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Key Takeaways From Penn State Wrestling’s Statement Win Over No. 2 Iowa

Penn State wrestling is on top of the college wrestling world.

Cael Sanderson’s No. 1-ranked team is coming off of a massive 19-13 victory over No. 2 Iowa on the road this past Friday and now sits at 14-0 this season. All four of the Nittany Lions’ top-ranked wrestlers earned victories against the Hawkeyes, while No. 2 Max Dean made a ridiculous third-period comeback effort against Jacob Warner that catapulted Penn State to victory.

With the win of the year behind them and the annual Bryce Jordan Center dual against No. 8 Ohio State coming up fast, let’s analyze some takeaways for the Nittany Lions up to this point.

Despite Issues At The Top Of The Lineup, The Nittany Lions Find A Way

No. 7 Drew Hildebrandt took care of business at 125 pounds with a major decision to open the night, while No. 1s Roman Bravo-Young and Nick Lee obviously did their thing in their respective bouts. However, there are clearly still some holes for Penn State at 149 and 157 pounds.

No. 19 Beau Bartlett couldn’t secure the upset over No. 10 Max Burin in the fourth bout, while Terrell Barraclough fell 2-0 to No. 12 Kaleb Young just before intermission at Carver-Hawkeye.

The inconsistencies at those spots have been apparent all season long for Sanderson’s group, but even against the second-ranked team in the nation, Penn State’s back half is just too good.

Brady Berge dropped his first bout of the season to open the second half, but the trio of Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks, and Max Dean remains to be too powerful to close out matches. Starocci’s win in a tiebreaker period was arguably the most exciting moment of the night, while Brooks didn’t leave much room for doubt in his 8-3 decision over No. 17 Abe Assad. Once Dean’s amazing comeback effort was finished up in the penultimate dual, the Nittany Lions had all but locked up the victory.

No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet had a fairly disappointing performance in his first loss of the season against No. 5 Tony Cassioppi. Other than that, however, Penn State’s second-half dominance was still largely on full display against the Hawkeyes.

In Case You Weren’t Already Convinced, Max Dean Is The Real Deal

Starocci and Lee’s victories in extra wrestling periods were obviously exciting, but No. 2 Max Dean’s comeback has to be considered the highlight of the night. The junior out of Lowell, Mich. had a tall task against No. 4 Jacob Warner and quickly fell behind 3-0 after two periods.

Somehow, however, the 197-pounder battled back with an escape and took the lead with under a minute left following late near-fall points. Carver-Hawkeye was silenced with Dean’s 8-3 decision victory, and Penn State had clinched the bout with a 19-10 team score.

Dean may not be the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds, but he made quite the statement in the incredible bounce-back victory after his defeat to Michigan State’s Cameron Caffey last weekend. Along with Penn State’s four No. 1 superstars, the Cornell transfer’s 13-1 overall record on the year and consistency at his spot makes him an incredibly valuable member of this lineup.

Penn State-Iowa Stars Will Continue To Get To Know Each Other Well

If you enjoyed Friday night’s action, you’ll likely get a lot more of it at the Big Ten and National Championships.

Entering Friday’s match, the two sides had 13 wrestlers ranked in the nation’s top 10 between them. Longtime rivalries between stars such as Roman Bravo-Young and Austin DeSanto, and, of course, Nick Lee and Jaydin Eierman, were further solidified in the latest edition of yet another battle at Carver-Hawkeye.

Penn State secured a victory over the Hawkeyes this weekend, but the group will certainly be tested once again by this talented lineup. A couple of overtime periods, electric comebacks, and every bit of top-notch wrestling were needed for the Nittany Lions to earn the win. You can bet they’ll need it again when they likely see some talented Iowa wrestlers at the conference championships, and in late March at nationals in Detroit.

Nittany Lions Aren’t Fazed In Hostile Environments

Penn State’s return to one of college wrestling’s most storied environments was met with plenty of fanfare, but Sanderson made sure to keep his lineup calm ahead of the clash.

“We’ve wrestled in a lot of venues around the country,” Sanderson said. “Rec Hall being one of them, the [Bryce] Jordan Center being one. We’re just going to compete. We’re not worried about any outside distractions.”

A packed Carver-Hawkeye is certainly a distraction if you let it, but the Nittany Lions largely managed to keep the crowd quiet throughout the night. It wasn’t all Penn State the whole time, but jumping out to a 10-0 lead thanks to wins from Hildebrandt, Bravo-Young, and Lee wasn’t a bad way to set the tone and quiet down the Hawkeye faithful.

If that’s the start that Penn State can rush out to in an away environment, it’s tough to imagine it won’t do even better against No. 8 Ohio State with a rowdy Bryce Jordan Center crowd behind it. That highly anticipated dual will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday on the Big Ten Network.

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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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