STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The expectations are high for Penn State wrestling.
That’s nothing new, but head coach Cael Sanderson underscored that point after the No. 2-ranked Nittany Lions’ 32-7 blowout of Army at Rec Hall on Thursday night.
“I think we wrestled fine,” Sanderson said. “I don’t think we wrestled out of our minds or anything. Army came in here and the have some of the toughest people on the planet in that institution and on that wrestling team. They did a nice job and wrestled hard. They were in shape. Strong kids.”
Army took two matches on the evening, at 141 and 157 pounds. At 141, the Lions were without NCAA champion Nick Lee, who was scratched. Of the regular lineup, the only loss was at 157 pounds. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do.
“We’ve just got to keep getting better as we press forward through the season,” Sanderson said, before finally conceding that it was a strong performance as a team. “But I think the guys, for the most part, wrestled well.”
The expectations are just as high for the fanbase. The sellout crowd, back in Rec Hall for the first time, was involved from a cell phone lighted introduction to a standing ovation at the final whistle, but Sanderson wants more from the 6,000 strong in the stands, as well.
“I thought it was quiet,” he said. “We’ve got to get some noisemakers out. Plant some rowdy fans out there. People are excited to get back into Rec Hall. It’s great to be back here. It is kinda crazy when you think it has been a while.”
Sanderson also noted that it was the first time many of his wrestlers had performed in front of such a crowd or nearly any crowd after a pandemic-impacted 2020-21 season.
“It’s good to wrestle in front of a crowd,” he said. “We have some loyal, hardcore fans. We’re greatful for them.”
• Lee was replaced by Brandon Meredith at 141 pounds. The reigning NCAA champ suffered a minor injury last week, but is expected to return soon, according to Sanderson.
“I wouldn’t tell you that if it wasn’t something he’ll be back from soon, but you saw him tweak something in his last match,” Sanderson said. “You saw him running around, bouncing around. He’ll be back soon.”
The Lions are off for the Thanksgiving holiday, giving Lee plenty of time to heal up. They’ll next take to the mats at Penn on Friday, Dec. 3.
• Meredith is in the process of dropping from 141 pounds all the way to 125 to provide competition for Baylor Shunk, and getting out of the way of NCAA champs Lee at 141 and Roman Bravo-Young at 133. He weighed in at 133 pounds before wrestling up a class against Corey Shie, ranked No. 29 in the class. Meredith tied the match late in the third period, but couldn’t hold on and ride Shie, giving up an escape that put the Black Knight ahead.
“He weighed 133 and wrestled up and put up a good fight, I would say,” Sanderson said. “He’s just a little undersized there. He did a nice job. Good effort.”
• Sanderson emphasized riding after the Lions’ last weekend of matches, and it came up again in both of the team’s losses Thursday, at 141 pounds and again at 157, where Terrell Barraclough was ridden for the entire second and third periods in a 9-0 loss.
“I told Terrell to go down (in the second period), so that was my mistake,” Sanderson said. “Obviously, his opponent was very comfortable in the top position. We knew that. But yeah. I think that’s just a position we’ve got to play with.”
MAX’S MEAT-FUELED MUSCLE
Max Dean has moved up from 184 to 197 and spent much of the summer working out and taking up a hobby that isn’t exactly one that wrestlers are known for: grilling. Dean has become the barbecue pit master of the team, hosting backyard get together to build team togetherness, and at least in his case, help pack on some protein.
It seems to be working. Dean threw around J.T. Brown, scoring three four-point near falls. He’s happy with the technical fall that came as a result, but said, especially at a higher weight class, he’d like to turn some of those into pins.
“I’d love to get some falls,” Dean said. “You just never know where you’re going to get in a match, if you’re wrestling someone that’s real flexible or strong. If you’re tech-ing guys, that’s a good problem to have, but I’d like to get some falls.”
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Beau Bartlett’s bout at 149 pounds was the only that couldn’t be decided in regulation. He and P.J. Ogunsanya were deadlocked at 1-1 through the first three periods, with each wrestler scoring an escape. Bennett was cautious in his approach throughout the match, but found an opportunity with just 25 seconds left in the sudden victory period.
“In the beginning of the match, you’re looking to score, but you have time,’ he said. “Towards the end, it’s like, OK, I have to score right now or else he’s going to score. I was still looking for a takedown the entire time. Towards the end of the match, I started to feel it a little bit better.”
The narrow, low-scoring victory is the start of a trend for Bartlett, who had a 1-0 victory last week. He wants to keep building on his offense going forward, while keeping his defense strong.
