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PSU wrestling: Lions have four in finals at Big Tens, in 2nd place behind Iowa in team race

Photo by Penn State Athletics (Mark Selders): Nick Lee

Penn State will have four wrestlers in the finals Sunday at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships, taking place this weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center.

PSU’s finalists are: Roman Bravo Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184). The Nittany Lions advanced four to the semifinals, and all four wound up winning to reach the finals.

Iowa leads the team standings with 126.5 points, while Penn State is second with 111.5.

Iowa has six wrestlers in the finals, so the No.1 Hawkeyes are in strong position to win the team title. No. 2 Penn state can still rack up a lot of points in Sunday’s final session, but so can Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ depth is outstanding, which is the reason they’re not only favored to win this tournament, but also the NCAA championship this season.

PSU qualified nine wrestlers for the NCAA championships, in every weight except 149.

Here are the team totals, from Track Wrestling:

1: Iowa 126.5

2: Penn State 111.5

3: Nebraska 88.0

4: Michigan 76.0

5: Purdue 67.0

6: Northwestern 63.5

7: Ohio State 63.0

8: Minnesota 62.5

9: Michigan State 61.0

10: Rutgers 35.0

11: Illinois 25.5

12: Wisconsin 23.5

13: Indiana 22.0

14: Maryland 2.0

Here’s a look at who Penn State wrestlers will face in the finals. From the Big Ten:

133 lb. Champ Final: No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) vs. No. 2 Austin DeSanto (IOWA)

141 lb. Champ Final: No. 1 Jaydin Eierman (IOWA) vs. No. 2 Nick Lee (PSU)

174 lb. Champ Final: No. 1 Michael Kemerer (IOWA) vs. No. 3 Carter Starocci (PSU)

184 lb. Champ Final: No. 1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) vs. No. 6 Taylor Venz (NEB)

Both Starocci and Lee earned dramatic victories in the closing seconds of sudden victory to reach the finals.

Starocci scored two points in the final seconds to beat Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola, 3-1, late Saturday night to reach the finals. Labriola came in undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation, but Starocci got him with a late takedown for the victory.

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Lee earned a thrilling 8-6 victory in the semifinals over Rutgers’ Sebastian Rivera, scoring two points in the closing seconds of sudden victory to advance to the finals.

“That was a fun match,” Lee said of the win on BTN. “I appreciate it from my opponent, too.”

WATCH: Below is Nick Lee’s dramatic victory in the closing seconds of sudden victory for an 8-6 win to reach the finals.

Bravo-Young won his semifinal match over Northwestern’s Christopher Cannon, 8-3.

Brooks won his semifinal match over Rutgers’ John Poznanski, 10-2.

Some match recaps from earlier in the day, from GoPSUSports.

133: Junior Roman Bravo-Young (Tucson, Ariz.), the top-seed at 133 pounds had a first-round bye.  Bravo-Young, ranked No. 3 nationally by InterMat, met Purdue’s Jacob Rundell in the quarterfinals. The Lion junior picked up an early takedown to open up a 2-0 lead.  He built up over 1:30 in riding time before Rundell escaped, then finished off the period with a takedown to lead 4-1 with 1:43 in riding time after one.  Rundell escaped to start the second period and Bravo-Young ended the period with another takedown to lead 6-2 after two. Bravo-Young would add on one more takedown and a riding time point to roll into the semifinals with a 9-3 win.  The win also clinched a trip to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis two weeks hence.

141: Senior Nick Lee (Evansville, Ind.), the No. 2 seed at 141, also had a first-round bye.  Lee, ranked No. 2 nationally by InterMat, met Ohio State’s Dylan D’Emilio in the quarterfinals. Lee scored right off the whistle to open up an early 2-0 lead.  He added a second takedown less than :30 later and turned D’Emilio for four back points to lead 8-1. Lee added a two-point tilt and another four-pointer to lead 14-1 after the first.  He ended the match quickly in the second, reversing D’Emilio and posting a 16-1 technical fall at the 3:12 mark. Lee’s win moves him into the semifinals tonight and also punches his ticket to NCAAs.

