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Penn State Wrestling Focused On Improvement Ahead Of Upcoming Campaign

Earlier this year, Penn State took home the 2021-22 NCAA Wrestling National Championship in dominant fashion, defeating conference rival Michigan by 36.5 points.

Now, coming into the 2022-23 season, the Nittany Lions have four returning national champions in Max Dean, Roman Bravo-Young, Carter Starocci, and Aaron Brooks all hoping to defend their titles. They also return five other nationally-ranked wrestlers.

Coming off a season filled with dominance, the team is still focused on improving and only getting better heading into the upcoming campaign.

“I was competing the whole summer… I was just training the whole time,” redshirt freshman Alex Facundo said. “Not just my wrestling abilities, but also my mental state has benefited… [The offseason] has been pretty good.”

Facundo, a gold-medal winner in this past summer’s U20 Pan-American Games, went 12-3 for the Nittany Lions his true freshman year.

Another redshirt freshman, Shayne Van Ness, shared a similar message after injuries derailed his debut season.

“I used that year being injured to really take advantage of finding out who I was outside of wrestling. I now have a greater knowledge of who I am,” Van Ness said. “I’m more confident in my wrestling, and I think that’s going to really show, especially this weekend and for the rest of the season.”

Junior Beau Bartlett made some more drastic changes this offseason than others, dropping eight pounds and now wrestling in a new weight class. Now, heading into the season, Bartlett is 23-13 in his career, just missing out on All-American status last season.

“I can now run and jump rope again, something I’ve done for 21 years,” Bartlett said. “I can now do everything I love about wrestling, and do it at a natural weight. I feel great.”

Not only did the younger members of the team use the offseason to better themselves, but so did the team’s national champions.

Max Dean is now in his seventh year of collegiate wrestling. Dean spent his first three seasons at Cornell before transferring to Penn State. Dean is a two-time national champion and has an impressive 114-19 record throughout his career.

“This offseason I worked more on taking more risks during my matches,” he said. “I practiced pulling the trigger a little bit more in certain situations to go score more points.”

With four national champions in the room, younger team members aren’t only coached by arguably the greatest college wrestler of all time in Cael Sanderson, but they also practice against and learn from the best wrestlers in the country.

Redshirt freshman Gary Steen shared the benefits of having those experienced veterans on the roster.

“Learning from all these guys and their mistakes, they teach me life lessons and make sure what happened to them doesn’t happen to me,” Steen said. “I’m proud to call these guys my brothers.”

Steen, who went 5-5 his true freshman year, is the likely starter this year in the 125-pound weight class for the Nittany Lions. Steen mentioned that he hopes to “break the curse” at 125, as the Nittany Lions haven’t won a championship at that weight since 2016.

Penn State will kick off its wrestling season with a dual against Lock Haven at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 11, in Rec Hall. The dual can be streamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Brendan Wagner

Brendan is a sophomore majoring in print and media journalism. Born in Pittsburgh, he now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a die-hard Pittsburgh sports fan, you can find him on Twitter, @brchwags, often complaining about the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tom Brady.

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