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Undefeated Penn State Wrestling Enters Big Ten Championships With High Hopes

Following an undefeated regular season, Penn State wrestling is ready to tackle the Big Ten Championships.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Nittany Lions haven’t won a conference title in a few years. Penn State last captured a Big Ten championship in 2019, when the team boasted four individual conference champions following a trip up to Minnesota.

“We had a pretty stinking good team, but we’ve got a pretty good team right now, too,” head coach Cael Sanderson said this week.

Last season, Penn State crowned two Big Ten champions — Roman Bravo-Young at 133 pounds and Aaron Brooks at 184 pounds. Both of them, alongside Nick Lee (141 pounds) and Carter Starocci (174) enter this year’s tournament ranked as unofficial top seeds.

This week, Sanderson emphasized the importance of maintaining a routine and a standard, especially at this point in the season. He says the razzle and dazzle of the Big Ten Championships shouldn’t faze his talented group of wrestlers.

“We just are persistent,” Sanderson said. “You should be the same person every day, and then naturally, the bigger the moment, if you’re doing the right thing, you’re going to be ready for those bigger moments.”

The Big Ten Championships put a lot on the line for programs with high expectations, especially one as dominant as Penn State. Sanderson argues that, at the end of the day, the best approach is to live in the moment and give it your all.

“Just enjoy being out there and just competing, and let’s be the best we can be. Let’s get excited about the opportunity that we have, because it’s pretty cool,” Sanderson said while discussing his message for the team. “Winning a Big Ten championship is a big deal and something that’s definitely worth fighting for.”

Bravo-Young enters this year’s tournament with a chance to end his career as a conference champion. He previously said this would be his last season in a Penn State singlet, but he’s still taking things one bout at a time.

“You gotta wrestle whoever is in front of you,” Bravo-Young said. “It doesn’t really matter. Don’t just focus on one person at this point. It’s just taking it one match at a time, finding a way to win, and move on.”

Continuing, Bravo-Young said this year’s aspirations are a bit higher than in past years. Now a leader for the Nittany Lions, the Arizona native hopes to guide Penn State to a team title.

“I think for me. this year, it’s going to mean a lot more if we find a way to win Big Tens and nationals. I know that back then, I wasn’t really the leader of the team,” Bravo-Young said, referencing Penn State’s 2019 season. “It was more Bo Nickal and all those guys, and now this year, I’m more of a leader.”

Younger students like Brooks are gearing up for an eventful postseason, too. This time, Brooks will enter the Big Ten Championships seeking a third conference title in as many seasons.

This week, Brooks said Penn State’s full season — one that included a handful of challenging non-conference opponents — has prepared the Nittany Lions for a strong postseason run.

“Last year, we only got the Big Ten conference,” he said. “Getting that first half and then the Big Ten season under our belt, I think our team is a lot more confident and prepared.”

Brooks said he’ll work to use the Big Ten Championships as a stepping stone toward a larger goal: dominance at the national level.

“The Big Ten offers a great opportunity to be kind of like a miniature NCAA Tournament,” Brooks said. “I have heard people say at times that the Big Ten is harder than the NCAA Tournament based on the matchups you get.”

Those matchups for Penn State will see the mat this weekend as the Big Ten Championships get rolling. This weekend’s tournament will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 5, on the Big Ten Network.

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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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