The Penn State wrestling team had a solid first day at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis on Thursday. Out of nine wrestlers in the tournament, eight of them are still alive with seven in Friday’s quarterfinals.
The Nittany Lions will send Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Brady Berge (157), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184), Michael Beard (197), and Greg Kerkvliet (285) all advanced in the quarterfinals. Robbie Howard (125) will try to wrestle back through the consolation rounds.
At the end of the first day, heavy favorite Iowa is in first place with 33.5 points, while Penn State follows in second place with 28 points. Missouri (23.5), North Carolina State (21) and Oklahoma State (20) round out the top five.
Here are five important things of note after Thursday’s action:
1. For as rough as Day 1 was for Penn State at the Big Ten Championships, the Lions did a complete 180 for the first day of nationals on Thursday. Howard started off with a big upset over Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman, 6-4, to avenge a loss in the dual meet with the Buckeyes. Howard dropped into the consolation bracket in the second round with a 2-1 loss, but the win over Heinselman was key.
Berge also had a big upset in the second round, knocking off Iowa’s Kaleb Young, 3-2, in the second round.
2. At 197, PSU’s Michael Beard had a drastic change in his path through the tournament when second-seeded Eric Schultz of Nebraska was pinned in the first round by North Dakota State’s Owen Pentz. Beard, a No. 15 seed, won his first match of the day by a 14-4 major decision over Navy’s Jacob Koser. Had Schultz won in the first round, he would have met Beard in the second round. Instead, Beard went on to beat Pentz, 17-8, for his second major decision of the day.
Beard now faces another Cinderella in the 197-pound bracket in Oklahoma’s 26th-seeded Jake Woodley in the quarterfinals. With a win over Woodley, Beard would guarantee himself an All-American status by placing no worse than sixth in the tournament.
3. All of the Nittany Lion low seeds in RBY, Nick Lee, Starocci, Brooks, and even Kerkvliet took care of business on the day. Bravo-Young and Lee both face 10-seeds in the quarterfinals. Starocci will have a test in a No. 6 seed, while Brooks will have a Big Ten finals rematch with Nebraska’s No. 8 seed Taylor Venz.
Kerkvliet, on the other hand, is in for his biggest test of his young career against top-seeded Gable Steveson of Minnesota in the quarterfinals.
4. For as promising of a regular season that Joe Lee had, the postseason was a disappointment for the 165-pounder. The freshman went 0-2 on the day and was eliminated from the tournament.
The 23-seed started the day with an 8-1 loss to Oklahoma State’s Travis Wittlake. Wittlake was seeded 10th in the tournament. He followed that with a 10-4 loss to No. 26 Andrew Nicholson of UT Chattanooga.
Lee is going to have a bad taste in his mouth going into the offseason, and he will have to get over it before next season. There will certainly be others looking for his job come next winter.
5. One of the biggest disappointments I saw for the day came on the officiating end. Campbell’s Josh Heil was winning 6-5 in the second round over Oklahoma State’s Boo Lewallen with seven seconds left in overtime. After a restart, the clock failed to move as the two wrestlers competed for at least five seconds. No time was removed, and Lewallen managed to get a takedown at the last second on the next restart. Had the clock started when it should have, time would have easily ran out before a takedown could be rewarded.
The NCAA Tournament Director of Officials said there was no concrete way to know how much time came off the clock.
This is very simple. It happens all the time in basketball. Use a stopwatch. This rule has to be corrected in the very near future.
It’s a shame that a wrestler from a little school like Campbell trying to make a name for himself was robbed in such a fashion.
Wresting will resume Friday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. with Session 3 and 4.
Here’s a recap of the evening bouts, from GoPSUSports.
133: Junior Roman Bravo-Young (Tucson, Ariz.), the No. 2 seed at 133, met No. 18 Kyle Burwick of Wisconsin in the second round. The Lion junior took a 2-1 lead midway through the first period and turned that into a 4-1 lead with a second takedown in the final seconds of the period. Bravo-Young notched a reversal to take a 6-1 lead and ended the second stanza with another late takedown to carry an 8-2 lead into the third period. Burwick chose down to start the third period and Bravo-Young worked his riding time edge up over 1:00. Bravo-Young used a late takedown in the third period and 1:22 in riding time for an 11-3 major decision, another Penn State bonus point victory.
141: Senior Nick Lee (Evansville, Ind.), the No. 2 seed at 141, met No. 15 Clay Carlson of South Dakota State in round two. Lee took a 2-0 lead just :20 into the bout, added a second takedown and two back points to jump out to a 6-1 lead in the first minute. He forced Carlson into a stall warning and finished off the period with a 6-2 lead. Lee escaped to start the second stanza and rolled into another takedown just :15 into the second. He picked up a stall point and finished the period with an 11-2 lead and 2:28 in riding time. Lee tacked on one more takedown in the third and, with a gaudy 4:06 in riding time, rolled into the quarterfinals with a 14-3 major decision.
