Meet Penn State Wrestling’s Freshmen
Penn State wrestling isn’t quite here, yet, but its much-anticipated recruiting class is. From the early looks, this group of 12 high-school standouts seems on track to rival the legendary class of 2014 that brought Bo Nickal, Jason Nolf, Anthony Cassar, Shakur Rasheed, and Nick Nevills to Happy Valley. That class accounted for seven national titles and 12 All-American finishes.
Although all are expected to redshirt, here’s a look at the wrestlers of the future who will be tasked with extending the Nittany Lions’ decade-long dynasty next season following the graduations of Cassar, Rasheed, Vincenzo Joseph, and Mark Hall.
Donovon Ball, 184 lbs.
A native of New Cumberland, Donovon Ball was a two-time place-winner and compiled a 123-38 record at Cedar Cliff High School. During his junior and senior seasons, he helped his team win a pair of district championships. Whether he’ll find the starting lineup during his career remains to be seen with Aaron Brooks also wrestling at 184 lbs.
Terrell Barraclough, 149 lbs.
Terrell Barraclough is the latest Penn State wrestler to come to Happy Valley via Cael Sanderson’s Utah pipeline. He attended Layton High School where he won four state titles, something only 21 other wrestlers have done before. Two of those wrestlers are none other than Penn State coaches Cael and Cody Sanderson, who grew up about an hour away from Barraclough. The freshman is also a product of the Sanderson Wrestling Academy, which is run by Cael’s brother and former Penn State wrestler Cyler Sanderson.
Barraclough was originally committed to Army as of the time he won his fourth state title, although it was known then Penn State was still pursuing him. He made the flip official during the last couple months of his senior year.
Michael Beard, 197 lbs.
Michael Beard, a Malvern Prep grad, is one of the crown jewels of this class. He was 172-7 in high school and ended his prep career on a 95-match winning streak during his junior and senior seasons. He also has a national prep championship and Who’s No. 1 title to his credit.
In his college debut at the Clarion Open this weekend, Beard won his first bouts before falling in the finals.
Although Beard likely won’t be the immediate heir to Bo Nickal’s place at 197 lbs., given the arrival of Kyle Conel, he should provide plenty of stability and perhaps a few national championships down the road.
Aaron Brooks, 184 lbs.
Alongside Beard at the top of this year’s recruiting class is Aaron Brooks. Brooks was 163-2 at North Hagerstown High School and won four National High School Coaches’ Association championships as well as four Maryland state titles. He also has earned a Junior World silver medal and Cadet World gold medal.
Brooks graduated high school in 2018, but spent last year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs before enrolling at Penn State this summer. He’s expected to start his college career behind Shakur Rasheed, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, at 184 lbs.
Brooks and Beard should form as dynamic of a 1-2 punch as Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford provided in the middle of the lineup a few years back. The best-case scenario would be if Penn State can win a national championship without burning either of their redshirts. However, if the injury bug returns for Rasheed or Conel or if either struggles, don’t be surprised if one (or both) debuts mid-season.
In a year like this where Iowa is as good as ever, all hands will be on deck for the Nittany Lions. And as Sanderson has shown with Mark Hall and Nick Lee in years past, he’s not afraid to change his plans midseason to maximize his points total at the NCAA Championships.
Keagan Carmenatty, 197/285 lbs.
Keagan Carmenatty was 153-29 during his four years at South Seneca High School in New York, including a second-place finish in the state tournament as a senior. As an upper-weight, he will likely spend his Penn State career behind classmates Michael Beard and Seth Nevills.
Ritchie Heywood, 174/184 lbs.
Ritchie Heywood is one of two Utah natives to come east to compete for esteemed statesman Cael Sanderson. He actually attended the Sandersons’ alma mater, Wasatch High School. At Wasatch, Heywood was a three-time state finalist, including titles his junior and senior seasons, during which he went 87-8.
He graduated high school and signed with the Nittany Lions back in 2017, but deferred his admission two years in order to serve a two-year Church of the Latter Day Saints mission in Bakersfield, California. He’ll resume his wrestling career in the 174/184-lb. range where the team has plenty of depth already.
Joe Kurtz, 197 lbs.
Joe Kurtz went 74-25 during his career at Bethlehem Catholic where he was part of another strong winning pedigree, helping the Golden Hawks to three state championships. He hails from Easton.
Joe Lee, 165 lbs.
Joe Lee followed his “big” brother Nick Lee, who wrestles three weight classes lower than him, to Happy Valley from Evansville, Indiana. At Mater Dei High School, Lee won a pair of state championships and was a runner-up as a freshman.
He committed to Penn State alongside his brother in 2015 prior to his sophomore season at Mater Dei and has been in the room with the Nittany Lions for two years now, including what would’ve been his senior season and a grayshirt last year.
In his college debut this weekend, Lee placed first at Clarion Open, going 4-0 and securing three majors.
After a likely redshirt this year, he should challenge Bo Pipher for the starting job at 165 lbs. next season after Vincenzo Joseph graduates.
Seth Nevills, 285 lbs.
Another younger brother waiting in the wings, Seth Nevills was one the nation’s best high school heavyweights during his legendary career at Clovis. He was 169-1 with four California state titles. During his junior and senior seasons, every win came via fall.
He followed older brother Nick to Happy Valley where he spent a grayshirt year last season. Like Nick last season, Seth will be stuck behind Anthony Cassar this season, but with a redshirt to spare, it should make for ample time for him to adjust to college wrestling and bulk up. The thought of Seth Nevills entering college wrestling next season after training for two years is a scary sight.
Baylor Shunk, 125 lbs.
At Penns Valley, Baylor Shunk was 132-38 and finished seventh in the state tournament twice. Although he doesn’t have a resume on par with Beard, Brooks, and Nevills, Shunk might still have a chance at cracking into the Nittany Lions’ lineup, given how wide open the 125-lb. weight class always seems to be.
Eddie Smith, 184/197 lbs.
Eddie Smith was 61-37 at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in New Jersey. He never qualified for the state tournament, but was a 2017 region qualifier, a district finalist, and a NJ Union County third-place finisher.
Carter Starocci, 174 lbs.
Carter Starocci comes to Penn State by way of Erie’s Cathedral Prep where he was 172-10 over a standout four years for the Ramblers. After a pair of second-place finishes as a freshman and sophomore, Starocci won the last 96 matches of his career over the next two seasons, including two state titles.
Starocci didn’t seem to miss a beat when he kicked off his college career this weekend at the Clarion Open. He came in first after going 4-0 and picking up two major decisions.
The Erie Prep product will be slotted in behind Mark Hall at 174 lbs. this season, but should form a dominant quartet alongside Beard, Brooks, and Nevills for years to come beginning next season.
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About the Author
After a fundraising year that included no canning and banned events outside of State College, THON 2020 culminated with the announcement that $11,696,942.38 had been raised For The Kids.
“They were the anchor when we were lost, life vest when we were drowning, and our best catch on a glorious, sunny day.”
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