After transferring from Ohio State and being sidelined the past two years, Kerkvliet dominated in his debut for Cael Sanderson’s squad. The heavyweight scored three takedowns in just the first minute against the Terrapins’ Garrett Kappes and locked up a cradle to get the fall in the first period. Kerkvliet also had the opportunity to wrestle in an extra bout after the dual was concluded, where he picked up another first-period pin against Maryland’s Brian Bowes.
Sanderson originally thought Kerkvliet would miss the entire season due to injury, but once learning he was cleared to compete, he was confident to send the redshirt freshman out onto the mat.
“Greg is a competitor. He wants to compete,” Sanderson said after the match. “He has been ready to go for a long time, so he got the green light and he’s out on the mat.”
Kerkvliet, who was ranked No. 5 in the country before the season started, could be set to take over the starting spot at heavyweight for the Nittany Lions. Seth Nevills has been wrestling in his absence and has fought his way to a top-10 ranking thus far. With two reliable options at the weight, Sanderson will have a choice to make for who will compete at the Big Ten Championships.
“We are obviously very confident in Greg,” Sanderson said. “We have seen some good things out of Seth [Nevills] as well, so it just comes down to getting into the conference meet and wrestling with some enthusiasm and scoring points. That’s it. It’s really that simple.”
Sanderson wasn’t the only one excited to see Kerkvliet finally take the mat. His teammates had some high praise for the freshman heavyweight as well.
“I love Greg. Greg’s one of my roommates right now so I was really excited to watch him wrestle,” freshman 165-pounder Joe Lee said. “I was surprised to see him, but at the same time, I wasn’t surprised because Greg is a tough guy, and he’s one of those guys where he’ll just figure it out whether he’s hurt or he’s not. He wants to compete.”
“It’s cool. He had a minor setback, but he’s back in the lineup and he’s healthy, he’s cleared, so we’ll see what happens,” added junior 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young.
With the Big Ten Championships just less than two weeks away, Sanderson and the Nittany Lions will have some solid options at the heavyweight weight class nonetheless.
Penn State hosts the conference championships March 6-7 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Under Pennsylvania’s current COVID-19 guidelines, no fans will be permitted to attend. The Big Ten Network will air session 1 and the semifinals on March 6 and the finals on March 7.