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Penn State Wrestling Secures Six Finalists In Big Ten Championships’ Session Two

Penn State wrestling began Saturday morning riding high in Ann Arbor after an impressive showing in the first session of the Big Ten Championships. Entering the second session, the Nittany Lions began the outing in second place in the tournament’s team standings, with seven wrestlers competing in the semifinals.

Before the session’s commencement, Alex Facundo and Shayne Van Ness both won their consolation matches, helping them join seven other members of their team as automatic qualifiers for the NCAA National Championships, taking place on March 16 to 18.

The Nittany Lions are prepped to send six wrestlers to the Big Ten Championships’ final round tomorrow, which ties their own record for the most finalists from one school. Roman Bravo-Young, Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks, and Max Dean will look to add to their Big Ten title collections, as Levi Haines and Greg Kerkvliet aim to capture their first shots at conference glory.

Semifinal Matches:

Roman Bravo-Young attempted to become the first Penn Stater to punch his ticket to the finals, as he faced Dylan Ragusin of Michigan at 133 pounds.

To start the bout, Bravo-Young shot for a lightening fast takedown within the first 15 seconds of the period, however, Ragusin was able to quickly escape. One more takedown towards the end of the period gave Bravo-Young a 4-1 lead heading into the second period.

After escaping from the bottom position to start the period, Bravo-Young had a takedown overturned, which kept the 5-1 lead in his favor. Bravo-Young kept the pedal down in the third, snagging an 8-2 win and a Big Ten Championships final bid tomorrow.

Stepping up next for the Nittany Lions was Beau Bartlett, who battled Brock Hardy of Nebraska. An athletic scramble from Bartlett helped him finish off a powerful double-leg takedown for his first points of the dual.

An escape from Hardy cut the deficit to a 2-1 clip heading into the second period. However, Hardy then escaped from the bottom position to start the second. He later followed this up with a takedown of his own, re-capturing a 4-2 lead heading into the final period.

Ultimately, Bartlett escaped from the bottom position late into the period. But, the junior gave up another late takedown to the Cornhusker, effectively causing him to drop the match at a 7-3 margin.

At 157 pounds, Levi Haines took on Purdue’s Kendall Coleman. Light semblances of action highlighted the opening period, as both wrestlers seemed unsure of how to attack their opponent.

Haines broke the stalemate early in the second with an escape, quickly followed up by a takedown. Shortly after, Coleman picked up an escape of his own, cutting Haines’ lead to a 3-1 edge heading into the final period. Despite an escape from Coleman out of the bottom position, Haines won the low-scoring match 3-2 and earned a spot in the conference tournament finals.

At 174 pounds, Carter Starocci squared off with Minnesota’s Bailee O’Reilly. Starocci quickly attacked off the bat for a pair of polarizing takedowns, capturing a 4-1 lead into the second after an escape from O’Reilly.

The second period largely consisted of top control from Starocci, which ended with the Nittany Lion taking 4-2 lead into the final frame. Additionally, Starocci had accumulated 1:51 of riding time up to this point.

Starocci secured a late takedown, which sealed a convincing 8-2 win with the vast riding time edge, sending the junior to yet another Big Ten title bout.

Shortly thereafter, Aaron Brooks took on Matt Finesilver of Michigan at 184 pounds. Directly out of the gate, an effortless takedown from Brooks gave him an early lead to start the first.

Brooks followed up the effort with two additional takedowns to round out the period, establishing a 6-2 lead heading into the second. Brooks began taking over the match in the second period, shooting for a flurry of takedowns, which carried his lead to a 13-5 margin after two frames.

Brooks coasted through the remainder of the match, winning 18-6, and gaining an opportunity to wrestle for the championship tomorrow.

In an NCAA National Championship rematch, Max Dean battled Iowa’s Jacob Warner for the second-to-last Penn State bout of the evening. The first period ended scoreless for both wrestlers, and Dean elected for the bottom position to start the second.

Dean escaped halfway through the second period, later securing a takedown en route to grabbing a 3-0 lead heading into the final period. A late escape from Warner served as a dire rebuttal attempt, as Dean took the match 3-1, heading championship round yet again.

Rounding out the semifinals, Greg Kerkvliet closed out Cael Sanderson’s reign of top grapplers with a dual against Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi. Kerkvliet pounced for a double-leg move with a minute left in the first, and he remained in top control for the rest of the period. The move helped Kerkvliet take a 2-0 lead into the second.

Then, Kerkvliet started the second from the bottom position, leading to a spin-around reversal, which helped him further the lead to a 4-0 mark heading into the final period.

In the final period, Kervliet started on top, where he remained for the entire third period. The All-American failed to surrender any control in the final minutes, helping him take home a 5-0 win and another spot in the finals.

With one day of competition remaining, Penn State currently leads the team rankings with 120 points. Iowa is in second with 105.5 points heading into the final rounds.

What’s Next?

The Big Ten Wrestling Championships will resume at 1 p.m. tomorrow with consolation and seventh-place matches. The 1st, 3rd, and 5th place matches will then follow suit at 4:30 p.m. Final round action can be streamed live on BTN+.

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About the Author

Brendan Wagner

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

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