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Early-Season Improvement Paying Off For Penn State Wrestling

After winning their first dual of the season against Lock Haven, having several champions at the Black Knight Open, and three successful matches at the NWCA All-Star Classic, Nittany Lions old and new have been proving themselves to start the season.

Head coach Cael Sanderson is proud of how his team is performing overall in all sectors of the sport. However, it’s still too early to get the specifics of their performances.

“It’s November, so you’re looking for effort and the way they are competing and little things you can fix along the way,” Sanderson said.

This is especially true in the 157-pound weight class, where freshman Levi Haines and junior Terrell Barraclough are filling new roles with the team and figuring out who will hold the starting position full-time.

“Levi is a great competitor, he is a tough kid, and he is going to wrestle great in big matches. And being young, he should continue to improve. He has a great mindset,” Sanderson said.

Haines came out victorious over Barraclough during the Black Knight Open, winning by a score of 2-1 in the 157-pound championship bout.

Despite the loss on Sunday, Barraclough has shown up big for the Nittany Lions on several different occasions. This past February, Barraclough defeated Ohio State’s Isaac Wilcox 4-2 during the Bryce Jordan Center Dual.

“With Terrell, we just want to see him compete. He has always been a great competitor in that he has wrestled in some big matches, but he has lost some close matches to some big wrestlers over the years,” Sanderson said. “We’re just hoping he can believe in himself enough to make a jump and get over the edge.” 

The NWCA All-Star Classic on Tuesday, November 22, also shined a light on the stars of the program and the improvements from the past eight months.

Most notably, defending national champion Aaron Brooks is back wrestling for the first time since being crowned champion in March. A huge part of stepping up his game has come from his mental approach and developing a sense of peace in being present for every bout.

“I just want to be present,” Brooks said. “I think a lot of times, in general, we focus on the future and the past. If I’m present, I see what’s coming, whether it’s wrestling or a friend that needs help, it is my goal this year.”

Greg Kerkvliet also had a huge bout against Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi, getting revenge after last season’s dual when Kerkvliet lost 7-2.

“That was a big match for him,” Sanderson said. “He’s seen progress personally and [in] his wrestling, but in that case, you’re talking about him against one of the toughest guys in the country, and you can see the progress he is making against him.”

Penn State wrestling remains a dominant force in the collegiate space, and mindsets like these will keep it that way.

“Win, lose, or draw, it’s come back and get better on Monday,” Sanderson said.

Penn State will be back in action at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 2, when it faces Rider University at the CURE Arena in Trenton, New Jersey. The Nittany Lions will then travel to Lehigh to face the Mountain Hawks at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 4.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore 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 and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs at the Linc. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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