Penn State Wrestling Secures Seven Victories In NCAA Championships’ Session One

Penn State wrestling officially started the race for its 10th NCAA Championship Thursday. The Nittany Lions kicked off their run during session one of the tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

The Nittany Lions had seven of their nine qualifiers claim their place in the second round of the championship bracket, while No. 16 Drew Hildebrandt and No. 16 Brady Berge will move down to consolation bouts. All nine will wrestle again later tonight.

How It Happened

First to the mat for the Nittany Lions was No. 16 Drew Hildebrandt against No. 17 Anthony Noto of LHU. The bout was knotted 0-0 until Noto got the first takedown in the second period. Hildebrandt then quickly earned two escapes to even the score 2-2. No one was able to score again by the end of regulation, but Noto secured the takedown in sudden victory to walk away with the 4-2 win.

No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young was up next against No. 32 Dominic LaJoie of Cornell at 133 pounds. Bravo-Young made a quick start, going up 2-0 within the first 10 seconds of the bout and was up 4-1 within the first minute. The intensity never wavered as, Bravo-Young went up 13-3 in the third. The bout finished with a 16-4 major decision victory for the Nittany Lion.

Simultaneously, No. 1 Nick Lee had his first bout of the tournament against No. 32 Josh Mason of Bloomsburg. Lee also made quick time, earning a 6-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first period. The 141-pound wrestler was able to double his score 12-0 by the end of the second period. Lee ended the matchup with a 15-3 major decision.

At 149 pounds, No. 13 Beau Bartlett set off against No. 20 Colin Realbuto of UNI. After a scoreless first period, Bartlett got the escape to get the 1-0 lead. A few back and forth points tied up the score 3-3, but a takedown in the last few seconds of the match gave Bartlett the huge 5-4 win.

Back after an injury in 2021, No. 16 Brady Berge faced off against No. 17 Hunter Willits of Oregon State. No score was made through the first, but a pair of escapes made it 1-1 going into the third period. Berge couldn’t secure another point, so Willits got the win from a riding time bonus point.

After a bit of a break for Penn State, the 174-pound No. 1 Carter Starocci made his debut against No. 33 Connor O’Neill of Rutgers. Once again, the sophomore worked fast to get up 6-2 with 49 seconds left in the first period. Starocci extended his lead through the second and third periods with a score of 19-7. But, he then got a pin to win at the 6:38 mark.

Penn State’s next defending champion, No. 2 Aaron Brooks, wrestled No. 31 AJ Burkhart of Lehigh. Brooks got going right away, as he got the takedown after quite literally carrying his opponent across the mat. The 184-pounder then was up 4-1 after one. Brooks continued to dominate and won with a major decision score of 21-7.

A few mats over, No. 1 Max Dean saw No. 32 Will Feldkamp. After a slower start in the first period, Dean was able to turn it up and have an 8-1 lead. Due to a number of takedowns in the second and third, Dean got the technical fall win 16-1.

To finish up the first round, No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet took on No. 29 Bradon Metz from NDSU. In the first period, Kerkvliet scored the only points with a takedown. The heavyweight wrestler made light work of the match in the second with a pin at the 4:17 mark to close out the session for Penn State.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for coverage of session two Thursday night starting at 7 p.m. from Little Caesars Arena. That will also be broadcasted on ESPN.

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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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