Penn State Wrestling Captures Eight Individual Victories In NCAA Championship’s Session One

After going undefeated in the regular season and taking home a Big Ten title just two weeks ago, Penn State wrestling entered the first session of the NCAA National Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma with plenty of momentum.

The Nittany Lions brought nine wrestlers to the national championships to defend their team title victory from the last season. Of the nine, five found themselves with top-three seeds out of the 33-man brackets, as Roman Bravo-Young and Carter Starocci both captured the top seed in their weight class.

Throughout the initial session, the Nittany Lions went 8-1, while a close loss from Alex Facundo ended the perfection bid. Two major decisions from Roman Bravo-Young and Aaron Brooks highlighted the period, while three pins from Shayne Van Ness, Starocci, and Greg Kerkvliet also fired up the BOK Center’s crowd.

Session One:

No. 6 Beau Bartlett took the mat as Cael Sanderson’s first wrestler of the showing in the 141-pound slot, putting him against No. 27 Shannon Hanna of Campbell. Bartlett wasted no time with a single-leg takedown to start the first, which carried him to a late takedown to end the frame up 4-1. After Hanna escaped from the bottom position to start the second, no other points were allotted heading into the final stretch.

The third period began from the neutral position, which helped Bartlett gain an escape point. Bartlett eventually put a stamp on Hanna with a strong double-leg move, giving him an 8-2 first-round victory.

At 133 pounds, No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young wrestled Appalachian State’s No. 33 Ethan Oakley. Directly out of the gate, Bravo-Young snapped for a quick takedown to start the period. Oakley was then able to escape after some time, awarding him a point before Bravo-Young secured another takedown. Heading into the second period, Bravo-Young surmounted a 4-1 edge.

Bravo-Young then escaped from the bottom position, where he spun for another takedown, leading to an entire period of control. After an escape from Oakley narrowed the margin to begin the third period, a pair of takedowns from Bravo-Young allowed him to cap off a 12-3 victory with riding time.

Climbing the latter, No. 12 Shayne Van Ness faced Maryland’s No. 21 Ethan Miller in the 149-pound weight class. After a lengthy stretch of back-and-forth hand fighting, Miller secured a takedown and a handful of near-fall points, as he took an 8-0 lead heading into the second period.

Van Ness was on the bottom to start the stretch, where he escaped after a sequence of initial difficulties to round out an uneventful middle run. In the third period, an immediate escape from Miller quickly led to a takedown by Van Ness. From there, Van Ness fought back in dominant fashion, securing a pin at the 6:26 mark to cap off an impressive come-from-behind win.

At 157 pounds, No. 2 Levi Haines went up against No. 31 Ashton Eyler of Lockhaven. After a moment of standup grappling, Haines fought for a takedown halfway through the first. Moments later, another takedown closed out the period, where Haines obtained a 4-1 edge. Within the final two minutes, Haines seized an escape and a match-closing takedown to conclude a 10-3 win.

The 165-pound matchup featured No. 13 Alex Facundo against Pitt’s No. 20 Holden Heller. The first period resulted in a stalemate between the in-state foes, with the score remaining 0-0. From there, Heller broke open the scoring spree with an escape from the bottom position. He then followed it up with a scrambling takedown to take a 3-1 lead into the third.

After starting the final period on the bottom, Facundo earned an escape, bringing the deficit to only one point. However, after suffering a late, costly takedown, he dropped the match 5-3 for Penn State’s first individual falter.

Facundo’s defeat quickly turned into triumph, as No. 1 Carter Starocci made light work of Clarion’s No. 33 John Worthing. Starocci warranted a takedown within seconds, which eventually led to a match-sealing pin at the 1:21 mark.

No. 3 Aaron Brooks took on Chattanooga’s No. 30 Matthew Waddell in the 184-pound to begin the heavier weight classes. Brooks started hot by drawing a takedown to open up the period, which lead to another two-point swing before the period’s conclusion. Heading into the second period, Brooks obtained a 4-1 lead.

A reversal from Brooks in the bottom position eventually extended his lead to a 8-2 mark as the period wound down. The Maryland native concluded the final two minutes strongly, resulting in a 13-4 victory.

At 197 pounds, No. 9 Max Dean took centerstage against Campbell’s No. 24 Levi Hopkins. The first period amounted to a scoreless stretch, but then, Dean went to work.

To begin the second frame, Dean acquired the match’s first point after escaping from the bottom position. Shortly after, Dean followed up the shifty escape with a period-closing takedown to establish a 3-0 lead heading into critical action. In the third period, Dean coasted, as he picked up a 6-1 win with minimal difficulty.

To wrap up session one, No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet took on Purdue’s No. 30 Hayden Copass. Without hardly breaking a sweat, Kerkvliet slid into a cradle position on Copass, rolled him onto his back, and pinned the Boilermaker in only 34 seconds.

What’s Next?

Penn State wrestling will return to action during session two, which will begin tonight at 7 p.m. at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All matches will be live-streamed on ESPN+.

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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 probably Russell Wilson.

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