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5 most important things for PSU heading into final day of NCAA Wrestling Championships

Photo by NCAA: Nick Lee

The same Penn State quartet that made the Big Ten finals in Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174), and Aaron Brooks (184) advanced to the NCAA finals on Friday, and helped narrow Iowa’s lead at the top of the team standings.

At the end of action Friday, Penn State trails the Hawkeyes, 109-94.5. The Hawkeyes’ lead was about 25 points at one time on Friday evening. Iowa has three in the finals with four more still wrestling in the medal rounds Saturday. Penn State will have two others wrestling in the medal rounds.

Oklahoma State (86.5), Arizona State (67), and Michigan (58.5) round out the top five in the team race.

Here are five important things from Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament:

1. There will be two rematches from the Big Ten finals for the Nittany Lions. Lee and Starocci will be looking for redemption against a couple Hawkeye foes in Jaydin Eierman and Michael Kemerer, respectively. The two matches could be absolutely huge in who ends up with the team title, which Penn State is seeking their fifth straight championship and their ninth in the last 10 NCAA Tournaments.

Lee got to the finals with an 11-3 major decision in the quarterfinals over North Carolina’s Zachary Sherman before picking up a huge 9-3 win over Rutgers’ Sebastian Rivera in the semifinals. Starocci picked up a 6-3 win over Kent State’s Andrew McNally in the quarterfinals, and a 2-0 win in the semis over Utah Valley’s Demetrius Romero.

2. Like Lee and Starocci, Bravo-Young and Brooks will also have a 1-2 matchup in the finals. Bravo-Young will see 133-pound favorite in top-seed Daton Fix of Oklahoma State, while Brooks will face NC State’s Trent Hidlay, a Mifflin County High School graduate.

RBY picked up a 4-1 victory over Virginia’s Louie Hayes in the quarterfinals before winning 5-3 over Virginia Tech’s Korbin Myers in the semifinals.

In a rematch of the 184-pound Big Ten finals, Brooks beat Nebraska’s Taylor Venz, 9-4, in the quarterfinals. Brooks finished the day by topping Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen, 6-4.

3. A pair of freshmen will earn their first medals of the NCAA Tournament in 197-pounder Michael Beard and heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet. Both will be wrestling for seventh place on Saturday.

Both Beard and Kerkvliet started the day with losses in the quarterfinals. Beard was knocked off by No. 26 seed Jake Woodley of Oklahoma, 8-3, while Kerkvliet fell to heavy favorite Gable Steveson of Minnesota, 9-4.

Beard and Kerkvliet rebounded with a win in the consolation brackets to get themselves on the podium Saturday. Beard beat South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan by a 9-1 major decision, while Kerkvliet also picked up a major decision over Oklahoma State’s Austin Harris, 13-5. Both Nittany Lion freshmen lost in the next round of consolations to drop into the seventh place bout.

4. Brady Berge had a wonderful start to his tournament on Thursday by picking up a pair of wins at 157, including a 3-2 upset win over Iowa’s Kaleb Young in the second round. But his season came to an abrupt end on Friday in the quarterfinals against Rider’s Jesse Dellavecchia.

Berge injured his right leg in the first period of the quarterfinal bout and had to injury default to Dellavecchia. He also had to medical forfeit to Oklahoma State’s Wyatt Sheets in the consolations, just one match away from becoming an All-American.

It’s a tough way to see an otherwise good season end for Berge. He finished the year at 10-3 in his junior season.

5. Along with Berge and Joe Lee, who was eliminated from the 165-pound bracket on Thursday, 125-pounder Robert Howard also did not place. Howard dropped into the consolation bracket Thursday night, and started off Friday on a good note with a 9-7 win over UT Chattanooga’s Fabian Gutierrez.

However, Howard’s run at a placement bout ended in the third round of consolations as he was pinned by Minnesota’s Patrick McKee in 2:04.

The medal round session begins at 11 a.m. Saturday and will air on ESPN2. The finals start at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Individual recaps, from GoPSUSports.

133: Bravo-Young, the No. 2 seed at 133, took on No. 3 Korbin Myers of Virginia Tech in the first of Penn State’s four national semifinal bouts. Bravo-Young took a quick lead with a takedown just :40 into the bout. Myers escaped to a 2-1 score and action returned to neutral. The Lion junior carried that one-point lead into the second stanza. Myers chose down to start the second period and Bravo-Young was able to keep control for :25 before the Hokie escaped to a 2-2 tie. The tie score held for the remainder of the period and the bout moved to the final stanza deadlocked. Bravo-Young chose neutral to start the third period. Bravo-Young darted in on a fast low shot, snagged Myers’ ankle, and pulled both feet into control for a takedown at the 1:05 mark. The swift move put the Lion up 4-2. Bravo-Young kept control of Myers and built his riding time edge up over 1:00. Young managed a late escape but Bravo-Young, with riding time, notched the 5-3 win and advanced to the national finals.

