Penn State will send four wrestlers to the Big Ten Wrestling championship round on Sunday in Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174), and Aaron Brooks (184).
Iowa has a 15-point lead over Penn State, 126.5-111.5 after Saturday’s action. Nebraska is in third place with 88 points.
Here are five things to know for the Nittany Lions before Sunday’s final two sessions, which start with consolation semifinals and seventh place matches at noon:
Don’t kid yourself: All four finals matches for Penn State are going to be a dogfight once 4 p.m. comes around. Bravo-Young, Lee, and Starocci will all be wrestling Iowa opponents in Austin DeSanto, Jaydin Eierman, and Michael Kemerer, respectively. The 133 and 141-pound matchups are both the top two seeds, while Kemerer and Starocci is a 1 vs. 3 match. Those three matchups could still be crucial to what the final team standings look like at the end of the day.
Brooks is the top seed at 184, but he is wrestling one of the surprises in the tournament in Nebraska’s Taylor Venz, who is seeded sixth. Venz ran roughshod over his three opponents on Saturday, getting a pin, and getting a pair of seven-point victories over Michigan State’s third-seeded Layne Malczewski and second-seeded Christopher Weiler of Wisconsin. Venz has put up quite an impressive tournament, and an upset over Brooks could put him in the running for Outstanding Wrestler.
Speaking of surprises: Venz isn’t even the lowest seed to reach the finals. There will be two 7-seeds that will wrestle in the championship on Sunday in Purdue 125-pounder Devin Schroder and Nebraska 149-pounder Ridge Lovett. All of the top seeds made the finals.
In the grand scheme of things, everything wrestlers did in the regular season really doesn’t matter once you hit the postseason. It is part of what makes March so great in the college wrestling world.
Penn State still has four alive in the consolation round: There’s Robbie Howard, Brady Berge, Michael Beard, and Greg Kerkvliet. All can still place as high as third, and none can do worse than sixth place. Don’t underestimate how much of an impact those guys can still make through the wrestlebacks.
Joe Lee fell in the consolation quarterfinals late Saturday night and will wrestle for seventh place on Sunday.
Tough day: It was a tough one for Beau Bartlett, who is now out of the tournament after going 1-2. You have to have a lot of respect for a guy who moved up a weight to get into the starting lineup, and still turned in a solid year with an 8-3 record as a true freshman. We’ll see if he can get an at-large bid to NCAAs when they are released later this week.
Slow start: Things didn’t look good for Penn State a couple hours into Saturday’s action. Not only did Bartlett lose in the first round, but Joe Lee was also upset in the first round. Penn State was in fourth place after the first session, but comfortably found its way to second place by the end of the night.
Don’t worry, Nittany Lion fans. The team championship isn’t over yet, even with Iowa sending six to the finals. Just don’t hold your breath.