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Penn State Wrestling Advances Four to Big Ten Semifinals

Penn State advanced four wrestlers to the conference semifinals as the Big Ten Championships got underway Saturday morning at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks are each in contention for Big Ten titles and have earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships.

The Nittany Lions’ six other wrestlers are still alive in the consolation bracket with a shot at NCAA berths as Penn State went 11-6 during the opening session

Heading into Saturday night’s second session, Penn State sits in fourth-place with 45 points behind Michigan (49), Nebraska (63) and the favorite, Iowa (75.5).

How It Happened

Robert Howard, the No. 11 seed at 125 pounds, started the day off for Penn State against Wisconsin’s No. 6 Eric Barnett. Howard got out to an early lead but couldn’t pick up his first career Big Ten Tournament win, dropping a close 3-2 decision. The freshman scored a takedown early in the first period but ended up getting reversed to tie the score heading into the second.

Barnett got an escape point in the second period which is all he would need to pick up the victory as Howard couldn’t secure a match-winning takedown in the final seconds. He would head to the consolation bracket to face Maryland’s Zach Spence.

With Roman Bravo-Young and Nick Lee earning first round byes, Penn State grapplers didn’t see any action again until the 149-pound weight class, when No. 11 Beau Bartlett made his tournament debut against Minnesota’s No. 6 Michael Blockhus. Blockhus out-matched Bartlett on their feet, which ended up being the deciding factor in the match. Bartlett trailed 5-3 in the final period and failed to get a late takedown to tie the match. Bartlett’s loss sent him to the consolation bracket against Maryland’s Michael North.

No. 5 Brady Berge put Penn State in the win column as he made easy work of No. 12 Johnny Mologousis from Illinois. Berge, who usually wrestles at a slow and steady pace, really opened up and scored takedowns at will. His 13-4 decision win sent him on to the quarterfinals against Purdue’s Kendall Coleman.

Redshirt freshman No. 6 Joe Lee fell victim to an upset against No. 11 Jonathan Spadafora of Maryland. Lee got out to an early lead, but Spadafora battled back to tie the match at 5-5 and send the two to overtime. Spadafora got in on a deep double leg early in the overtime period and secured the match-winning takedown. Lee’s loss was the third of the day already for the Nittany Lions as they got off to a slow start.

Stud freshman No. 3 Carter Starocci got the Nittany Lions back on track with a victory over Maryland’s No. 14 Phillip Spadafora. Starocci got takedown’s with ease, getting out to a comfortable 11-2 lead. Late in the second period, Starocci picked up the fall to move on to the quarterfinals.

No. 6 Michael Beard picked up a victory in his Big Ten Tournament debut against Rutgers No. 11 Billy Janzer. Beard used a pair of takedown’s along with a pair of escapes to put him up 6-3. His riding time gave him the extra advantage as he picked up a 7-3 decision and moved on to face the second-seeded Myles Amine in the quarterfinals.

No. 7 Greg Kerkvliet made his tournament debut against No. 10 Jack Heyob of Northwestern. The redshirt freshman tossed Heyob around the mat with ease, scoring seven takedowns in the bout to win by major decision 16-5. He advanced to a quarterfinal bout against Michigan’s Mason Paris.

The bracket flipped after Kerkvliet’s bout with top-seeded Roman Bravo-Young wrestling in his first match of the day in the 133-pound quarterfinals. He squared off against Jacob Rundell of Purdue. Per usual, Bravo-Young was too much to handle in the neutral position as he picked up all four takedowns in the contest. He also displayed some impressive riding ability and picked up a bonus point for his riding time. With a 9-3 decision, he’ll go on to face Northwestern’s Chris Cannon in the semifinals tonight.

At 141 lbs., No. 2 Nick Lee kept the winning going for Penn State as he defeated Ohio State’s Dylan D’Emilio in the quarterfinals. Lee got out of the gates fast, scoring two takedowns and six nearfall points to pile up a 10-1 lead after the first period. He kept things going in the second with six more nearfall points to get the 16-1 technical fall. He moves on to the semifinals tonight in a marquee matchup with returning Big Ten Champion Sebastian Rivera.

Brady Berge dropped a close 3-2 decision to Purdue’s No. 4 Kendall Coleman in the 157-pound quarterfinal match. The first period was scoreless as both wrestlers felt each other out. They traded escape points in the second and third period but it was Coleman’s takedown on the edge of the mat in the third period that proved to be the difference. Berge quickly got back up but couldn’t manage to get a takedown. With the loss, he drops down to the consolation bracket where he’ll face Maryland’s Michael Doetsch.

In the 174-pound quarterfinal, Carter Starocci got things done yet again against Ohio State’s No. 6 Kaleb Romero. All he needed was a second period escape point to secure the win. He went on to ride out Romero for the entire third period to pick up a 1-0 win. Starocci will draw Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola in the semifinals.

Top-seeded Aaron Brooks put together a gritty performance in his quarterfinal match against Iowa’s Nelson Brands. After tweaking his ankle in the second period, it was unsure whether Brooks would be able to continue. He found himself down 7-5 heading into the third period but with the ankle taped up, Brooks rallied to score nine points in the period to win 14-8. He’ll face Rutgers John Poznanski in the semifinals.

Michael Beard took Michigan’s Myles Amine to the wire in the 197-pound quarterfinals. He grabbed the lead in the third period with a takedown but quickly gave up a reversal that tied the match and sent it to overtime. In the extra period, Beard gave up a takedown and lost a heartbreaker. He’ll head to the consolation bracket where he’ll have to win two matches to qualify for the NCAAs.

The heavyweight quarterfinal matchup between Greg Kervliet and No. 2 seed Mason Paris was a bit of a disappointment. Kerkvliet couldn’t manage to get anything going against the Paris, dropping a 11-3 major decision. Kerkvliet was favoring his knee which will be something to look out for in the consolation rounds.

Penn State wrapped up the session going 3-0 in the consolation round. Robbie Howard picked up a 16-4 decision against Maryland’s Zach Spence and Joe Lee followed with a 4-3 decision over Wisconsin’s Joshua Otto. Beau Bartlett also had a first period pin over Maryland’s Michael North to advance.

What’s Next?

Session two gets underway at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the BJC with semifnals and consolation action. Semifinal coverage will air live on the Big Ten Network.