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Nine Penn State Wrestlers To Compete In Big Ten Semifinals

No. 1 Penn State wrestling dominated the first session of the 2024 Big Ten Wrestling Championships in College Park, Maryland, on Saturday. The morning session consisted of first-round matches, quarterfinal matches, and the first round of the consolation bracket.

Five Nittany Lions received No. 1 seeds for the tournament, and all other wrestlers were placed in the top six seeds of their respective weight classes. Six wrestlers had first-round byes because of their seedings.

Penn State has been dominant all season and is expected to clinch the Big Ten as it sends nine of 10 wrestlers to compete in the semifinals Saturday night. The lone wrestler out of the tournament is No. 1 Carter Starocci as he elected to take a medical forfeit following an injury suffered against Edinboro.

First-Round Matches

At 125 pounds, No. 6 Braeden Davis took on No. 11 Justin Cardani of Illinois. The two athletes didn’t score any points in the first period. Davis started from the bottom position to start the second period and eventually reversed Cardani. Davis earned six points before letting up an escape. Cardani chose neutral position to start the third period, and Davis secured a takedown to end the period and an 11-1 victory.

In the 133-pound class, No. 5 Aaron Nagao faced Andrew Hampton of Michigan State. Nagao started quickly with an early takedown and secured back points to hold a commanding 7-0 lead early in the first period. Nagao collected three more points and managed to procure over four minutes in riding time in the second period. Nagao didn’t escape from the bottom position in the third period as he won 11-0 after the riding time point.

In the 149-pound class, No. 4 Tyler Kasak took on No. 13 Aiden Vandenbush of Northwestern. Kasak came out aggressive with multiple shot attempts before hitting the match’s first takedown. He tilted Vandenbush and added four points to his lead. Kasak exposed his opponent’s back to the mat and secured the first-period pin.

In the last first-round matchup of the session for the Nittany Lions, No. 3 Bernie Truax faced No. 14 Chase Mielnik of Maryland in the 184-pound weight class. Truax took down Mielnik and earned three back points. Mielnik escaped and earned his first point. Truax took down his opponent a second time to extend his lead to 9-1 and earned a few set of back points as the Nittany Lion won by tech fall in the first period.

No. 1 seeds Beau Bartlett (141), Levi Haines (157), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (197), Greg Kervliet (285), and No. 2 seeded Mitchell Mesenbrink (165) all received first-round byes.

Quarterfinal Matches

The first Nittany Lion up for the next round was No. 6 Braeden Davis as he faced No. 3 Eric Barnett of Wisconsin in the 125-pound class. Davis got taken down early to face an early deficit. He escaped before the end of the period to cut Barnett’s lead to 4-1.

Davis started from bottom position to begin the second period and escaped after a minute. Davis got a reversal and back points to take the lead 5-4 heading into the third period.

Barnett got a reversal to lose the lead, and Davis answered quickly with a reversal to take the lead 7-6 at the end of the period. Riding time for Barnett served as the Badger’s saving grace as the match was tied going into sudden victory. Davis won by a penalty point to Barnett in sudden victory 8-7.

In the 133-pound class, No. 5 Nagao took on No. 4 Jacob Van Dee of Nebraska. After no points were scored in the first, Nagao started with a takedown for a three-point lead in the second period. To start the third period, Nagao escaped quickly from bottom position. Van Dee took down Nagao, but it wasn’t enough, and the Nittany Lion won 4-3.

For the 141-pound class, No. 1 Bartlett faced No. 8 Jordan Hamdan of Michigan State. After no score in the first, Bartlett started from the bottom position. Bartlett escaped and took down Hamdan to take a 4-0 lead. Hamdan escapes to cut the deficit to three. The third period began with Hamdan escaping to cut the lead to two with a minute left, and Bartlett hung on to win 4-2.

Up next, No. 4 Kasak wrestled No. 5 Dylan D’Emilio of Ohio State. The two wrestlers didn’t find a score in the first period. D’Emilio started from bottom position and escaped after over a minute of riding time from Kasak. D’Emilio led the Nittany Lion 1-0 heading to the third period. Kasak quickly reversed the Buckeye to claim the lead early in the third period. D’Emilio escaped, tying the match at two apiece, but Kasak won by a riding time point 3-2.

In the 157-pound class, No. 1 Levi Haines took on No. 9 Trevor Chumbley of Northwestern. Haines landed a massive double-leg takedown to open up the scoring in the first period. Haines escaped quickly in the second period and took down Chumbley for the second time, extending his lead to seven. To start the third period, Haines got a takedown and drew a stalling call. Haines rode out Chumbley to finish the match with 3:30 in riding time. Haines won 12-0 to move on to the next stage.

In the 165-pound class, No. 2 Mesenbrink faced No. 10 Blaine Brenner of Minnesota. Mesenbrink took down Brenenr early in the first period. He let his opponent up, sacrificing a point, before taking Brenner down a second time. Once again, Mesenbrink let Brenner up to take him down once more. He led 9-2 to start the second period. Mesenbrink escaped from bottom position and took his opponent down yet again to extend his lead to 13-2. He exposed Brenner’s shoulders to the mat and won by fall.

Up next, No. 1 Starocci was slated to wrestle No. 9 Andrew Sparks of Minnesota in the 174-pound weight class but elected to take a medical forfeit due to a leg injury suffered two weeks ago against Edinboro. This is his first loss since the 2020-2021 season. Starocci is expected to medically forfeit his consolation match, too.

For the 184-pound weight class, No. 3 Bernie Truax took on No. 6 Layne Malczewski of Michigan State. Truax hit an early takedown but gave up the escape after 17 seconds. To start the second period, Malczewski escaped to cut the lead to one. Truax hit his second takedown of the day to extend his lead to 6-2 heading into the third period. Truax escaped from bottom position quickly to gain a point. Truax won the match 7-2.

In the 197-pound weight class, No. 1 Brooks faced No. 8 Evan Bates of Northwestern. Brooks struck first with a takedown early in the first period. Brooks let Bates up before taking him down a second time. He secured back points on top of his lead to go into the second period up 9-1. Brooks escaped quickly to gain a point before taking Bates down once more. The match read 13-1 heading into the third period. Brooks let Bates up before taking him down twice more to win by tech fall 19-3.

To wrap up the quarterfinal matches, No. 1 Kerkvliet wrestled No. 8 Bennett Tabor of Minnesota in the heavyweight bout. Kerkvliet took Tabor down early in the first period to go up three points. Kerkvliet earned three more points due to back points along with four additional back points to go into the second period up 10-0. The second period was more of the same for Kerkvliet as he won 15-0 with 4:10 in riding time.

What’s Next?

Penn State will be in action again on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the semifinals in Session II. The semifinals will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Cooper Cazares

Cooper is a sophomore majoring in digital and print journalism from Virginia Beach, Va. He can be found with a long face on most Sunday afternoons for he is unfortunately a lifelong Washington Commanders fan. When he isn't watching sports, Cooper is usually tearing up at "Rudy" or taking a well deserved nap. To reach him, follow him on instagram (@cooper_cax) or on twitter (@CooperCazares). You can also email him at [email protected].

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