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Penn State Wrestling Rallies to Defeat Illinois

by on January 11, 2020 8:07 AM

After a month off the mat, Penn State wrestling fought off a scrappy Illinois team in a too-close-for-comfort dual at Rec Hall Friday. With the score tied 16-16 entering the final two bouts, Penn State won both bouts to secure the 22-16 win.

Friday was the first look fans had at the new-look lineup, but it had a few additional changes with studs Roman Bravo-Young and Vincenzo Joseph out. Sophomore Austin Clabaugh and redshirt freshman Konner Kraezig filled in for them at 133 lbs. and 165 lbs., respectively. The Nittany Lions were also without national champion Anthony Cassar and Kyle Conel who will miss the remainder of the season due to injury.

How It Happened

The dual began at 125 lbs. with Brandon Meredith facing Justin Cardani. Illinois started off strong after Cardani controlled the entirety of the match en route to a 6-0 decision. In addition to a riding time point, Cardani used a nice tilt in the second period to score four near-fall points.

Austin Clabaugh made his Nittany Lion debut at 133 lbs. against No. 7 Travis Piotrowski of Illinois. Clabaugh wrestled tough throughout the match, but gave up a pin in the final seconds of the third period. The pin gave Illinois a commanding 9-0 lead over the Nittany Lions.

At 141 lbs., No. 2 Nick Lee earned the first points for Penn State with a 13-5 major decision over No. 16 Dylan Duncan. Lee looked dominant in the match, getting multiple takedowns and locking up a riding-time point. Lee secured a controversial last-second takedown to secure the major decision, trimming the Illini’s lead to 9-4.

Penn State won again at 149 lbs. as Jarod Verkleeren won a tight 5-2 decision against Mousa Jodeh of Illinois. Verkleeren led 4-2 after two periods and held off a late comeback attempt from Jodeh to bring the Nittany Lions to within two points.

At 157 lbs., Bo Pipher dropped a 5-2 decision against Eric Barone of Illinois. There was little action in the first period with both wrestlers failing to score any points. Barone had a nice reversal that ended up landing him on top, nearly getting a fall. The four point sequence secured the match for Barone as he won 5-2 with a riding-time point. The match extended Illinois’ lead to 12-7.

Konner Kraezig made his dual debut at 165 lbs., dropping a 13-3 major decision against No. 15 Danny Braunagel of Illinois. Braunagel dominated the match, getting multiple takedowns along with a turn and riding-time. The match put the Illini up 16-7, but would be their last win of the evening.

No. 1 Mark Hall got the comeback started for the Nittany Lions when he flexed his muscles against No. 8 Joey Gunther at 174 lbs. Hall had a slew of takedowns throughout the match, forcing Gunther to give up multiple stall points. With hardly any time left in the third period, Gunther was disqualified for stalling. The disqualification gave Penn State 6 team points, cutting the lead to 16-13.

At 184 lbs. freshman Aaron Brooks squared off against Zach Braunagel of Illinois. Brooks controlled majority of the match, securing multiple takedowns and a riding-time point. Brooks won by decision 9-4, tying the match at 16-16.

Shakur Rasheed made his season debut, bumping up to 197 lbs. against Matt Wroblewski. This match had little action throughout the first period with neither wrestler getting a takedown. Rasheed was able to get an escape point and a takedown in the third period to secure the 3-0 decision and give Penn State the lead 19-16.

The last match of the evening featured Penn State true freshman Seth Nevils and the Illini's Luke Huffman at. Nevils looked tough in his Nittany Lion debut, winning 6-3. The hard-fought win secured the victory for Penn State 22-16.

What’s Next

Penn State will be home again to host Northwestern at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Rec Hall.

Max Tolson is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State.
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