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Penn State Wrestling Advances Four To Big Ten Championships Finals

Penn State wrestling put on an absolute show at the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday night by sending four wrestlers to the Big Ten Championships Finals. The Nittany Lions went 13-2 in Saturday night’s session and qualified nine wrestlers for the NCAA Championships.

Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, and Aaron Brooks will all wrestle in the Big Ten finals Sunday.

Penn State narrowed the margin between it and Iowa with strong performances Saturday night. Cael Sanderson’s squad sits in second place with 111.5 points behind the Hawkeyes (126.5).

How It Happened

No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young got Saturday night’s session started in his semifinal bout against No. 4 Chris Cannon of Northwestern at 133 pounds. Bravo-Young wasted no time getting to work, scoring two takedowns in the first period and over a minute of riding time. Cannon earned an escape point in the second period, and the score was 4-3 heading in favor of Bravo-Young heading into the third.

Cannon threw everything he could to try to earn a takedown in the third, but the relaxed Bravo-Young was cool under pressure and got a last-second takedown to seal the deal in an 8-3 decision. He’ll next face No. 2 Austin Desanto of Iowa in what will be the fifth matchup between the two, each of them with two wins apiece.

On the next mat over, No. 11 Robbie Howard matched up with No. 13 Dylan Shawver of Rutgers. The freshman had a big first period, getting a takedown and four near-fall points to lead 6-0 heading into the second. Howard continued to apply the pressure and scored another takedown and an escape in the second and third periods. His riding time bonus point gave him a 10-1 major decision to punch his ticket to the NCAA Championships.

In one of the most highly anticipated semifinal matchups of the evening, No. 2 Nick Lee took on No. 3 Sebastian Rivera of Rutgers, last year’s Big Ten Champion at 133 pounds. The bout would go into overtime in what has been the match of the tournament so far.

The two brawled it out in the first period as both wrestlers scored a takedown and an escape to tie the score at 3-3. Lee quickly got an escape to start the second period, but Rivera took him back down to earn a 5-4 advantage. A locked hands violation was called against Rivera, and Lee earned another escape to take a 6-5 lead into the final period.

Rivera started the final period in the bottom position and earned the escape to tie the match at 6-6. With time running out in the period, each wrestler got an underhook and an overhook, and Lee attempted to toss Rivera, but he fought it off nicely in a scramble, and no points were awarded after video review. In overtime, Rivera looked to be in deep on a shot, but Lee countered it nicely and pulled off the takedown from a wild scramble position with fewer than five seconds on the clock to get the 8-6 sudden victory decision. He’ll face off with No. 1 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa in the finals.

No. 11 Beau Bartlett lost a heartbreaker to No. 4 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern. The two wrestled evenly through the first three periods with scored tied at 5-5. In overtime, Thomas shot in on a single leg and Bartlett couldn’t manage to fend it off despite his best scrambling efforts. Bartlett’s loss ended his tournament debut as he went 1-2 overall.

No. 3 Carter Starocci wrestled in the semifinals at 174 pounds against No. 2 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska. They spent the first period feeling each other out as neither wrestler managed to get a takedown. The two traded escape points in the second and third periods, and the match was tied late into the third period. The grapplers managed to get into a scramble position, and Starocci fended off Labriola just long enough to avoid giving up a takedown and send the match to overtime.

In overtime, Starocci got in on a very deep shot but Labriola scrambled yet again to avoid being taken down at first. In the scramble, it looked like both wrestlers had a takedown at one point but in the end, it was Starocci who came out on top, as he just kept wrestling through the positions. His 3-1 overtime victory pushed him through to the finals against No. 1 Michael Kemerer of Iowa.

Two mats down, No. 5 Brady Berge blew through No. 12 Michael Doetsch of Maryland in the consolation round. Berge used five takedowns and a riding time bonus point to earn the major decision 12-2. Berge’s win secured him a spot at nationals.

Attempting to go undefeated in the semifinal rounds, No. 1 Aaron Brooks wrestled against No. 5 John Poznanski of Rutgers. Brooks refused to be stopped on his feet as he scored four takedowns in the bout with ease. With over a minute of riding time, Brooks earned the 10-2 major decision and advanced to the finals, where he’ll face No. 6 Taylor Venz of Nebraska.

No. 6 Joe Lee extended his tournament with a quick fall in the first period against No. 6 Andrew Sparks of Minnesota. His win would secure him a spot at the national tournament as the Nittany Lions stayed hot in the second session.

No. 7 Michael Beard and No. 7 Greg Kerkvliet also stayed alive in the consolation rounds with victories Saturday night. Berge defeated Matt Wroblewski of Illinois 6-2, and Kerkvliet majored Christian Rebottaro of Michigan State 16-5. They will still each need to win one more match in the consolation rounds to qualify for nationals.

After a bit of a break, the next round of consolations in the second session started off with Robbie Howard picking up an overtime victory over Michigan’s Dylan Ragusin to advance to the consolation semifinals. Beard and Kerkvliet also picked up decision victories in the round to advance to the consolation semifinals and officially punch their ticket to the NCAA Championships.

Joe Lee suffered a loss in the round to Purdue’s Gerrit Nijenhuis via pinfall. He’ll wrestle for seventh place Sunday.

What’s Next?

The consolation semifinals will get underway at noon Sunday in the BJC, while the finals will begin at around 4 p.m. Fans can watch all those matches live on the Big Ten Network.

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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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