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Penn State Wrestling’s Jarod Verkleeren Gaining Confidence Right In Time For Big Ten Championships

Whether it’s trying to crack the starting lineup or overcoming type 1 diabetes, Jarod Verkleeren has been faced with more than his fair share of tests during his Penn State wrestling career thus far.

However, as tournament season nears for Penn State, the 149-pounder is ready to step into the spotlight for the Nittany Lions.

Coming into the season, Verkleeren had a lot to prove. Last year, he split time in the lineup as a redshirt freshman with teammate Brady Berge. Although Berge ended up representing the team at the NCAA tournament, Verkleeren started in seven duals, finishing with a record of 15-6.

This year, Verkleeren has started in 12 of Penn State’s 14 duals and has gained a lot of confidence as of late, knowing that he’s the team’s starter at 149 lbs.

“I think he’s just got a different look in his eye, a little bit more energy. He’s the guy now,” Cael Sanderson said at the teams’ media availability Monday. “We were back and forth there for a little while and maybe that can be a distraction, but I think a lot about being successful is just being focused and clear on what you want and I feel like he’s kinda figured that out.”

With the postseason right around the corner, Verkleeren is beginning to gain momentum at the right time.

“I think I’ve had room to grow,” he said. “I started off the year kind of rough and I’ve just been getting better and better leading up to Big Tens.”

In his last four matches, Verkleeren has wrestled four ranked opponents, finishing with a 2-2 record. His two wins came against then-No. 15 Cole Martin of Wisconsin, and then-No. 8 Kizhan Clarke of American.

The two matches Verkleeren dropped were both to top-six ranked wrestlers in the country. Unfortunately for Verkleeren, both matches were thrillers that just didn’t end in his favor.

He lost both bouts to then-No. 6 Brayton Lee of Minnesota and No. 1 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State 3-1 in sudden victory.

Although Verkleeren did not emerge as the victor in those bouts, wrestling those top contenders so closely has given him a lot of confidence moving forward.

“I know that I can hang with these guys, so it’s what I am gonna do at Big Tens,” said Verkleeren.

Verkleeren was listed as the No. 8 seed when the Big Ten wrestling pre-seeds were announced this week, but that could change before the weekend. He will fight to contend for a qualifying spot and his first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

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About the Author

Max Tolson

Max is a senior majoring in print journalism. He hails from the small town of Millsboro, DE and loves to watch the Eagles and Penn State wrestling. Follow him on twitter @TolsonMax or send emails to [email protected] Go Birds!

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