Penn State clinched the Big Ten dual meet championship with a 21-13 win over Nebraska in a Sunday matinee dual meet at Rec Hall.
The Nittany Lions are now 16-0 on the season with one non-conference dual meet to go against Rider in two weeks. That meet will conclude the regular season, and the Big Ten Tournament will be on March 5 and 6.
“I think it’s great. These guys should be proud and excited,” said PSU head coach Cael Sanderson. “They did a great job. A lot of our bigger duals were on the road this year, too. Even going back to November when guys were out for sickness, these guys found a way to win those matches. Everyone has had that opportunity to step up and help the team. That’s what it’s going to take to win the national and the Big Ten with a great team effort.”
“I’m happy for the team,” said Nittany Lion 184-pounder Aaron Brooks. “Our team gets more confidence with each dual. We find a way.”
One of the talking points that fans will harp on over the next number of weeks through the postseason is the officiating. Fans at Rec Hall on Sunday were less than pleased with official Matt Sorichinsky.
“I think being an official is a very difficult thing,” Sanderson said. “I think we had one of the better officials in the NCAA today. It’s tough. We got hit for stalling on top and bottom. We just need to make some adjustments there.”
Backup 197-pounder Michael Beard has only seen limited time on the mat so far this season. He hadn’t seen any action since the Southern Scuffle back on Jan. 2.
In his first bout back, Beard had Nebraska No. 3 ranked Eric Schultz on the ropes. He had a 4-3 lead on Schultz in the third period, but was called for stalling twice in the period for three points to Schultz. Schultz ended up winning the match, 6-4.
That caused the fans to jeer the officiating and Schultz, who held up a hand to his ear to the Rec Hall crowd.
Although Penn State was without three starters on Sunday in Brady Berge, Carter Starocci, and Max Dean, none of them seem to be serious to the point that they may miss the postseason. Berge is not injured, but was given the weekend off as he is still managing his weight.
The injury bug kept coming in the Nebraska dual as heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet was seen limping off after the dual, but Sanderson said he thinks Kerkvliet will also be fine.
“When you win duals like this when guys are out, it shows that even the guys who aren’t the starters are going to put it on the line because we all have love for each other,” said Brooks. “It shows the bond this team has. We’re putting our faith in the next guy, and we truly have faith in him.”
The lone loss of Aaron Brooks’ career came at the hands of Nebraska’s Taylor Venz two years ago. Since then, Brooks has beaten him four times, including Sunday’s 14-4 major decision.
This one might have been his easiest victory over Venz as Brooks piled up six takedowns along with 2:15 of riding time.
“It’s out there, but I don’t really think about it too much,” said Brooks. “It’s been a couple years now. I’ve gotten better, he’s gotten better. He’s a worthy opponent. I like Taylor a lot.”
All of Penn State’s wrestling Olympians from the 2020 Olympics that were held last summer were introduced at halftime. David Taylor, who won a gold medal in Tokyo, got an especially thunderous applause from the Penn State crowd.
“It shows me that I’m in the right place,” said Brooks of Taylor’s recognition. “I’m surrounded with guys I want to be like. I think we have four Olympic champions in the room, and I want to be an Olympic champ one day.”
With only one dual meet left and a little less than a month until the Big Ten Tournament, Sanderson was asked how he will keep his wrestlers fresh with the large amount of time to prepare for the postseason.
“We’re going to be on the track a lot. It’s going to be fun,” he said. “They’ll need a fresh pair of running shoes.”
It probably depends on the wrestlers’ definition of fun.
125 – Penn State could have used bonus points from Drew Hildebrandt here, but they didn’t get it. To be fair to Hildebrandt, Nebraska’s Jeremiah Reno was doing everything he could to prevent bonus points. Reno was hit for stalling early, and so was Hildebrandt, which was questionable. Hildebrandt was never in danger of losing though, as he took a 4-0 win. It was probably a frustrating win though.
133 – Roman Bravo-Young was a takedown machine in this one. If he wanted to, he could have kept taking down the Cornhuskers’ Dominick Serrano and letting him up for an easy technical fall. He ended up getting the technical fall in the last second, but RBY could have probably had it long before then. RBY had 10 takedowns in the 23-8 win.
