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Penn State Wrestling Crowns Two Big Ten Champions, Places Fourth

by on March 08, 2020 5:57 PM

During what’s been called a down year by Penn State wrestling’s standards, six Nittany Lions took the podium at the Big Ten Championships on Sunday at the Rutgers Athletic Center. Mark Hall and Aaron Brooks each won titles, while Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee and Vincenzo Joseph all took second place.

The Nittany Lions finished in fourth place with 107 points, behind Ohio State, Nebraska, and first-place Iowa. A total of seven Penn State wrestlers will compete at the NCAA Championships later this month, as Shakur Raheed and Jarod Verkleeren also qualified with fourth and ninth-place finishes, respectively.

How It Happened

No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young started the championship round off for Penn State against No. 5 Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern. Bravo-Young scored a takedown to start the bout and came close to scoring another with a late scramble, but the wrestlers were ruled out of bounds. Rivera tied it with an escape to start the second period and took down Bravo-Young in the closing seconds of the period to go up 4-2.

That late takedown gave Rivera the momentum swing he needed, as he went on to ride out Bravo-Young in the third period and win 7-2. Bravo-Young worked his way to his feet multiple times in the period, but Rivera fought off each attempt, throwing the Nittany Lion down to the mat each time and scoring a pair of back points on the final one.

Bravo-Young’s loss ends his otherwise impressive weekend with a 3-1 record and second-place finish. With his only losses this year being decisions to the Big Ten champion and Big Ten top seed, he should still have a top-three seed at this year’s NCAA Championships.

No. 1 Nick Lee met No. 2 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in the finals at 141 lbs. The two wrestlers went back and forth with takedowns and quick escapes throughout the first two periods, but with the score tied 4-4 midway through the third period, Pletcher scored a decisive takedown to jump ahead 6-4. Lee quickly escaped, but couldn’t get much else going, as he dropped the 6-5 decision.

Toward the end of the bout, he was tied up with Pletcher near the edge of the mat and appeared to injure his knee. He got up quickly and continued wrestling, but looked uncomfortable while limping back to the center of the mat.

The Nittany Lions’ next action didn’t come again until 165 lbs. when No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph faced No. 2 Alex Marinelli of Iowa. When the two rivals took the mat, they dealt blows on their feet while tied up and trying to shoot in on each other.

The previous three meetings had been decided by one wrestler throwing the other from a tie-up for near-fall points, but both took very cautious approaches to most of the bout. The first period ended with the match scoreless as both wrestlers succeeded in fighting off his opponent’s attacks.

Each wrestler escaped to start the second and third periods. Midway through the third period, the wrestlers tied up as they so often have, but both managed to roll out of it unscathed. As the two battled on their feet down the stretch, Marinelli scored the winning takedown with less than 15 seconds to wrestle. Joseph escaped immediately, but couldn’t get anything else across before losing 3-2. He will end his career later this month having never won an individual Big Ten title. Imagine that.

Penn State’s coaches stayed on the championship mat for the next two bouts as No. 2 Mark Hall and No. 1 Aaron Brooks followed at 174 and 184 lbs., respectively.

Leading No. 1 Michael Kemerer 2-1 after the first period, Hall got to work in the following frame with an escape, takedown, and pair of near-fall points to take control with a 7-2 lead. Kemerer rallied back with an escape and takedown in the third period. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome Hall’s big second period, as the Nittany Lion won his third straight Big Ten title with an 8-5 decision.

Brooks followed Hall with Penn State’s final championship bout of the day, facing No. 2 Cameron Caffey of Michigan. The two wrestled cautiously for most of the bout, each only mustering an escape as the score was tied 1-1 late in the third period. After unsuccessfully landing a shot earlier in the period due to a nice scramble by Caffey, the true freshman finally connected during the last 20 seconds to secure his first conference title with a 3-2 win.

In the consolations, No. 6 Shakur Rasheed advanced to the third-place bout via a medical forfeit. There, he lost via injury default to No. 3 Jacob Warner of Iowa, who he had previously beaten this weekend. No. 8 Jarod Verkleeren placed ninth at 149 lbs. and punched his ticket to nationals with a pair of wins Sunday morning over No. 9 Yahya Thomas of Indiana and No. 5 Graham Rooks of Indiana.

The NCAA Championships will take place March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis

Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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