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Penn State Wrestling: 7 Punch Ticket to Nationals in Big Ten Tournament’s First Session

Penn State wrestling is looking to win another national championship
Photo by Penn State Athletics: Cael Sanderson

The first session of the Big Ten Tournament has concluded, and Penn State wrestling experienced ups and downs. All wrestlers are still alive even if they lost one of their matches and will compete in the consolation bracket later this evening. 

The action started with 125-pounder Gary Steen, who took on Maryland’s Braxton Brown. Brown had won their previous match by a 1-0, but Steen was not as lucky this time. Brown steamrolled Steen with a 14-0 major decision. Steen will see Michigan’s Jack Medley Michigan tonight.

Roman Bravo-Young and Beau Barlett received byes through the first two rounds as the one and two seeds in their respective brackets. The 133-pounder RBY’s first match was with former Penn State wrestler Brody Teske, now at Iowa, who RBY pinned in their meeting in January. RBY won the rematch by major decision, 13-2, giving Penn State its first win and bonus points of the morning. 

At 141, Bartlett met Michigan’s Cole Mattin in his first action. Bartlett had previously bested Mattin 7-2, and today’s match was much of the same, with Bartlett winning 4-2. RBY and Barlett clinched their spots in the national championship tournament in Tulsa.

At 149, Shayne Van Ness was the first Penn State wrestler to have two matches in the morning session. First up was Illinois’ Jake Harrier, who SVN beat by major decision (16-4) for some needed team bonus points. He advanced to wrestle a fresh Max Murin of Iowa, who won by injury default in his first bout. Murin won the first meeting 4-1, so SVN had his work cut out. Murin proved too much for the rookie, and Van Ness fell 4-2. Despite the loss, SVN will continue his tournament tonight.

Levi Haines was the next rookie sensation up for Penn State as the No. 2 seed in the 157-pound bracket. After his two byes, Haines had the No. 10 Derek Gilcher of Indiana, who upset No. 7 seed Michael Carr in his first bout. Haines had bested Gilcher 8-2 in their duel matchup, so he was also the favorite here. After seven minutes of fine action, Haines won by decision 6-0 to advance.

The last of the Penn State rookies in the morning session was Alex Facundo at 165 pounds. Facundo breezed past Purdue’s Stoney Buell in his first match 7-2, setting up a rematch with Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla. Kharchula was looking for revenge after he lost to Facudno 4-1 in the duel meet, and he got it. Kharchula had the match’s only takedown and won by decision, 3-1. Facundo will fight back in the consolation bracket this evening.

Penn State’s three returning national champions, Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184) and Max Dean (197), were in their usual form, all winning their matchups and punching their tickets to nationals tournament. Starocci had a 10-2 major decision victory over Troy Fisher of Northwestern, Brooks had a technical fall victory over Brian Soldano of Rutgers, 18-2, and Dean won by decision, 2-0, against Minnesota’s Michial Foy.

Finally, heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet wrapped up the first session for the day against Ohio State’s Tate Orndorff. Kerkvliet took care of business with an easy 9-1 major decision and now has Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi in the semis. There was one notable upset in the heavyweight bracket as number four seed Lucas Davidson lost in sudden victory to Trent Hillger of Wisconsin. If Hillger could have a good scrap with top-seeded Mason Parris, that could be the key to Kerkvilet coming out on top with his first Big Ten championship.

Overall, Penn State wrestling leads all schools with seven semi-finalists. Here’s a look at the team score standings: 

T-1. Iowa & Penn State- 63.5

3. Minnesota – 51.5

4. Ohio State – 45.5

5. Nebraska – 45

6. Michigan – 43

T-7. Northwestern & Wisconsin – 23

T-9. Illinois & Indiana & Michigan State – 15.5

12. Purdue – 13

T-13 – Maryland & Rutgers – 3

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