Penn State Wrestling Big Ten Championships Preview

Penn State wrestling is set to host the Big Ten Wrestling Championships in the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend. Although Cael Sanderson’s squad is heading into the tournament relying on youth, the Nittany Lions will have a pretty good chance to qualify a wrestler in every weight class for the upcoming NCAA Championships.

Using, preliminary (and, currently, unofficial seedings), here’s how the Nittany Lion grapplers could fare heading into the weekend:

At 125 lbs., true freshman Robbie Howard has a shot at being a bracket-buster. Howard is currently listed as the 11th seed according to the preliminary-seeding. The young freshman holds a 2-1 record on the year, but he’s someone that you don’t want to wrestle in the opening rounds of the tournament.

If he can win his first match, he’ll likely have a quarterfinals rematch with Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman, who he lost to earlier in the year in a slim 5-2 decision. Expect Howard to qualify for nationals and even potentially sneak his way into the semifinals this weekend.

Roman Bravo-Young holds the top seed at 133-pounds and will have a good chance at winning his first Big Ten title. If the seeds hold true, fans could get some fireworks in the finals with Bravo-Young and Iowa’s Austin Desanto wrestling in their fifth career matchup. Bravo-Young got the better of Desanto last year, winning both bouts between the two, including one in the Big Ten Tournament. Desanto was 2-0 against Bravo-Young in the year prior.

The 141-pound bracket might be the deepest of all the weights. Nick Lee is currently listed as the No. 2 seed and will likely have a walk-through to the semifinals. In the semis, he’ll likely have a highly anticipated match with Rutger’s Sebastian Rivera, who won the tournament at 133-pounds last year. If Lee can pull out the win against Rivera, he’ll have a shot at redemption against the top-seeded Jaydin Eierman of Iowa. Lee lost to Eierman in the 2018 NCAA Championships. Winning the tournament will give Lee the top seed heading into nationals.

At 149 pounds, another true freshman will make his Big Ten Tournament debut with Beau Bartlett. Bartlett is listed as the 11th seed but could be another bracket buster for the Nittany Lions. He has a favorable draw and has a shot to sneak into the semifinals if he can upset the third-seeded Griffin Patriot of Purdue in the quarterfinals. Bartlett’s only loss this year came to top-ranked Sammy Sasso of Ohio State, when he only lost 5-3. Expect Bartlett to qualify for the big dance.

Brady Berge holds the fifth seed at the 157-pound weight class. Undefeated on the year, Berge should have no problem qualifying for the NCAAs. He’ll have an interesting matchup in the quarterfinals against Purdue’s Kendall Coleman in what should be a toss-up match. With a win over Coleman, he’ll face off against the top seed Ryan Deakin who’s likely to win the bracket. Either way, Berge should be moving on.

Redshirt freshman Joe Lee comes into the tournament as the sixth-seed at 165-pounds. He’ll have a favorable matchup in the first round and a potential rematch in the quarterfinals against Ohio State’s Ethan Smith, who pinned him in the dual meet this year. If Lee can get some momentum going in the tournament, he should have a good shot at qualifying for the NCAAs.

Carter Starocci will try to keep up the hot streak as he goes into the tournament as the three-seed at 174-pounds. This weight class is equally as deep as 141 and should feature some nail-biting finishes. Starocci’s only loss this year came to fifth-seeded DJ Washington of Indiana. He should face Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero in the quarterfinals in a rematch from earlier in the year where Starocci pulled off a 3-1 victory in overtime. If he can put some things together this weekend, expect Starocci to make a serious run at an NCAA title.

Aaron Brooks should go on to win his second Big Ten Championship at 184-pounds. Brooks holds the top seed and could score bonus points in every match this weekend. Wisconsin’s Chris Weiler comes in as the second-seed, and Brooks majored him 12-3 in the regular season. If Brooks does what he’s been doing all year long, expect him to be competing for a national title in St. Louis.

The 197-pound weight class is probably Penn State’s toughest draw with only six wrestlers getting automatic bids to advance to nationals. Redshirt freshman Michael Beard holds the seventh-seed going into the weekend. He’ll likely draw the veteran Miles Amine of Michigan in the quarterfinals, whom he lost to 8-5 earlier in the year. If Beard can’t pull off the upset, he’ll need to win two matches in the consolation bracket to move on. This could be the one weight Penn State doesn’t send someone to the national tournament, but if Beard wrestle’s at his best, he still has a good shot at qualifying.

Heavyweight is where things get very interesting for Penn State. After originally being ruled out for the year earlier in the season, Greg Kerkvliet made a shocking debut in Penn State’s season finale against Maryland. He heads into the tournament as the seventh seed and will match up against Michigan stud Mason Paris in the quarterfinals. If Kerkvliet is healthy, expect that match to feature a ton of fireworks. Win or lose against Paris, Kerkvliet should move on to the NCAAs, where he could have a serious shot at making it to the finals.

The Big Ten Wrestling Championships will get underway at 10 a.m. this Saturday in the Bryce Jordan Center. The final seedings and brackets are expected to come out on Friday. The preliminary seedings can be found here.

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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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