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PSU wrestling analysis: RBY, Brooks take Big Ten titles

Photo by Penn State Athletics (Mark Selders): Roman Bravo-Young

Penn State 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young and 184-pounder Aaron Brooks won Big Ten championships on Sunday. Bravo-Young earned a 5-2 decision over Iowa’s Austin DeSanto, while Brooks racked up over four minutes of riding time to grab a 10-5 win over Nebraska’s Taylor Venz.

Also in the championship round for Penn State, 141-pounder Nick Lee fell to top-seeded Jaydin Eierman of Iowa, 6-5. At 174, Carter Starocci fell to Iowa’s Michael Kemerer, 7-2.

In addition to those in the championship round, Penn State also had seven other wrestlers place in the tournament. Greg Kerkvliet led the way at 285 with a fourth place finish, while Robert Howard (125), Brady Berge (157), and Michael Beard (197) all took sixth place. Joe Lee wrapped up the placewinners with an eighth place finish at 165.

Beau Bartlett was the lone Nittany Lion that did not place in the tournament with a 1-2 record at 149.

“We had some guys wrestle well. We had some guys wrestle not so well,” said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. “More than anything to me, we saw some great effort.”

In the team standings, Iowa ran away from the rest of the pack on Sunday, winning the conference tournament with 159.5 points. Penn State was second at 124 points, while Nebraska came in third with 105.5 points.

Below are a few notes from Sunday’s action:

– Wrestling isn’t an easy sport, but at times, it looks the exact opposite for Bravo-Young. After coming up with a pair of decisions over Purdue’s Jacob Rundell and Northwestern’s Chris Cannon earlier in the tournament, RBY only gave up two points to No. 3-ranked Austin DeSanto.

“I think I was three steps ahead of him the whole time,” said Bravo-Young after the championship match on the Big Ten Network.

It seemed clear from the manner he conducts himself that he put his finals match away rather quickly and is already focused on the NCAA Championships in a little less than two weeks.

“He wrestled well against a tough opponent,” said Sanderson. “Roman just has to keep getting better and keep finding more ways to score.”

– Aaron Brooks has already made quite the mark on the rest of the Big Ten Conference. Brooks won his second Big Ten title on Sunday, and it was already talked about on the BTN broadcast on Sunday that he could be the first wrestler ever to win Big Tens five times due to this season being a free year.

Not bad for a guy who had the rest of his tournament in question after nursing an ankle injury sustained during the quarterfinals against Iowa’s Nelson Brands.

“It feels amazing,” said Brooks. “There was some adversity, but I bounced back. It was a true test for myself. It was a great mental test for me.”

“Aaron is a tough kid,” said Sanderson. “That was a tricky moment when he was on the mat. We were trying to figure out how to get him to nationals. Does he finish the match? Can he finish the match? He decided to suck it up and not just finish the match, but win the match and go on to win the tournament. It was a gutsy performance by Aaron.”

After getting through the Brands match with a 14-8 win, Brooks major decisioned Rutgers’ John Poznanski, 10-2, in the semifinals to earn a spot in Sunday’s finals.

Brooks gave up an initial takedown to Venz in the first minute, but the sophomore battled back with a takedown and piled up nearly two minutes of riding time by the end of the first period. That turn of events clearly fueled him the rest of the way for a 10-5 win.

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– Fans probably could watch Nick Lee and Eierman wrestle every dual meet, and that would be okay with them. The match went Eierman’s way this time for a 6-5 win, but there probably wouldn’t be very many wrestling fans surprised if the two see each other again late in the tournament at NCAAs.

Lee and Eierman were tied at 5 at the end of the match, but Eierman racked up a ton of riding time in the first period to pick up the 6-5 win. It’s hard to say what could have happened had Lee had just a little bit more time. Eierman was hit for stalling twice in the third period, and he didn’t look like he was prepared to see any more action the rest of the way.

– Anybody who has paid any attention at all to Penn State wrestling this season can see the potential with Carter Starocci. He’s gone toe-to-toe with a few really good wrestlers this season, and he’s came out on top in most of them.

He met a very experienced wrestler in Kemerer on Sunday, and a four-point move late in the second period proved to be a big factor in the 7-2 decision.

Starocci is still very young and will only be made better by this experience. A redshirt freshman should always take a 3-1 record in a rugged Big Ten Tournament.

– A lot of people probably figured out what kind of talent Kerkvliet had this weekend. Most probably knew that he wasn’t in the same class as 285-pound champion Gable Steveson of Minnesota or Michigan’s Mason Parris, but there’s reason to believe he could be in that caliber after a few years of seasoning.

– Howard, Berge, and Beard all had to fight for sixth place finishes. All three are new to the tournament, and it shouldn’t be looked at as a “shrug your shoulders” type of tournament for the trio.

– Joe Lee finished eighth place after being upset in Saturday’s first round against Maryland’s Jonathan Spadafora. If there was any disappointment this week for Penn State, this would be the one.

– Iowa had four champions for the tournament, while Penn State had two. Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan, and Minnesota all had one winner each.

– The NCAA Tournament begins at 11 a.m. for all three days of competition, beginning on March 18.

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