157: Junior Brady Berge (Mantorville, Minn.), the No. 5 seed at 157 took Illinois’ Johnny Mologousis in the opening round.  Berge, ranked No. 8 in the nation by InterMat, scored quickly, taking the Illini down in the opening seconds. He added two more takedowns in the first period and led 6-2 after one.  The Lion junior led 10-4 after two periods off two more takedowns and had 3:00 in riding time.  Berge added a takedown and a riding time point to roll to a 13-4 major decision over Mologousis and advance to the quarterfinals.  He met No. 7 Kendall Coleman of Purdue in the quarterfinals.  Berge and Coleman battled in neutral over the first three minutes with neither wrestler making a dent offensively. Berge chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead that he carried through the period. Coleman escaped to start the third period and the bout was tied 1-1 but Coleman quickly moved in on a low shot to take the Lion down, opening up a 3-1 lead with 1:35 on the clock. Berge escaped to a 3-2 score with 1:10 left but could not counter with his own takedown and dropped into consolation action in session two.

174: Freshman Carter Starocci (Erie, Pa.), the No. 3 seed at 174, faced Philip Spadafora of Maryland in the first round.  Starocci, ranked No. 4 at 174 by InterMat, opened up a big lead in the first period off two takedowns and a stall point.  Leading 5-2, he chose down to start the second period, quickly escaped and then ended the match with just seconds left in the middle stanza, pinning Spadafora at the 4:47 mark.  He took on No. 6 Kaleb Romero of Ohio State in the quarterfinals. In a rematch of the 2-1 (tb) bout won by Starocci earlier this year, this match-up began with Starocci fighting off an early Romero shot on the outside circle for nearly :30.  Starocci forced a stalemate and the first period ended in a scoreless tie.  Starocci escaped to start the second period to lead 1-0.  He fought off another solid Romero shot and led by one after two periods.  Romero chose down to start the third period and the Lion freshman took advantage.  He controlled the action from the top position and rode Romero for the entire third period.  Starocci’s strong work in the third stanza led to a 2-0 victory with 1:52 in riding time, a spot in the Big Ten semifinals and a trip to the NCAA Championships.

184: Sophomore Aaron Brooks (Hagerstown, Md.), the top-seed at 184, had a first-round bye.  Brooks, last year’s Big Ten Champion and ranked No. 1 in the country by InterMat, took on No. 16 Nelson Brands of Iowa in the quarterfinals. Brands countered an early Brooks shot to lead 2-1 at the 2:35 mark. Brooks picked up his first takedown with 1:40 on the clock and Brands escaped quickly to a 3-3 tie midway through the opening period.  Tied, Brands chose down to start the second period and escaped to a 4-3 win.  Brooks took an injury time and Brands chose down at the restart, quickly escaping to a 5-3 advantage. Another injury timeout and Brands escape put the Hawkeye up 6-3.  Brooks quickly took him down at the :45 mark and cut the lead to 6-5 with. Brand escaped one more time and led 7-5 after two. Brooks chose down to start the third period and rolled through a reversal to tie the bout briefly before Brands escaped to an 8-7 lead. Brooks was undaunted.  He lifted the Hawkeye at the waist, took him to his back and opened up a 13-8 lead with the takedown and four nearfall points.  Brooks finished the bout on top and, with 2:59 in riding time, posted the 14-8 come-from-behind victory to roll into the semifinals and earn a bid to the NCAA Championships.

197: Freshman Michael Beard (Pottstown, Pa.), the No. 7 seed at 197, met Billy Janzer of Rutgers in round one. Beard, ranked No. 15 by InterMat, scored midway through the opening period to lead 2-0.  He maintained control of Janzer for the rest of the period and carried that lead with 1:37 in riding time into the second period. Beard took a 3-0 lead with a quick escape to start the second period.  Janzer picked up a late takedown and Beard escaped to lead 4-2 with 1:17 in riding time after two. Janzer escaped to start the third period.  Beard fought off a slight Janzer shot, forced a stalemate, and then drove through a high single for a takedown and a 6-3 lead, with the time point clinched. Beard’s 7-3 decision moved him into the quarterfinals where he took on No. 2 Myles Amine of Michigan.  Amine scored early in the period, opening up a 2-1 lead after a quick Beard escape. Beard took a 3-2 lead with a fast high double and Amine escaped to tie things up with :50 left in the opening period. Amine escaped to a 4-3 lead to start the second period.  Down by one, Beard escaped to a 4-4 tie to start the third period and the bout resumed tied in neutral. With :30 left, Beard took Amine down to take a lead but Amine quickly reversed the Lion and tied things up at 6-6.  The bout moved into sudden victory where Amine secured the 8-6 (sv) win with a takedown, sending Beard to consolation action in session two.

