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Penn State Wrestling Claims Five Individual Titles & Wins Big Ten Team Championship

On the second day of competition in the Big Ten Championships in College Park, Maryland, Braeden Davis, Levi Haines, Mitchell Mesenbrink, Aaron Brooks, and Greg Kerkvliet all remained unbeaten to take home individual conference titles on the way to the Nittany Lions winning their second Big Ten Championship in a row.

Additionally, Aaron Nagao and Tyler Kasak won their matches in the consolation bracket to clinch third-place titles in the tournament.

Davis, Mesenbrink, and Kerkvliet won the first Big Ten titles of their careers, while Haines won his second and Brooks his fourth.

How It Happened

Championship Matches

125 Pounds

In the first bout of session four, No. 6-seeded Davis stepped to the mat to square off against Minnesota’s No. 4-seeded Patrick McKee. The first period of action saw a limited number of takedown attempts from both wrestlers, preventing any points scored in the opening three minutes.

Starting the second period in bottom position, a strong mat return from Davis led to a three-point near fall awarded to the true freshman, scoring the first points of the bout and taking a 3-1 lead with over 60 seconds of riding time.

After a quick escape from bottom position, Davis extended his lead to 4-1 and kept hold of over a minute of riding time as the final period ticked under a minute. Strong takedown defense from Davis kept the action in a neutral position, shooting for a thunderous mat return in the final seconds to cap off his first Big Ten Championship victory with a final score of 5-1.

141 Pounds

Wrestling next for the Nittany Lions was No. 1-seeded Beau Bartlett taking on the No. 2-seed Jesse Mendez of Ohio State. A late takedown attempt from Mendez fell short at the buzzer, and the bout remained scoreless heading into the middle period.

Starting the second period in top position, Bartlett gathered just over 30 seconds of riding time before Mendez escaped for the first point of the match. Bartlett earned an escape point of his own to start the third period, tying up the bout at 1-1 with almost the entire period remaining.

After a great back-and-forth sequence from both wrestlers, Mendez secured the match’s only takedown, giving the Buckye the 4-1 decision win over Bartlett who settled for second place.

157 Pounds

After a short break, No. 1-seeded Haines defended his Big Ten title against No. 7-seeded Will Lewan of Michigan. The action stayed on its feet across the entire first period, and the first point came from an escape by Lewan to start the second period. After no other points were scored in the second, Haines scored an escape point of his own to tie up the score at 1-1 with almost the entire third period to go.

After no more points were scored in the third period, the match moved into sudden victory, and Haines quickly secured the match’s first takedown to take a 4-1 decision victory and his second straight Big Ten title.

165 Pounds

After the overtime victory, No. 2-seeded Mesenbrink battled No. 1 seed Dean Hamiti of Wisconsin. In the first period, Hamiti drew first blood with two takedowns over Mesenbrink, taking a 6-1 lead into the middle period. After escaping to start the first period, Mesenbrink fell victim to a third takedown on the match to find himself trailing 9-3, only to quickly escape and secure his first takedown of the match in the final seconds of the period.

After a reversal from Hamiti, Mesenbrink fought back for his second takedown of the match, tilting Hamiti’s back to the mat for a four-second near fall to take his first lead of the match at 13-11. Mesenbrink then rode out the remainder of the period to finish off the upset with a 13-11 decision, winning his first Big Ten title as a freshman.

186 Pounds

Wrestling for the Nittany Lions at 186 pounds was No. 3-seeded Bernie Truax taking on No. 1-seeded Isaiah Salazar of Minnesota. No points were scored in the opening three minutes as both wrestlers took time to figure each other out. An escape from Truax was the only point scored in the middle period, quickly equaled from an escape by Salazar to start the third period. A good last-second scramble from both wrestlers resulted in no points, pushing the match into sudden victory.

Another scramble ended in favor of Salazar, and the Gopher secured the match’s first takedown and four near-fall points to take an 8-1 decision victory, placing Truax in second.

197 Pounds

Trying to get back into the win column was No. 1 seeded Brooks battling against No. 3-seed Zach Glazier of Iowa. Brooks quickly began dominating the bout with two takedowns and over 100 seconds of riding time in the first period. An escape and additional takedown in the second extended Brooks’ lead to 10-1 heading into the final two minutes. A trio of takedowns in the third period locked up a 19-3 tech fall at 6:07.

Brooks is now the third Penn State wrestler to win four Big Ten titles and only the fourth in conference history.

Heavyweight

To finish off the Big Ten Championships, No. 1-seeded Greg Kerkvliet took on No. 2-seeded Nick Feldman of Ohio State. Despite giving up the first takedown of the match, Kerkvliet responded with a takedown of his own to grab a 4-3 lead with over 60 seconds of riding time into the second period. An escape and second takedown from Kerkvliet increased the Nittany Lion’s lead to 8-3 heading into the final two minutes. The third period was completed all on their feet, and Kerkvliet won a 9-3 decision after riding time for his first Big Ten title.

Third-Place Matches

133 Pounds

In the first of two third-place matches for the Nittany Lions was No. 5-seeded Nagao taking on No. 4 seed Jacob Van Dee of Nebraska. An early takedown from Nagao opened the door for a quick fall at 1:51 to give the Purdue transfer third place on the weekend.

149 Pounds

In the last third-place match for the blue and white, No. 4-seeded Kasak shared the mat with No. 6-seed Ethan Miller of Maryland. A lightning-fast takedown from Kasak accompanied by four near-fall points put the freshman up 7-0 early in the bout. In a similar fashion to his teammate, Kasak finished off his opponent with a fall at 2:36 to take third place at his first Big Ten Championships.

What’s Next?

Penn State will be in action next when it travels to Kansas City, Missouri, for the 2024 NCAA National Championships. The first session of action will begin at noon on Thursday, March 21.

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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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