Penn State Wrestling 2023 Big Ten Championships Preview
The Big Ten Championships are here, and the Nittany Lions are on a revenge tour.
After losing last year’s Big Ten Championships to rival Michigan, Penn State is attempting to take back the championship crown.
All four top-ranked pre-seeds are also defending national champions, so this spotlight is business as usual. Last season, Roman Bravo-Young, Carter Starocci, and Max Dean were all at the top of the bracket in the Big Ten Tournament. Aaron Brooks earned second when he lost to Michigan’s Myles Amine.
No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young (13-0)
Searching for a title and his 50th consecutive dual win, RBY is one of two seniors in this starting lineup beginning his final postseason.
The last time Bravo-Young lost in the Big Ten, it was to Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera in 2020, so the opportunity to seriously cement his name with the all-time greats and go out with another massive win is at the forefront for RBY.
No. 1 Carter Starocci (16-0)
Similarly to RBY, Starocci is another huge presence on the team.
Holding the same record as the team, this tournament should be smooth sailing for the redshirt junior.
The No. 6 seed from Indiana, DJ Washington, could prove to be some interesting competition for Starocci if they should meet. After a few social media posts and some words exchanged on the mat when the two teams met on February 5, Starocci ultimately took the bout 11-3 and shut Washington down.
Starocci’s immense confidence will also continue to be one of the shining parts of his athletic personality.
No. 1 Aaron Brooks (9-1)
Searching for his third Big Ten title, Brooks has had yet another dominant season.
While Brooks didn’t wrestle in every dual, he still went undefeated in the Big Ten and has been able to hold onto that top spot. He acts as a very calm and positive presence within this top-performing team, which can be important in such a high-pressure situation.
No. 1 Max Dean (18-2)
After a tough start to the season, Max Dean is back.
Coming in as the defending champion, Dean is yet another Nittany Lion hoping to end his career with some more hardware. The Michigan native holds an undefeated Big Ten record and is another senior trying to finish out his career in a strong way.
Last season’s national championship bout could also have a rematch for the second time this season if Dean and Iowa’s Jacob Warner meet.
Both Beau Bartlett and Greg Kerkvliet competed in last year’s tournament and are back this year to try to earn Penn State a team title.
No. 2 Beau Bartlett (19-1)
After shifting down a weight class and taking the place of previous Big Ten champion Nick Lee, Bartlett has amounted to huge conference success this season.
Bartlett has been consistently working on becoming more aggressive and taking more shots, which ultimately was the reason for his single loss to No. 1 Real Woods from Iowa. Taking more violent attempts could be the key to a win.
No. 2 Greg Kerkvliet (13-1)
Similar to Bartlett, Kerkvliet suffered a single loss to the top-ranked pre-seed within his weight class. Kerkvliet lost to Michigan’s Mason Parris during the BJC Dual back in January but hasn’t lost another bout since.
Parris also defeated the No. 3 seed, Tony Cassioppi, so Kerkvliet really has to push to take down both of these seasoned veterans to secure a title.
For these last four starters, the postseason is a brand new beginning.
No. 11 Gary Steen (6-12)
It’s been a rough season for Steen, but the postseason opens a new chapter. Coming in as the No. 11 seed, it’s a hard journey ahead. With wrestlers such as Spencer Lee from Iowa and Liam Cronin from Nebraska, Steen has his work cut out for him.
No. 5 Shayne Van Ness (15-4)
Being one of many standout freshmen this season for the Nittany Lions, Van Ness is a big threat this postseason.
Van Ness did suffer back-to-back losses to Iowa’s Max Murin and Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso, but he then proceeded to go on a four-dual win streak with two major decisions and two technical falls.
The redshirt freshman seems to be having some serious momentum behind him, and if it’s translated into the tournament, he could cause real damage.
No. 2 Levi Haines (18-1)
After deciding to burn his redshirt year and fully compete as a true freshman, Haines has been unstoppable.
Haines hasn’t lost in the Big Ten this season, with his most notable wins coming against Michigan’s Will Lewan and Iowa’s Cobe Siebrecht.
However, Penn State didn’t face Nebraska this season, so Haines’s top competitor, No. 1 Peyton Robb, will surely be the freshman’s biggest challenge.
No. 4 Alex Facundo (16-2)
Rounding out the first-year wrestlers, Facundo also had an extremely successful regular season, with his lone Big Ten loss stemming from Iowa’s David Carr.
Like Van Ness, Facundo has earned two major decisions and a fall within the last four duals, so an overall momentum push, as is the case for many of his teammates, will be key.
A complete list of the pre-seeds can be found here. Finals lists will be released on Friday, March 3.
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About the Author
Our photographers were on hand to capture the sights of Penn State basketball’s return to Rec Hall.
A Cathedral Is Useless If You Never Hold Mass: Penn State Basketball Should Permanently Return To Rec Hall
Rec Hall is an intimidating place to play basketball and the Bryce Jordan Center simply is not. Why not make the switch?
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