157: Junior Brady Berge (Mantorville, Minn.), the No. 12 seed at 157, met No. 5 Kaleb Young of Iowa in the second round. Berge scored quickly, using a high shot to take Young down to a 2-0 lead just :40 into the bout. The Lion junior countered a late Young shot and nearly scored again as the period ended but time ran out and Berge led 2-1 after one. Young tied the match at 2-2 with an escape to start the second stanza, the only scoring of the period. Berge chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 3-2 lead. Berge fought off a deep Yong shot with :55 on the clock and maintained his one-point lead as the clock moved under :30. The Lion junior finished the match in neutral and roared into the quarterfinals with a 3-2 victory over the fifth-seeded Young.
174: Freshman Carter Starocci (Erie, Pa.), the No. 3 seed at 174, faced off against No. 14 Hayden Hastings of Wyoming in round two. Starocci scored quickly, taking a 2-0 lead with just under a minute gone. The Lion freshman built up over 1:00 in riding time, cut Hastings loose, and added a late takedown to lead 4-1 after one period. Hastings picked up an escape in the second period but not before Starocci had over 2:00 in riding time and led 4-2 after two. Starocci escaped to start the third period and added on a final takedown to finish off the third period in control. His 2:13 in riding time added one more to his tally in an 8-2 victory that moved the freshmen into the quarterfinals.
184: Sophomore Aaron Brooks (Hagerstown, Md.), the No. 1 seed at 184, took on No. 17 Owen Webster of Minnesota in the second round. Brooks and Webster battled evenly for over 2:00 before Brooks’ constant pressure led to a takedown and a 2-0 lead for the Lion sophomore. Brooks finished the period on top and carried that lead with :56 in time into the middle period. Brooks picked up a quick escape to start the second period and led 3-0. He led 4-0 after two thanks to a stall point. Webster chose down to start the third period but Brooks dominated the action. He maintained control for the entirety of the period and, with 2:53 in riding time, rolled into the national quarterfinals with a 5-0 win.
197: Freshman Michael Beard (Pottstown, Pa.), the No. 15 seed at 197, met No. 31 Owen Pentz of North Dakota State in the second round. Beard dominated the first period. The Nittany Lion freshman collected four takedowns in the opening three minutes, scoring often and building up over 1:00 in riding time to lead 8-4 after one. Beard continued the offensive show in the second period, picking up two more takedowns (including one in the final seconds) to lead 12-6 heading into the third period. Beard finished off the major decision with two more takedowns and 1:32 in riding time to post the 17-8 major decision and advance to the quarterfinals.
285: Freshman Greg Kerkvliet (Grove Heights, Minn.), the No. 9 seed at 285, battled No. 8 Jordan Wood of Lehigh in the second round. Kerkvliet nearly scored on a fast low shot at the whistle but Wood was able to skip away. Kerkvliet kept up the pace and got a takedown at 1:30 and led 2-1 after the opening three minutes. Kerkvliet quickly escaped to a 3-1 lead to begin the second period and added another takedown. The Lion freshman led 5-1 after two periods. Woods chose down to start the third and Kerkvliet worked his riding time edge up over 1:00 with strong work on top. He turned Woods for four back points and led 9-2 with 1:17 in time as the clock moved below 1:00. Kerkvliet added a final takedown and 1:32 in riding time to rush into the quarterfinals with a 12-2 major decision.
125: True freshman Robert Howard (Cranford, N.J.), the No. 23 seed at 125, took on No. 7 Taylor LaMont of Utah Valley in his second-round match-up. Howard and LaMont wrestled through an even minute-plus to start the bout. Each wrestler had slight chances but quick defense on both sides sent the bout to the second period tied 0-0. LaMont escaped to a 1-0 lead to start the second, the only scoring of the middle stanza. Howard looked to answer that escape in the third period but LaMont was able to maintain control until the :25 mark. Howard escaped but 1:26 in riding time allowed LaMont to escape with a 2-1 victory and send Howard into the wrestle-backs.
165: Freshman Joe Lee (Evansville, Ind.), the No. 23 seed at 165, took on No. 26 Andrew Nicholson of Chattanooga in his first consolation bout of the tournament. Nicholson notched a takedown quickly in the bout but Lee reversed the action right away and tied the bout. A quick Moc escaped and Lee trailed 3-2 at the 2:15 mark. Lee to a 4-3 lead with a takedown midway through the period and Nicholson escaped to a tie. Nicholson took a 7-4 lead in the second with an escape and a takedown, finishing on top in the period. The Moc added a quick takedown in the third and picked up a riding time point to hand Lee a 10-4 loss, ending the Penn State freshman’s tournament run. Lee went 0-2 in his first NCAA tournament.