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Penn State Wrestling’s 2021-22 Regular-Season Highlights

Penn State wrestling’s 2021-2022 campaign has been nothing short of spectacular so far.

There were many, many high points and even a few lows, but this year’s undefeated regular season with fans back in the stands at Rec Hall could go down as one of the program’s best.

One challenge with so much success is pinpointing the best moments from the season. Before postseason play gets underway, here are a few memorable highlights Nittany Lions’ fans witnessed this season.

Matchup With Iowa Sets Record For Big Ten Network

On January 28, we saw a top-ranked matchup between No. 2 Iowa and (you guessed it) No. 1 Penn State.

Apart from a statement 19-13 win on the road for the Nittany Lions, the night gathered plenty of eyes across the nation for Big Ten wrestling. In fact, the broadcast averaged 363,000 viewers throughout that night’s dual meet to set a new record for wrestling viewership on the Big Ten Network.

This newly set record broke a previous wrestling viewership record of 342,955, which was also (to nobody’s surprise) a Penn State vs. Iowa matchup in 2020.

Transfers & Midseason Additions Fuel Success

Max Dean, Drew Hildebrandt, and Brady Berge. These three wrestlers have all had different paths to the wrestling room in Happy Valley this season but were integral additions to the lineup.

Last May, the Nittany Lions learned Dean would rep a Penn State singlet this season and move up to 197 pounds. Now, ahead of the postseason, Dean has ascended to the top ranking at 197 pounds.

Ahead of the new year, Penn State received the answer it had searched for at 125 pounds in the transfer portal. Hildebrandt was the sixth All-American added to the starting lineup once he debuted days later. Hildebrandt currently sits at No. 5 in the 125-pound rankings.

Finally, a familiar face in Berge took to social media to announce that he was coming back to Penn State for the remainder of the season after a brief stint as a volunteer assistant coach at South Dakota State. Berge currently sits at No. 13 in the 157-pound rankings.

Collectively, these three wrestlers have a 28-3 record across their appearances this season.

Top-Ranked Wrestlers Take Care Of Business

Penn State has five No. 1-ranked wrestlers in each of their weight classes.

Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks, and Dean are all top-ranked studs for Penn State, and it would be an understatement to say they have contributed accordingly. These wrestlers have combined for just one loss on the season.

While these wrestlers will not only try to grab a national crown individually, they will play a crucial role in the hunt for another Penn State team national championship.

Big Ten Regular-Season Champions

Following a 21-13 win over Nebraska on February 6, Penn State clinched its crown at the helm of the best wrestling conference in college wrestling.

Closing out the conference schedule with a big win over a ranked opponent at home (and then getting together for a photo in Big Ten regular-season championship attire) is about as good as it gets before postseason play.

Penn State fans will hope that this sets the standard with the postseason just around the corner.

White Out Conditions At The BJC Had An Electric Atmosphere

At this year’s Bryce Jordan Center dual, No. 1 Penn State had a decisive 32-7 victory over then-ranked No. 8 Ohio State in front of nearly 16,000 fans.

While it was an electric night showcasing off the nation’s premier wrestling program on the mat, many things off the mat that night were equally incredible. There were two pins, sure, but the evening also showcased some unique events.

The Nittany Lions sported white singlets rather than their traditional blue singlets. Plus, former national champions reunited as Penn State showcased them to the crowd on the mat. Last but certainly not least, Dean’s march to the mat for the evening’s 197-pound bout was electric.

An NFL-Penn State Wrestling Crossover?

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott is a public admirer of how Cael Sanderson runs his wrestling program and can see the roots of the success.

McDermott visited a Penn State wrestling practice back in 2019 before Sanderson’s squad headed to the NCAA Championships. A two-time national prep champion himself, McDermott is no stranger to the sport of wrestling.

“I’m not sure I would have fared all that well, and I may not have made it out alive, to be honest with you,” McDermott said, joking he couldn’t compete with Penn State that day. “Those guys are being awfully good there…The level of wrestling was at an all-time high.”

Alumni Come Back To Haunt Iowa Fans

Former Penn State wrestler Bo Nickal took time from his MMA journey to troll some Iowa wrestling fans.

Back in January, a Hawkeyes fanatic took to Twitter in order to tell Nickal to “remember your daddy Bo.” Nickal quickly came back to make it known that the relationship is a reversal (wrestling pun), as Nickal claims to be “Iowa’s daddy” with proof to back his statement.

Now that the regular season has ended, postseason wrestling is right around the corner. Stick with Onward State for updates from the Big Ten Tournament starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 5, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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About the Author

Gabriel Herman

Gabriel Herman is a journalism major at Penn State from Minneapolis, MN. He writes about several sports-related topics. If you want to discuss great moments in Minnesota sports history, you can reach him at [email protected].

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