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Seven Penn State Wrestlers To Compete In Big Ten Semifinals

Penn State wrestling headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, Saturday to compete in the 2023 Big Ten Wrestling Championships at the Crisler Center. The morning session consisted of first round matches and the quarterfinals.

Head coach Cael Sanderson’s team entered the two-day tournament with four top-seeded wrestlers and three second-seeded wrestlers — all seven received opening round byes. Penn State was also the favorite in the team standings, however, the Nittany Lions haven’t won the Big Ten Wrestling Championships team title since 2019.

Seven Nittany Lions will compete in the semifinals Saturday night, all of whom also qualified for the 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Three more Penn Staters are still kicking and could secure NCAA bids during the second session, as well.

First Round Matches

To kick off Big Ten action for the Nittany Lions, No. 10 Gary Steen took on Maryland’s Braxton Brown at 125 pounds. Steen quickly succumbed to a takedown attempt from Brown, leading to a four-count near fall for the Maryland wrestler. Steen saw himself down 6-0 to start the second, which began with the Nittany Lion in top position. An escape and a takedown from Brown extended his lead to 9-0 heading into the final two minutes. Steen gave up two more takedowns in the third to drop the match 14-0.

Next up for Penn State was No. 13 Shayne Van Ness facing Illinois’ Jake Harrier at 149 pounds. After displaying some great initial defense, Van Ness was able to shoot for a powerful takedown near the halfway mark of the first period. A reversal from Harrier was quickly followed by an escape from Van Ness, who then grabbed a last-second takedown to bring a 5-2 lead heading into the second.

After yet another takedown, Van Ness was able to control most of the period, extending his lead to 7-3 with 2:25 of riding time (RT). Van Ness escaped from bottom position to start the final period, quickly securing a booming double-leg takedown on the edge of the mat. Van Ness was granted the major decision with a score of 16-4, along with 3:44 of RT.

Seeing action next was No. 9 Alex Facundo squaring off against Purdue’s Stoney Buell at 165 pounds. After a lot of stand-up grappling to start the first, Facundo got in for a late takedown, taking a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.

Facundo started in bottom position, quickly escaping and shooting for another takedown. An eventual escape from Buell gave Facundo a 5-1 lead heading into the final period. Buell escaped from bottom position to start the third, earning an escape and cutting into Facundo’s lead. However, another takedown from Facundo in the dying seconds gave him the 7-2 decision victory.

Quarterfinal Matches

To start off the quarterfinals for the Nittany Lions, No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young took on Iowa’s Brody Teske at 133 pounds. Bravo-Young shot for a quick takedown to start the first, he was then able to remain with top control for the rest of the period, taking a 2-0 lead with 2:23 of RT heading into the second.

After Teske escaped to start the second, he fell yet again to another controlling takedown from Bravo-Young. An additional pair of two-second near falls boosted Bravo-Young’s lead to 8-1 heading into the final period. A dominant final period from Bravo-Young gave him the 13-2 win with an astonishing 5:06 of RT, becoming the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA qualifier for the 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

The match was the 50th consecutive win for two-time NCAA champion Bravo-Young.

Taking the mat next was No. 4 Beau Bartlett and Michigan’s Cole Mattin at 141 pounds. After a first period of standup grappling with little action, Bartlett escaped from bottom position early in the second period to take a 1-0 lead.

Another period with little action saw Bartlett take a 2-0 lead heading into the final two minutes. Bartlett then secured the first takedown of the match with just over a minute left in the final period. He eventually took a 4-2 decision victory, officially qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

Along with Bartlett, No. 13 Shayne Van Ness stepped into the squared circle to face Iowa’s Max Murin at 149 pounds. Van Ness fell to a takedown late in the first. However, he quickly escaped to make the score 1-2 heading into the second.

Van Ness escaped again from bottom position to even up the scoring at 2-2 heading into the third. However, an escape from Murin sealed the match as Van Ness struggled to finish a takedown in the final seconds, dropping the match 4-2 after RT.

No. 1 Carter Starocci then took on Northwestern’s Troy Fisher at 174 pounds. Two strong takedowns from Starocci gave him a 4-1 lead heading into the second. After escaping from bottom position, Starocci secured another takedown to extend his lead to 7-1 entering the final period. Starocci got the 10-2 win and a spot in the NCAA Championships.

Then, No. 9 Alex Facundo battled Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla at 165 pounds. Facundo fell to a late takedown, going down 2-0 entering the second period. Kharchla started from bottom position, where he was able to escape and extend his lead to 3-0. The score remained 3-0 heading into the final period, where Facundo took bottom position. Facundo was able to escape to bring himself within two points of the tie. Despite his best attempts, Facundo fell 3-1.

No. 7 Levi Haines took on Indiana’s Derek Gilcher at 157 pounds. Haines fought hard for a takedown with just a little over a minute left in the first, and he remained on top until the end of the period.

Haines began the second from bottom position, escaping quickly with little difficulty. No other points were scored in the second, giving Haines a 3-0 lead heading into the final period. Gilcher started the third period on the bottom. After a two-second near fall, he remained until the final buzzer. Haines won 6-0 with RT, qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

Next up, No. 1 Aaron Brooks took on Rutgers’ Brain Soldano at 184 pounds. Three powerful takedowns from Brooks gave him a 6-2 advantage going into the second period. After yet another takedown, Brooks controlled the entirety of the second period, extending his lead to 10-2. Two counts of a four-second near fall in the third gave Brooks the 18-2 tech fall and a spot in the NCAA Championships.

Following Brooks, No. 3 Max Dean battled Minnesota’s Michial Foy at 197 pounds. Both men couldn’t seem to figure each other out in the first period, as there was no action. Foy started the second period from bottom position where he remained for the entire period, which ended at 0-0. Dean started the final period from bottom position, but he was able to escape with just over a minute left in the match. Dean won 1-0, qualifying for the NCAA Championships

The last quarterfinal match saw No. 2 Greg Kerkvliet taking on Ohio State’s Tate Orndorff. Kerkvliet wasted no time securing his first takedown, taking a 2-0 lead heading into the second. Two more takedowns in the middle period gave Kerkvliet a 6-1 lead heading into the final two minutes. Another takedown paired with nearly six minutes of RT gave Kerkvliet the 9-1 win and a spot at the NCAA Championships.

What’s Next?

Gary Steen, Alex Facundo, and Shayne Van Ness will take the mat next at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, for the consolation bracket matches. The semifinal matchups will follow at 7:30 p.m. All matches can be streamed from 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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