winners were not Nittany Lions.
Roman Bravo-Young, No. 4 Nick Lee, No. 1 Jason Nolf, No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, No. 2 Mark Hall, No. 4 Shakur Rasheed, No. 1 Bo Nickal, and Anthony Cassar all finished first in their respective weight classes. The octet, which included a clean sweep of the last six weight classes, combined to go 31-0 with 17 pins and five technical falls.
Neither Bravo-Young, Joseph, nor Rasheed wrestled a full seven-minute bout in the tournament, pinning and tech falling their ways to titles at 133, 165, and 184 lbs., respectively. While the big performances may’ve expected of Joseph, a two-time NCAA champion, and Rasheed, a pinning and cradling magician, Bravo-Young, fresh off a fall in his college debut last weekend, continued the strong start to his career.
The tournament allowed multiple entrants at each weight class and counted only the point totals of the higher finisher. Just like last year, Sanderson used the Keystone Classic as the first of many litmus tests to help decide a few contested spots in his lineup.
At 149 lbs, No. 15 Brady Berge placed second, Jarod Verkleeren took fourth, and Luke Gardner took fifth. Berge and Verkleeren, who are battling each for the starting job at 149 lbs., met in the semifinals. A late takedown by Berge helped him advance to the finals with a narrow 3-2 decision over Verkleeren, who got the nod for the season opener last week and impressed with a first period fall.
Berge claimed second after medically forfeiting out of the finals due to an injury sustained during the bout against Verkleeren. In his season debut, Berge looked impressive, going 4-0 with two technical falls and a big win against Verkleeren. Verkleeren was 4-2 with two majors and a fall. He went 1-1 in the consolation bracket after losing to Berge. Gardner put together an unexpected run to the podium after going 5-2 with two technical falls and a pin.
The one weight class more heavily debated than 149 lbs. is 285 lbs., but the scale looked like it might be beginning to tip Sunday. Like at 149 lbs., Cassar met teammate No. 2 Nick Nevills in the semifinals. Cassar started over Nevills against Kent State and backed up his impressive heavyweight debut with a strong 7-2 win against the two-time All-American.
Cassar also picked up a pin and a major en route to his second straight Keystone Classic title. After losing to Cassar, Nevills won both consolation matches to take third place. He finished 3-1 with a fall and technical fall.
It’s still too early to make any strong conclusions about what Penn State should do 149 and 285 lbs. — even with Cassar’s convincing win. If anything, all four wrestlers vying for starting jobs strengthened the notion that Sanderson really can’t go wrong either way. AKA: They didn’t make his decision any easier.
Other placers included Bo Pipher and Francisco Bisono who came in sixth at 157 and 184 lbs., respectively
125 lbs. was the only weight class not to have a placer. Devin Schnupp and Justin Lopez each went 2-2. Their lukewarm showings did little to clear the air as Penn State continues to weigh how it should handle the redshirts on Gavin Teasdale and Brody Teske, two stud true freshmen who have yet to make their debuts but both plan on wrestling this season, according to Sanderson.
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The close game certainly made things exciting, which is more than you can say about the first two games, but nothing seemed “fun” about watching each team try to let the other win.
Football has its flaws, but it also has the innate ability to bring people together for 12 Saturdays a year.
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