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BJC Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 8 Ohio State

No. 1 Penn State wrestling (14-0, 6-0 Big Ten) will host No. 8 Ohio State (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) on Friday, February 4 at 7 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. The landmark dual will be broadcasted nationally on the Big Ten Network.

Aside from the age-old rivalry, both teams are coming off of Big Ten wins this week. The Nittany Lions are fresh off their biggest win of the season over No. 2 Iowa, while the Buckeyes won their first duel over Maryland following two consecutive losses to Michigan and Iowa.

The last matchup between these rivals resulted in a 28-12 win for Penn State in Columbus. Naturally, the Buckeyes are coming to State College on a revenge tour.

Before the pyrotechnics begin and the wrestling gets underway, here’s a brief preview of what’s to come.

A Look At Ohio State

Despite two of their last three duals resulting in a loss, the Buckeyes are still holding strong with a top-10 national ranking and competitiveness within their Big Ten conference performances. Nine out of Ohio State’s starting 10 wrestlers are ranked, including five who sit among the top 10 stars in their respective weight classes.

No. 2 Sammy Sasso, No. 4 Carson Kharchla, and No. 6 Kaleb Romero are at the forefront of this already-stacked lineup. The three have combined to post a 41-3 record so far this season.

Key Matchups

125 lbs. — No. 6 Drew Hildebrandt vs. No.10 Malik Heinselman

Since joining the Nittany Lions in December, Hildebrandt has amassed a 5-1 record with his only loss resulting from Michigan’s No. 1 Nick Suriano. The two-time All-American is headed into this bout with a huge win last week over Iowa’s No. 11 Jesse Ybarra.

While this rivalry is nothing new for Heinselman, both wrestlers will be getting their first taste of the BJC duel. Despite team losses, Heinselman is 2-0 in the last two matches against Iowa and Maryland. This record closely resembles that of Hildebrandt, so it should lead to a competitive matchup.

165 lbs. — No. 11 Brady Berge vs. No. 4 Carson Kharchla

Since his return in January, Berge has stepped into the 165-pound starting position and gone 3-1 since the start of the year. This match is another true test for the senior whose only loss was against Iowa’s No. 2 Alex Marinelli last weekend.

Ohio State’s No. 4 Carson Kharchla could give Berge his hardest bout of the year. With a 17-1 record, the redshirt sophomore is one of the strongest wrestlers in this Buckeye lineup.

174 lbs. — No. 1 Carter Starroci vs. No. 7 Ethan Smith 

Just like the star he has been all year, undefeated Starroci is set to take on another top Big Ten wrestler in Ethan Smith.

Last season, Starroci faced off and took a victory over the Buckeye’s No. 6 Kaleb Romero, but due to shifting weight classes, these two wrestlers will meet for the first time.

Smith has also been an NCAA qualifier for the past three seasons and finished second in the 2021 National Championships. The bout could very well be a preview of the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

184 lbs. –= No. 1 Aaron Brooks vs. No. 6 Kaleb Romero 

To round off Penn State’s top-ranked wrestlers, No. 1 Aaron Brooks will take on Ohio State’s No. 6 Kaleb Romero.

This bout is set to show another new matchup between these schools. Brooks won a thrilling 13-4 major decision against Rocky Jordan in 2021 to give Penn State a seven-point lead. Back then, Romero was wrestling Starroci in the 174-pound weight class.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Based on the current lineups, these other bouts could also appear at the BJC:

  • 133 lbs. — No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young vs. Dylan Koontz
  • 141 lbs. — No. 1 Nick Lee vs. No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio
  • 149 lbs. — No. 18 Beau Bartlett vs No. 2 Sammy Sasso 
  • 157 lbs. — Terry Barraclough or Tony Negron vs. No. 33 Jashon Hubbard 
  • 197 lbs. — No. 2 Max Dean vs. No. 21 Gavin Hoffman 

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a senior staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music or Penn State wrestling and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs in Beaver Stadium. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected].

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