Second-Half Domination Carries No. 2 Penn State Wrestling To 29-11 Victory Over Indiana

No. 2 Penn State wrestling (10-0, 2-0 Big Ten) battled back from a five-point deficit to beat Indiana (2-2, 0-2 Big Ten) 29-11 at Rec Hall Sunday afternoon.

Wrestling in Rec Hall for the first time in over a month, Cael Sanderson’s group was without the services of Roman Bravo-Young and Nick Lee. The Nittany Lions clearly missed those stars early, as they fell behind 11-6 at the break. However, dominating performances from Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks, and Greg Kerkvliet carried Penn State to an exciting victory in the Big Ten home opener.

Along with wins in those bouts, Drew Hildebrandt won in his Rec Hall debut, while Beau Bartlett, Creighton Edsell, and Max Dean also grabbed victories.

How It Happened

Drew Hildebrandt got his Rec Hall debut at 125 pounds against No. 25 Jacob Moran of Indiana. The Nittany Lion, a sixth-year senior, collected 25 seconds of riding time and a 2-0 lead after the first period. Moran quickly struck back with a reversal to open the second, but Hildebrandt hung tough and led 5-2 early in the final period.

After a quick delay due to clock issues, Hildebrandt finished with 2:01 of riding time and a 6-2 victory in his first action at Rec Hall.

Baylor Shunk took the mat next for Penn State against No. 19 Brock Hudkins in the 133-pound bout. An early takedown earned Hudkins two points, but Shunk managed to get on the board with an escape of his own. The Centre Hall, Pa. native, who was wrestling in place of top-ranked Roman Bravo-Young, trailed 6-2 after one period. Hudkins earned three takedowns through the first.

The Hoosier dominated through the second period to the tune of a 16-3 lead, and managed the 18-3 technical fall 5:30 into the bout. That gave Indiana a 5-3 lead through two matches.

Brandon Meredith took Nick Lee’s usual 141-spot against Indiana’s No. 26 Cayden Rooks. Meredith earned an early takedown in the bout, but trailed Rooks 3-2 entering the second period. The Hoosier tacked on to his lead with an escape to make it 4-2, and eventually led 6-2 after two. Rooks grabbed one more takedown in the third period and won 9-4.

Penn State then called upon No. 20 Beau Bartlett at 149 pounds. The Nittany Lion grabbed a 2-1 lead and 26 seconds of riding time after one period against Cayden Rooks’ brother, Graham. After an extended stalemate at 2-2, Bartlett made an impressive takedown to make it 4-2 entering the final period. Rooks made quite a comeback effort, but Bartlett held on for a 6-4 victory and Penn State trailed 8-6.

The Nittany Lions finished the first half at 157 pounds with Tony Negron. Neither he or Indiana’s Derek Gilcher could get anything going through one period, so the pair were tied at 0-0 entering the second. Gilcher got on the board first with an escape to open period two, and followed that with a takedown to get on top 3-0 to start the final period.

Negron earned an escape in the third, but it wasn’t enough for a victory. Gilcher won 4-1, and Indiana led 11-6 at the halfway point.

The Hoosiers managed eight takedowns compared to Penn State’s three through the first five bouts.

At 165 pounds, No. 24 Creighton Edsell took care of business against Indiana’s Sammy Cokeley to kick off the second half. The Nittany Lion managed two takedowns in the first period and carried a 4-1 lead, but Cokeley quickly bounced back with a takedown of his own. Edsell held a 6-3 lead entering the final period and built on it quickly, as near-fall points handed him a 10-3 margin.

The Nittany Lion eventually earned an 11-3 major decision over Cokeley, and Indiana’s lead shrunk to 11-10 with four bouts left.

No. 1 Carter Starocci was up next at 174 pounds and quite simply dominated Sean Grim. He earned the fall just over two minutes into the bout, and Penn State jumped to a 16-11 lead with top-ranked Aaron Brooks on deck.

In the match of the day, Brooks kept the momentum rolling against No. 8 DJ Washington. The Hoosier jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but an escape and takedown for Brooks got him involved in the scoring. From there, Brooks continued to run it up all the way to an 8-3 lead entering the final period. The domination continued for the junior out of Maryland, and Brooks handed Penn State a 20-11 lead with the major decision.

No. 2 Max Dean then took to the mat in the penultimate bout against unranked Nick Willham. The junior got it done for the Nittany Lions with a 9-1 major decision, and that clinched a Penn State win with a 24-11 score with just one bout left.

No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet finished things up in the heavyweight match against Jacob Bullock. A quick 2-0 lead for the Nittany Lion was never relinquished, as the big fella marched to a 10-2 lead after just one period. The dominiation continued, and a 20-3 tech fall handed Penn State the 29-11 comeback victory.

What’s Next?

Cael Sanderson’s group will stay home next weekend for a visit from Rutgers. That dual will start at 5 p.m. Sunday, January 16 at Rec Hall and be broadcast on ESPN2.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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