In the COVID-19 era, any college athlete might be out of action in a moment’s notice. That turned out to be the case once again in Penn State’s first home dual meet in over a month on Sunday afternoon against Indiana.
Out of four returning national champions to the team, two of them were out of the lineup on Sunday in 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young and 141-pounder Nick Lee.
Despite missing two of the bigger guns and being down 11-6 at the halfway point, the Nittany Lions still managed to come away with a 29-11 victory over the Hoosiers. The second half of the lineup went 5-0 and had bonus points in every weight from Creighton Edsell (165), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184), Max Dean (197), and Greg Kerkvliet (285).
“You want to keep separating yourself from the competition as best as you can,” said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. “It’s more about your attitude and thinking about the team than just trying to win a match and that kind of mentality.”
“We always find a way,” said Brooks. “They’re my teammates and I’m huge fans of them, but I’m also huge fans of all my teammates.”
Hildebrandt’s opening act
Drew Hildebrandt started off the match in his Rec Hall debut by coming away with a 6-2 win. Hildebrandt has already been getting A-plus remarks from his new teammates, including Brooks calling Hildebrandt ‘a beast.’
“We’re excited to have him on the team. I can’t state that enough,” said Sanderson.
With Bravo-Young and Lee out, the Nittany Lions had a pair of wrestlers bump up a weight class. Local wrestler Baylor Shunk jumped from 125 to 133, while Brandon Meredith went from 133 and wrestled 141 on Sunday.
Both had tough jobs giving up weight. Shunk, a Penns Valley graduate, which is a half hour away from Penn State, was downed by technical fall by Indiana’s Brock Hudkins.
Meredith, also giving up a good amount of weight, was decisioned 9-4 by Cayden Rooks.
“We had some guys that were thrown in at the last second,” said Sanderson. “I suspect we’ll have that, not just in college wrestling, but in all of college sports for a little while. I was happy they were willing and able to jump in and wrestle.”
There is still plenty of season to go, and Sanderson is never the kind of coach that will get too high or too low. But after Sunday’s match, he offered as much of a future outlook for the rest of the season as you will get out of him.
“We’ve got a pretty darn good team this year,” said Sanderson. “These guys are tough. It’s up to them how good this team will be. It’s not anything the coaches are going to do as long as we don’t screw them up.”
Anything is possible in this era that we’re living in, but there probably aren’t many Nittany Lion fans that are ready to doubt him.
Penn State, which improved to 10-0 on the season, hosts Rutgers next Sunday at 5 p.m. and will be televised on one of the ESPN family of networks.
125 – Drew Hildebrandt made his Rec Hall debut on Sunday afternoon after opening his career with a pin on Friday night at Maryland. Although it wasn’t quite as impressive as Friday night, Hildebrandt was never in any real danger of losing. He recorded a takedown in the first period, an escape in the second, and a reversal in the third while racking up 2:01 of riding time in a 6-2 victory.
133 – Local product Baylor Shunk, just down the road from State College at Penns Valley High School, filled in for national champion Roman Bravo-Young on Sunday. Shunk, normally a 125-pounder, looked out-gunned wrestling a weight class up in a backup role. Indiana grad student Brock Hudkins had two sets of four near fall points in an 18-3 technical fall over Shunk.
141 – Another national champion in Nick Lee, but also another absence. Brandon Meredith filled in for Lee at 141. Both Bravo-Young and Lee wrestled on Friday night. Like Shunk, Meredith was also wrestling up a weight class. Again, he did what he could, but was also out-manned in a 9-4 loss to the Hoosiers’ Cayden Rooks.
149 – Tied 2-2 near the end of the second period, Beau Bartlett got a takedown at the buzzer to go up 4-2 on Indiana’s Graham Rooks. That turned out to be the key moment in the match. Bartlett also added an escape to start the third period. Although he gave up a takedown with 20 seconds left, it was enough for Bartlett to take a 6-4 win.
157 – PSU head coach Cael Sanderson said this past week that it looks like Tony Negron is the clear starter right now at 157, and it looks like he will be the guy for the foreseeable future after starts on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The inexperience is still there, however, for Negron. Indiana’s Derek Gilcher got an escape and a takedown in the second period while racking up 1:31 of riding time to beat Negron, 4-1.
165 – After three state losses at the Collegiate Duals in Florida in December, PSU 165-pounder Creighton Edsell took a step up again this weekend. Edsell had a decision on Friday night, and thanks to four back points in the third period and 2:23 of riding time, Edsell picked up an 11-3 major decision over Indiana’s Sammy Cokeley.
174 – Carter Starocci is a machine. The sophomore from Erie got three takedowns in the first period before turning the Hoosiers’ Sean Grim for a pin in 2:07 to electrify the Rec Hall crowd.
184 – This was a trickier matchup than fans may think. Some will remember that Indiana’s D.J. Washington beat Starocci in the dual meet last year at 174 for one of his two losses last season. Washington got the initial takedown to start the match against another national champion in Aaron Brooks. Brooks recovered nicely with four takedowns and 3:31 of riding time to get a 13-4 major decision over Washington. Brooks also brought the crowd to its feet after attempting a throw near the edge of the mat in the second period.
197 – The Nittany Lions’ Max Dean and Indiana’s Nick Willham had a low-scoring battle in this one. Willham did well to keep Dean off the board as much as he could. But at the end, Dean was the more talented wrestler. The Cornell transfer used three takedowns and just over a minute of riding time to get a 9-1 major decision.
285 – Just like Sanderson likes his wrestlers doing, Greg Kerkvliet put up points in a hurry in this bout. Kerkvliet sealed the dual meet with a 21-3 technical fall of Indiana’s Jacob Bullock. Kerkvliet had four takedowns two sets of four back points in two periods of wrestling.
Penn State 29, Indiana 11
125 – Drew Hildebrandt (PSU) dec. Jacob Moran (I), 6-2. (3-0)
133 – Brock Hudkins (I) tech. fall Baylor Shunk, 18-3 5:30. (3-5)
141 – Cayden Rooks (I) dec. Brandon Meredith (PSU), 9-4. (3-8)
149 – Beau Bartlett (PSU) dec. Graham Rooks (I), 6-4. (6-8)
157 – Derek Gilcher (I) dec. Tony Negron (PSU), 4-1. (6-11)
165 – Creighton Edsell (PSU) maj. dec. Sammy Cokeley (I), 11-3. (10-11)
174 – Carter Starocci (PSU) pinned Sean Grim (I), 2:07. (16-11)
184 – Aaron Brooks (PSU) maj. dec. D.J. Washington (I), 13-4. (20-11)
197 – Max Dean (PSU) maj. dec. Nick Willham (I), 9-1. (24-11)
285 – Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) tech. fall Jacob Bullock (I), 21-3 4:59. (29-11)