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PSU wrestling commentary: There’s no shame in second place

Photo by Penn State Athletics (Mark Selders): Greg Kerkvliet

I have no doubt that Penn State probably isn’t interested in moral victories. Not with the state that the program has had for the last 12 years since Cael Sanderson was hired.

Many Nittany Lion fans won’t like to hear it, but the fact of the matter is very easy to see: Iowa is just better this season.

Why shouldn’t they be? They’re a veteran lineup from top to bottom, and they came away with four Big Ten champions on Sunday. There isn’t a spot in their lineup that can be viewed as a weakness.

I know many people like to throw around the word ‘choke’ in the postseason when it comes to Iowa. I hate that word when it comes to sports, and there just wasn’t going to be any choking when you have a lineup like the Hawkeyes do this season.

The good news for Penn State is they’re heading that way, too. Roman Bravo-Young and Aaron Brooks are Big Ten champions, Brooks for the second time, and the first for RBY.

After those two guys, the Nittany Lions only had two more wrestlers in their postseason lineup that weren’t freshmen: Nick Lee and Brady Berge. Everyone else is a freshman, including a runner-up at 174 in Carter Starocci.

I’m going to say something else that Penn State fans probably don’t want to hear: Nittany Lion fans have been spoiled over the last decade. The likes of David Taylor, Bo Nickal, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Mark Hall, and Ed Ruth don’t come around all the time. Some programs never see those guys. Some programs may see those types of wrestlers come around once every 25 years.

Some of those athletes go to Iowa like Spencer Lee or Michael Kemerer. Some of those athletes go to Ohio State like Sammy Sasso, even when they’re in Penn State’s backyard like all three of those guys. Lee and Kemerer are both from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, and Sasso is from Nazareth.

It just isn’t going to happen every single season, even when it seems like it has been every season. In most sports when you start six freshmen, you’re looking at talking about a rebuild.

That’s not what is happening here. Five of the six freshmen that wrestled for Penn State this weekend placed in the tournament.

You know what’s even more exciting? This is a free year for college athletes. People like Starocci and heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet are still redshirt freshmen, even after all the promise and potential they showed this season.

People like Nick Lee might get another shot at Jaydin Eierman, who are both seniors, if both decide to come back for another year of eligiblity. And why wouldn’t they? It’s not like there are millions of dollars to collect in wrestling next season like there would be if they were football or basketball players. Maybe a few wrestlers will decide it’s time to move on, but the vast majority of them will be back.

Oh, and by the way, there was a time not too long ago where everybody wasn’t sure if wrestling season was possible this year.

This just isn’t the year to be complaining about second place.

After all, the lineup that was put out there this weekend is going to look pretty similar next season, and for a few years after next season in some cases.

It’s not the end of a dynasty. It might just be the reload of one.

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