285: Freshman Greg Kerkvliet (Grove Heights, Minn.), the No. 7 seed at 285, took on Jack Heyob of Northwestern in the opening round.  Kerkvliet, ranked No. 6 by InterMat, took Heyob down early, taking a 2-0 lead just :06 into the bout.  He cut the Wildcat loose with 1:48 on the clock and quickly took the Wildcat down a second time. Kerkvliet would total three first period takedowns to lead big after the opening stanza.  Kerkvliet added on two takedowns and an escape to lead 11-3 after two periods.  The Lion freshman continued to work on top in the third period and rolled to a lopsided 16-5 major decision with 4:47 in riding time.  His win pushed him into the quarterfinals where he took on No. 2  Mason Parris of Michigan.  Parris notched the first takedown of the bout to lead 2-0. Parris got hit with a stall at the 1:35 mark but maintained offensive control for the rest of the period and led by two with 1:58 in riding time after the opening period.  The second-ranked Wolverine added another takedown in the second period and led 4-0.  Kerkvliet took Parris down to cut a 5-0 lead to 5-2 but Parris would work his way through the rest of the period and posted an 11-3 major, knocking Kerkvliet into session two’s consolation action.

125: True freshman Robert Howard (Cranford, N.J.), the No. 11 seed at 125 took on Eric Barnett of Wisconsin in the opening round.  The Lion freshman notched a takedown out of the gamest and took a 2-0 lead out of the gates.  Barnett countered with a takedown to tie the bout at 2-2, all within the first minute. Barnett maintained control for the rest of the period and Howard was tied 2-2 after one, but Barnett had 1:32 in riding time to his side. Barnett chose down to start the second period and escaped to a 3-2 lead, but his riding time edge was gone.  The score held into the third period and Howard chose neutral to start it.  The Lion freshman was not able to break through Barnett’s defense during the period  and dropped a 3-2 decision. He took on Maryland’s Zach Spence in his first consolation match-up. He used two takedowns and two back points to open up a 8-2 lead after the opening period.  Howard upped his lead to 10-3 after two and rolled to a 16-4 major with 3:45 in riding time, moving into the second round of consolations.

149: True freshman Beau Bartlett (Tempe, Ariz.), the No. 11 seed at 149, battled sixth-seed Michael Blockhus of Minnesota in the opening round.  Bartlett, ranked No. 10 by InterMat, fell behind 2-1 early on a quick takedown by Blockhus and trailed by one after the opening period. He chose down and quickly escaped to a 2-2 tie to start the second period but Blockhus countered with a takedown to up his lead to 4-2 at 1:10. Bartlett escaped to a 4-3 score and trailed by one after two.  The Gopher senior added a final escape point in the third and Bartlett dropped a 5-3 decision in his Big Ten tournament debut.  He took on Maryland’s Michael North in consolation action and made short work of the Terrapin for his first Big Ten tournament win.  Bartlett locked North up and quickly took him to his back.  After just seconds of work, the Lion freshman got the fast fall, getting a pin at the 0:55 mark and advancing into the second round of consolations.

165: Freshman Joe Lee (Evansville, Ind.), the No. 6 seed at 165 met Jonathan Spadafora of Maryland in the first round. Lee, ranked No. 15 nationally by InterMat, scored quickly to take a 2-0 lead right out of the gates.  The Lion freshman built up a sizeable riding time edge before Spadafora escaped and Lee led 2-1 with 1:49 in riding time after one period. He took down to start the second period and scrambled his way to a reversal and a 4-2 lead with 1:30 on the clock.  Spadafora added a late scrambling takedown and tied the match up at 4-4 after two.  The Terrapin chose down to start the third period and escaped to a 5-4 lead but Lee had the riding time point clinched.  Lee worked the bout to extra time but gave up a takedown early in the extra period and dropped a 7-5 (sv) decision.  He took on Wisconsin’s Josh Otto in his first consolation bout. After a scoreless first period, Lee escaped in the second but gave up a takedown to Otto.  Lee escaped to tie the bout 2-2 after two and then finished off the win with a late takedown in the third period.  Lee’s 4-3 victory moved the Lion along in consolation action.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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