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Penn State Wrestling Advances Six to Semifinals of Big Ten Championships

by on March 07, 2020 2:16 PM

Postseason wrestling is upon us. Penn State wrestling began its pursuit of another Big Ten title and path to Minneapolis for this year’s NCAA Championships on Saturday morning at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Six Nittany Lion wrestlers — Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, Aaron Brooks and Shakur Rasheed — advanced to the semifinals as the Nittany Lions went 8-4 in the session. They sit in third place with 56.5 points behind Nebraska (58.5) and heavily favored Iowa (72) after the first session of the weekend.

Penn State's Brandon Meredith, Jarod Verkleeren and Seth Nevills also were still alive in the consolation bracket heading into Saturday night, but it was unclear if Nevills would continue after sustaining an injury during his first round loss.

How It Happened

The day got off to an exciting start as No. 14 Brandon Meredith pulled off a huge upset that could make a difference in the team race. He edged No. 3 Pat McKee of Minnesota 3-2 to advance to the quarterfinals, needing only one more win to make the national tournament.

Leading 3-2 in the third period, Meredith fought off a tight scramble to end the match and benefited from an official review in his favor to win. Meredith’s victory was the Nittany Lions’ first at 125 lbs. in the championship bracket of a postseason tournament since Nico Megaludis’s NCAA-winning season in 2016.

 

Penn State was idle until the 149-lb. matchups, where No. 8 Jarod Verkleeren took on No. 9 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern. Verkleeren fell into an early hole as Thomas scored two fast takedowns to lead 4-2 after the first period. That early advantage was all the Wildcat needed as he held on for a 6-3 decision that sent Verkleeren to wrestlebacks. He didn’t wrestle again in the session because he had a bye in the consolation bracket.

At 157 lbs., No. 13 Bo Pipher met No. 4 Will Lewan of Michigan. After a gritty first two periods and change, the two were tied 1-1 with about a minute to wrestle. Lewan managed to score a takedown to seemingly take the lead, but it ended up being waved off for an illegal slam and a point was awarded to Pipher.

Now trailing 2-1, Lewan managed to score another takedown, from which Pipher escaped to tie the bout and force sudden victory. In sudden victory, Lewan took Pipher down one more time at the edge of the mat to secure the decision — despite an official review.

Penn State again had a bit of a layover as its next three wrestlers all had first-round byes before No. 6 Shakur Rasheed took on No. 11 Matt Wroblewski of Illinois at 197 lbs. When they finally did take the mat, more than 40 minutes since the Nittany Lions’ last bout, the sixth-year senior turned in a vintage Shak performance.

Rasheed looked as good as ever, pinning Wroblewski less than a minute into the bout and scoring Penn State’s first bonus points of the weekend.

 

After Rasheed, No. 7 Seth Nevills faced No. 10 Alex Esposito of Rutgers. Nevills fell hard early in the bout and needed attention from team doctors, who inspected his left knee during an injury timeout. Nevills attempted to continue wrestling, but couldn’t do much. Trailing 2-0 late in the second period, Nevills injury defaulted. Nevills had a consolation first-round bye, but it remained to be seen if he would return to the mat in the second session on Saturday night.

The bracket flipped after the heavyweight bout as Meredith got his second bout of the day, this time against No. 6 Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern. After his exciting start to the weekend, Meredith struggled to replicate his first-round performance against DeAugustino, losing 8-2. He'll be back in consolation action tonight.

At 133 lbs., No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young got his first action of the day against No. 7 Sammy Alvarez — who you might remember gave RBY one of the most exciting matches of the season back in January.

This time, though, Bravo-Young spared the dramatics, winning 5-2 with more than two minutes of riding time. He will face No. 3 Austin DeSanto of Iowa in the semifinals tonight.

One mat over, No. 1 Nick Lee also got his first bout of the day in the quarterfinals, facing No. 8 Parker Filius of Purdue. Like Rasheed, he didn’t waste any time in starting his sprint to the podium, pinning Filius 37 seconds into the bout. He’ll next meet No. 4 Chad Red of Nebraska in the semifinals.

 

After a bit of a layover, Penn State’s other three No. 1 seeds all got to work and kicked off their weekends with convincing wins. In the three-match span, the Nittany Lions outscored their opponents 47-9.

At 165 lbs., Vincenzo Joseph rolled into the semifinals with ease, beating No. 9 Drew Hughes of Michigan State with a 16-5 major decision. Tonight, Joseph will meet No. 4 Isaiah White of Nebraska as he continues his pursuit of that elusive first Big Ten title. At the same time, No. 1 Mark Hall pieced together a 16-0 second-period technical fall win against No. 7 Joey Gunther of Illinois. He advances to the semifinals to face No. 3 Dylan Lydy of Purdue.

True freshman Aaron Brooks, the top seed at 184 lbs., followed with a major decision of his own against No. 8 Owen Webster of Minnesota, winning 15-4. He’ll match up with No. 4 Taylor Venz of Nebraska tonight.

The Nittany Lions’ strong quarterfinal showing closed with Rasheed facing No. 3 Jacob Warner of Iowa. Rasheed avenged his loss to Warner earlier in the season by winning 3-1, Penn State’s first against Iowa this weekend. Warner led 1-0 entering the third period, but an escape and takedown (which was challenged by the Hawkeyes but stood) by Rasheed clinched him a spot in the semifinals. He’ll face No. 2 Eric Schultz of Nebraska tonight.

Shortly after Rasheed’s win, Pipher wrapped up the session for Penn State, losing 18-1 to Wisconsin’s Garrett Model and dropping out of the tournament.



Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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