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Penn State Wrestling Sends Five to Big Ten Championships Finals

by on March 07, 2020 10:33 PM

After a strong start to the Big Ten Championships, Penn State wrestling carried its momentum through the semifinals on Saturday night.

Five of the six Nittany Lion wrestlers who were still alive in the championship bracket won their matches and advanced to the finals. Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall and Aaron Brooks will all wrestle for first place on Sunday afternoon. Two other wrestlers, Shakur Rasheed and Jarod Verkleeren, remain alive in the consolation brackets and can still secure trips to Minneapolis on Sunday.

After one day at the conference tournament, Penn State sits in fourth place with 93.5 points behind Ohio State (94), Nebraska (102.5), and Iowa (121.5). Despite their modest standing, the Nittany Lions should remain in striking distance with a big showing in the championships round.

How It Happened

No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young kicked off the session for Penn State in one of the weekend’s most anticipated bouts. He faced No. 3 Austin DeSanto of Iowa, and the pair did not disappoint in their fourth career meeting.

Bravo-Young took control at the start of the bout with an early takedown. The two 133-pounders grappled their way through the remainder of the bout, but that early score ended up making the difference as DeSanto could only muster two escapes. With the score tied 2-2 in the third period, Bravo-Young got an escape of his own and held off a series of late attacks from DeSanto to secure the win and punch his ticket to the finals where he’ll face No. 5 Sebastian Rivera of Nebraska.

 

While Bravo-Young and DeSanto were wrestling, No. 1 Nick Lee met a familiar opponent in No. 4 Chad Red of Nebraska. Lee jumped out to a 5-0 lead after scoring two takedowns and an escape in the first and second period. Red countered with a couple takedowns of his own, but Lee had little trouble holding him off, clocking nearly two and a half minutes of riding time. He won 7-5 and will face No. 2 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in the 141-lb. finals.

At 165 lbs., No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph took one more step closer to his elusive first Big Ten title with a 6-3 win over No. 4 Isaiah White of Nebraska. Joseph and White were tied 2-2 at the start of the third period, but an escape and takedown by the always cool-under-pressure Joseph clinched the semifinal win. He’ll face No. 2 Alex Marinelli of Iowa in the finals in what could be a pivotal matchup in the team race.

No. 2 Mark Hall followed Joseph by holding off No. 3 Dylan Lydy of Purdue for a 5-4 win. With Lydy leading 2-1 late in the first period, Hall escaped in the closing seconds to tie the score and jumpstart a second-period rally. He registered another escape and a takedown to go up 5-2 in the second period. Lydy scored pair of escapes, but couldn’t cut into Hall’s slim, but comfortable lead. The Penn State senior will face No. 1 Michael Kemerer of Iowa in what could be another crucial finals matchup at 174 lbs.

No. 1 Aaron Brooks gave the Nittany Lions their third consecutive win of the session in dramatic fashion at 184 lbs. He and No. 4 Taylor Venz of Nebraska traded blows for four minutes before Brooks shot in on the Cornhusker, locked up a cradle, and brought him to his back for a fall. That win sent Brooks into the finals with a rush of momentum. He’ll take on No. 2 Cameron Caffey of Michigan State for the title.

 

Penn State’s semifinal run ended at 197 lbs. No. 6 Shakur Rasheed, who looked to be in vintage form on Saturday morning, dropped a close decision to No. 2 Eric Schultz of Nebraska. Rasheed and Schultz traded takedowns in the first period, but only Schultz was able to score an escape. His rideout would prove to be decisive in the one-point bout. Rasheed, trailing 4-2 at the start of the third period, quickly escaped, but couldn’t complete the comeback attempt. He will wrestle again Sunday morning with a chance at third place.

In the wrestlebacks, No. 8 Jarod Verkleeren needs one more win to qualify for NCAAs and can place as high as ninth. He lost 5-2 to No. 7 Colin Purinton of Nebraska in his first consolation match. Verkleeren will face No. 9 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern Sunday morning.  Thomas defeated Verkleeren in the first round on Saturday.

No. 7 Seth Nevills medical forfeited his way out of the tournament due to an injury sustained during his first bout. After winning his first bout Saturday morning, No. 14 Brandon Meredith bowed out of the tournament with two losses in session two. He finishes the tournament with a 1-3 record.

Sunday's championship round begins at 3:30 p.m. and will air on the Big Ten Network.



Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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