141: Nick Lee, the No. 2 seed at 141, met No. 3 Sebastian Rivera of Rutgers in the semifinals. Lee looked to set a fast pace early.  The Lion senior forced Rivera into defense for the first minute-plus, with a number of fast shots that the Knight had to step away from. Rivera countered a Lee shot late and took a 2-0 lead with a takedown in front of the Rutgers bench.  Trailing by two, Lee chose down to start the second period. Lee escaped to a 2-1 score and then picked up a stall point on a second Rivera stall to tie the bout at 2-2 with :50 on the clock.  Lee rolled through a low double to take a 4-2 lead a the :45 mark. Lee maintained offensive control for the rest of the period and led 4-2 after two. Rivera escaped to start the third period and cut Lee’s lead to 4-3.  Lee scrambled away from a Rivera shot to force a reset with :40. Lee finished off the bout with a strong takedown and rolled Rivera to his back for two near fall points.  He finished the match on top and, with riding time, moved into the national finals with a 9-3 victory.

174: Starocci, the No. 3 seed at 174, faced off against No. 2 Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley in the semis. Starocci battled Romero in the center circle for the opening minute-plus. The Lion freshman shot Romero to the edge of the mat but Romero defended the effort. The first period ended in a scoreless tie. Starocci chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead. The duo then worked the middle of the mat on their feet for the rest of the second period and the Lion freshman led by one after two. Romero chose down to start the third period and Starocci made the decision work his way. The Nittany Lion freshman was dominant in the offensive position, controlling Romero for the entire third period. The ride-out gave Starocci 1:47 in riding time and the Lion freshman moved to the national finals with a 2-0 victory.

184: Brooks, the No. 1 seed at 184, met No. 4 Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa in Penn State’s final semifinal match of the night. Brooks took an early lead, using a fast low single to take Keckeisen down and lead 2-1 at the 1:49 mark. The early takedown was the lone score of the opening period and Brooks carried that one-point lead into the second stanza. The Lion sophomore escaped to a 3-1 lead to start the second period. Brooks’ relentless offensive effort led to another scramble in the middle of the mat. He worked his way through the action and took a 5-1 lead with another takedown. A short rideout and Brooks entered the third period with a 5-1 lead. Keckeisen escaped to a 5-2 score but Brooks’ riding time eclipsed 1:00. Brooks gave up a late takedown and, with riding time, moved into the NCAA finals with a 6-4 victory.

197: Beard, the No. 15 seed at 197, met No. 13 Tanner Sloan of South Dakota State in his first consolation match-up. Beard turned a high single into a takedown and a 2-0 lead just over a minute into the bout. The Lion freshman then took control on offense, turning Sloan for back points and a 6-0 lead at the 1:05 mark. Beard finished the period on top and led 6-0 with 2:00 in riding time after one. Sloan chose down to start the second period but Beard controlled the action, riding Sloan out to lead 6-0 with 4:00 of riding time after two periods. Beard chose top to start the final period. With the riding time point clinched, he went to work in neutral. Beard picked up a final late takedown and, with 5:03 in riding time became an All-American with a 9-1 major decision. Beard took on No. 7 Rocky Elam of Missouri in the conso quarters. Elam notched a takedown in the first late in the period to lead 2-0 after the opening stanza. The Tiger escaped to start the second stanza and added a second takedown to carry a 3-0 lead into the final period. Elam added a final score and Beard dropped into Saturday’s seventh-place bout with a 5-0 decision.

285: Kerkvliet, the No. 9 seed at 285, battled No. #29 Austin Harris of Oklahoma State in his first consolation bout. The Lion big man dominated the opening period. Kerkvliet notched two textbook takedowns to lead 4-2 with over 1:00 in riding time after the opening three minutes. He added a third takedown in the second stanza and upped his lead to 6-3 with two minutes left. The third period was all Kerkvliet. Kerkvliet put on an offensive show in the third. He tallied three takedowns to up his lead to 12-5 and added a riding time point to post the 13-5 major decision. The win earned him All-American honors. He then took on No. 4 Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State in the conso quarters. Kerkvliet opened up the scoring with a quick takedown and led 2-1 out of the gates. But the Sun Devil countered that early burst with two takedowns of his own and led 7-4 after the opening period. Schultz extended his lead to 10-4 after two periods with an escape and a takedown. Kerkvliet cut into the lead early in the third with an escape and a takedown but Schultz answered with a final takedown down the stretch to post the 14-8 victory. The loss dropped Kerkvliet into Saturday’s seventh-place bout.

157: Junior Brady Berge (Mantorville, Minn.), the No. 12 seed at 157, was unable compete after being injured in his prior match and ended his NCAA tournament run with a 2-1 record, including a major.  Berge went 10-3 this year.

125: True freshman Robert Howard (Cranford, N.J.), the No. 23 seed at 125, went 2-2 at 125 and had his tournament end during session three. Freshman Joe Lee (Evansville, Ind.), the No. 23 seed at 165, went 0-2 in his first tournament appearance.

Nick Lee is the 15th four-time All-American in Penn State wrestling history.  Bravo-Young is the 32nd three-time All-American in Lion history.

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