“If I continue to get one extra take down each week …,” he posited with a smile. “Obviously, that’s not how things work, but these small things here and there, I’m very optimistic about what can happen.”
Baylor Shunk (1-1) vs. Ryan Chauvin (1-2). Shunk controlled the match, with takedowns in each of the first two periods to build a huge lead in riding time. He almost needed it after Chauvin scored a takedown on the edge of the mat in the third period, but Chauvin was able to earn a reversal and never looked back.
Shunk wins, 8-4. Penn State leads, 3-0.
No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young (2-0) vs. Dominic Carone (3-0). Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the RBY take down clinic. Bravo Young scored 10 points on five first-period takedowns to build a 10-4 lead, then completed the same feat in the second period, going up 20-8 after two with a takedown in the final seconds of the second period. Carone fought hard through the third period to keep it from being a tech fall, but Bravo-Young wouldn’t be denied.
Bravo-Young wins, 26-11. Penn State leads, 8-0.
Brandon Meredith (0-0) vs. No. 29 Corey Shie (2-1). Meredith was listed on the card at 125 pounds, but wrestled up two classes against the nationally-ranked Shie. The Penn State crowd responded with a “Let’s Go Brandon!” chant that is sure to draw some attention. Meredith got a third-period takedown to tie the score at 2-2, but Shie escaped and held on for a narrow win.
Shie wins, 5-2. Penn State leads, 8-3.
No. 27 Beau Bartlett (2-0) vs. No. 20 PJ Ogunsanya (3-0). Bartlett escaped in the second. Ogunsanya escaped in the third, with Bartlett at 45 seconds of riding time. No one was able to mount any other offense until the sudden victory period, when Bartlett scoring a single-leg take down with 25.9 seconds remaining.
Bartlett wins, 3-1. Penn State leads, 11-3.
Tyler Barraclough (0-0) vs. No. 32 Markus Hartman (0-3). This is match where it looked coming in that Army would have an edge, and that proved to be the case, as a four-point second period by Hartman proved way too much for Barraclough to overcome. Barraclough chose the down position at the start of the second period after Harman returned and never recovered, with Hartman riding him to four near-fall points in each the second period and the third and a clean sweep four minutes of riding time.
Hardman wins, 9-0. Penn State leads, 11-7.
No. 32 Creighton Edsell (2-0) vs. Christian Hunt (1-2). Hunt looked to try to milk a first-period takedown into a narrow victory, choosing neutral in the third period with a 2-1 lead. But Edsell completed a lengthy single-leg takedown with just about 20 seconds remaining in the final period and was able to hang on for one-point decision.
Edsell wins, 4-3. Penn State leads, 14-7.
No. 1 Carter Starocci (2-0) vs. Clayton Fielden (2-1). Starocci took down Fielden three times in the first period, and did some damage with the third, scoring a four-point near fall to take a 10-4 lead. After a quiet second, Starocci went back to taking Fielden down and letting him back up. With 20 seconds left, Starocci made his move, landing a double and four back points to secure the technical fall.
Starocci wins, 23-5. Penn State leads, 19-7.
No. 1 Aaron Brooks (2-0) vs. No. 28 Brad Laughlin (3-0). Laughlin scored seven points. They were all escapes, about half of them Brooks freely conceded. As long as they were on their feet, Brooks could take Laughlin down as much he wanted, but he never made a strong concerted effort to turn the West Point senior. A broken headgear strap was the only thing that slowed him down.
Brooks wins, 21-7. Penn State wins dual, up 23-7.
— Penn State WRESTLING (@pennstateWREST) November 19, 2021
No. 4 Max Dean (2-0) vs. No. 21 J.T. Brown (2-1). While Bravo-Young and Brooks put up takedown clinics, Dean was dominant on the mat, turning Brown over for three near falls, including two four-point near falls in the third period for a tech fall 6:49 in.
Dean wins, 17-1. Penn State leads, 28-7.
No. 5 Greg Kirkvliet (2-0) vs. Brandon Phillips (2-1). Kirkvliet nearly had the pin in the first, looking for a wing and bar before Phillips wriggled free. He settled for a many take downs as he could muster and five full minutes of riding time.
Kirkvliet wins, 14-3. Penn State wins, 32-7.
Penn State will visit Penn in Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. No broadcast information has been released for that bout. The Lions will return to Rec Hall on Sunday, Dec. 5 for a 2 p.m. meet against Lehigh.