141 – Here is where it started to get a little tougher for the Nittany Lions. Nebraska’s Chad Red Jr. is ranked No. 8 in the nation, but Nick Lee was still up for the challenge. Lee needed just one takedown in this one to take the 4-1 win with 1:20 of riding time.
149 – Penn State’s Beau Bartlett probably won’t see many weekends like this one. Bartlett put up a good effort against Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso on Friday night and had another tough one on Sunday against the Huskers’ eighth-ranked Ridge Lovett. Bartlett looked better against Sasso on Friday night. Lovett got a takedown in the first two periods, an escape point in the second, and rode out Bartlett in the third to take a 6-0 win.
157 – This one was another mismatch for Penn State as Terrell Barraclough took the mat against No. 5 Peyton Robb. Although he was outmatched, Barraclough had a chance to win it in the end. If he had another 20 seconds, there’s a chance he gets a winning takedown against Robb. But nonetheless, it was an outstanding effort from Barraclough, who might be turning a corner at 157. Robb fought off the upset alert with a 3-2 victory. Nebraska led 11-6 at halftime.
165 – It’s good to see Creighton Edsell getting a couple starts as Brady Berge is taking the weekend off to manage his weight, as Cael Sanderson put it on Friday night. Edsell is making the most of his time on the mat, getting his second win of the weekend. Edsell beat Tahjae Jenkins-Harris, 9-2.
174 – PSU’s top-ranked Carter Starocci is nursing an injury, so Mason Manville has been the next man up for this weekend. Manville faced a Pennsylvania native in Mikey Labriola. Labriola, the No. 5 ranked wrestler at 174, took down Manville six times in the bout in a 14-4 major decision.
184 – Brooks had a couple close matches with Nebraska’s Taylor Venz last year, including a 10-5 win in the Big Ten championship and a 9-4 win in the NCAA quarterfinals. Brooks made it easier on himself this time, finishing with six takedowns and over two minutes of riding time in a 14-4 major decision.
197 – Max Dean appeared to be battling an injury on Friday night, so last year’s starter at 197 in Michael Beard got the call today against Nebraska’s third-ranked Eric Schultz. The fans also appeared happy to see Beard take the mat. Schultz was a recipient of two stall points in a 6-4 win. The fans were unhappy with this one as Schultz was booed off the mat. It was still a good showing for Beard with little mat time this season.
285 – The match wasn’t completely in the bag yet for Penn State as they held an 18-13 lead. Greg Kerkvliet couldn’t get pinned, and a technical fall would have taken it to a criteria decision. Kerkvliet didn’t even really have to sweat much as he finished off No. 12 Christian Lance, 8-2, for the 21-13 win.
PENN STATE 21, NEBRASKA 13
125 – Drew Hildebrandt (PSU) dec. Jeremiah Reno (N), 4-0. (3-0)
133 – Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) tech. fall Dominick Serrano (N), 23-8 7:00. (8-0)
141 – Nick Lee (PSU) dec. Chad Red Jr. (N), 4-1. (11-0)
149 – Ridge Lovett (N) dec. Beau Bartlett (PSU), 6-0. (11-3)
157 – Peyton Robb (N) dec. Terrell Barraclough (PSU), 3-2. (11-6)
165 – Creighton Edsell (PSU) dec. Tahjae Jenkins-Harris (N), 9-2. (14-6)
174 – Mikey Labriola (N) maj. dec. Mason Manville (PSU), 14-4. (14-10)
184 – Aaron Brooks (PSU) maj. dec. Taylor Venz (N), 14-4. (18-10)
197 – Eric Schultz (N) dec. Michael Beard (PSU), 6-4. (18-13)
285 – Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) dec. Christian Lance (N), 8-2. (21-13)
133 – Brandon Meredith (PSU) dec. Edwin Thomsen (N), 7-6.
197 – Donovon Ball (PSU) dec. Brandyn Van Tassel (N), 8-2.