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Penn State Wrestling’s Aaron Brooks Battles Through Injury To Capture Second Big Ten Title

Now that the Big Ten Championships are over and Penn State wrestling has secured a second-place finish, nine Nittany Lions are officially headed to the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

Out of the four wrestlers who battled for Big Ten titles in their weight class — Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, and Aaron Brooks — two walked away with a championship under their belts. For Brooks, this meant a second consecutive Big Ten title despite wrestling through an ankle injury from the day before.

“It felt amazing,” Brooks said Sunday night. “A little adversity, but bouncing back is, you know, a true test for yourself. It was a great mental test for me, just to see that I could compete with whatever adversity comes.”

According to head coach Cael Sanderson, there was a possibility that Brooks’ ankle injury would be severe enough that he would have to cut his title run early. His willingness to push through the pain was a “gutsy performance,” according to Sanderson.

“Aaron’s a tough kid,” Sanderson said. “That was a tricky moment there when he was on the mat because we were trying to figure out, ‘How do we get this kid to the nationals? Does he finish the match? Can he finish the match?’ And he just decided to suck it up and not just finish the match, obviously, as he did, but win the match and go on and win the tournament.”

In the final match, Brooks got his revenge on Nebraska’s Taylor Venz, who handed him his sole career loss last season in a dominant 7-3 victory. Despite the pressure to claim back-to-back Big Ten titles, Brooks said he felt calm whenever he stepped onto the mat this tournament.

“One thing that happens when the season goes on is you become more comfortable, but I get my peace from above, and I just go out there and glorify God,” Brooks said. “Whenever you do that, there is no stress. You’re just going out there and having fun.”

Roman Bravo-Young came in with a similarly calm and loose approach, defeating Iowa’s Austin DeSanto 5-2 in the finals. While Sanderson believes Bravo-Young wrestled extremely well, he said that this is a matchup that could very well make another appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“I think he wrestled well. It’s a tough opponent, and they’ve wrestled five times now, maybe, so that’s a very possible semi-final matchup at the nationals,” Sanderson said. “Roman’s just got to keep getting better, keep fighting, and keep finding a way to score in that match. I thought Roman had a great tournament, and I think he’ll wrestle well at nationals.”

While Brooks and Bravo-Young may have had very successful weekends, the rest of the Nittany Lions experienced an uncharacteristically slow start to the tournament and struggled in the consolation finals, ending with a 27-17 record on the weekend. Ultimately, Sanderson’s squad captured 124 team points to place behind Iowa’s 159.5.

Regardless, Sanderson said he’s proud of how the team fared. Now, the focus remains on competing well at the national level.

“I think some kids wrestled well, some kids not so well,” Sanderson said. “More than anything, to me, is seeing great effort. I’m not sure we saw great effort all the time, which is probably more on me as a coach, but we’ve got time to figure some things out and be better at the nationals.”

For Sanderson, part of getting better for the tournament is going back to what has made Penn State’s program so successful in the past. This includes not just getting wins, but being able to compound on those wins and achieve greater victories every time.

“You try to beat your opponents worse every time,” Sanderson said. “You know, it’s hard to get kids to buy into that system, but it’s just persistence, and wrestling in your tie-ups and wrestling in your style, and I think we’ve seen that over the years with our program.”

Nine Penn State wrestlers will be back in action at the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri from March 18 to 20. Seedings should get announced in the next few days.


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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a senior majoring in English, and her goal this year is to get a big girl job. Seriously, though, if you're looking for someone who can write and edit like nobody's business, she's Katelyn Moats on LinkedIn and will literally interview with you tomorrow. You can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter for stupid content, but if it's something serious, feel free to shoot her an email (preferably in the form of a poem) to [email protected]

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