Penn State Wrestling Enters Big Tens With Four Top-Ranked Stars
Following an undefeated season, Penn State wrestling (17-0, 8-0 Big Ten) heads into the Big Ten Tournament with nine pre-seeded wrestlers and four top-ranked stars.
Cael Sanderson and his squad have huge potential to head to Nebraska and walk away with multiple individual titles and a team win before focusing on the NCAA Championships in mid-March.
At 125 pounds, Drew Hildebrandt comes in at a strong No. 2 seed behind Michigan’s Nick Suriano. Suriano gave Hildebrandt his first and only loss of the season due to a riding time bonus point when the teams faced off in January. Last year, Hildebrandt placed fourth in the NCAA Championships with Central Michigan and now has another opportunity to go further with Penn State and the Big Ten.
Top-ranked 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young should be the first No. 1 seed to hit the mat for Penn State this weekend. He took silver in the Big Ten Championships in 2020 but capped off the 2021 tournament with a first-place finish over his rival, Iowa’s Austin DeSanto, in the final. Bravo-Young went on to win his first NCAA title and likely has the same ambitions for his final ride in a Penn State singlet.
141-pounder Nick Lee enters the tournament with a top ranking, too, but keeping that spot won’t come easy. Jaydin Eierman of Iowa and Sebastian Rivera of Rutgers sit right behind Lee at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. While Lee has enjoyed an undefeated regular season, he will face two opponents who handed him a loss in last year’s tournament. If he comes in aggressive and with high intensity, however, there may be no obstacles between him and another Big Ten title.
Even with an 11-6 record, 149-pound wrestler Beau Bartlett is heading to Nebraska with serious potential as the tournament’s No. 7 seed. During the annual Bryce Jordan Center dual, Bartlett was just a few moves away from a huge upset over No. 1 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State. Even without a title to his name, he could bring some serious upset wins and prepare himself for the NCAA Championships.
Despite Penn State having issues in the 157-pound weight class all season, Brady Berge still sits at No. 10 in the rankings. Since his return in January, Berge has held strong at 165 pounds, but the shift to the 157-pound class may be just what Penn State needs. Aside from the change, Berge will likely need to top Nebraska’s Ryan Deakin, Iowa’s Kaleb Young, and Michigan’s Will Lewan to even have a shot at a high finish.
The 165-pound junior Creighton Edsell will make his Big Ten Championships debut this weekend. After going 10-3 this season, Edsell’s strength will be put to the test against some tough Big Ten opponents, but none of his regular-season losses have come from a Big Ten dual. This tournament can act as an opportunity for Edsell to maximize his potential, especially against Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla and Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, the reigning champion
After taking a few weeks off due to injury, Carter Starocci is back. In Penn State’s last dual against Rider, top-ranked Starocci picked up right where he left off and earned a major decision win. Coming in at No. 2, Michigan’s Logan Massa will surely be coming to Nebraska with a vengeance after going down with a 3-2 decision against Starocci in January.
Yet again, Aaron Brooks comes into the tournament ranked No. 1 after winning one of two conference champions last season for Penn State. The top seeds in the 184-pound class look extremely familiar from the 2020-2021 season with Myles Amine at No. 2 again. But, Brooks has more than just Amine to worry about with Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero trailing close behind at No. 3. The junior has been nothing short of dominant this season and you should fully expect that to continue this weekend.
Following Hildebrandt, Max Dean also sits at No. 2 in the 197-pound rankings. The former Cornell wrestler took home the 184-pound title in the EIWA Tournament in 2019 but has not seen tournament wrestling since. Even though Dean has top rankings in a number of polls, Eric Schultz of Nebraska is holding the top spot this weekend. These wrestlers have yet to meet, so expect a good matchup.
Heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet wrestled his way to a consolation match in the tournament last year and finished off with a 4-2 record. This season, he finished 14-1, with his only loss coming from Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi. Besides that, Kerkvliet remained undefeated, and his most notable win was against Michigan’s Mason Parris.
This weekend’s tournament will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday on the Big Ten Network. The tournament seedings are set to come out Friday. For now, all pre-seeds are available online.
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