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Penn State Wrestling: Breaking Down This Weekend’s Most Intriguing Possible Matchups

Penn State Wrestling
Photo by NCAA: Roman Bravo-Young

Penn State wrestling has four top-seeded wrestlers in this weekend’s Big Ten Championships at The University of Michigan. They are Roman Bravo-Young (133), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184), and Max Dean (197).

Also collecting a No. 1 seed are Iowa’s Spencer Lee (125) and Real Woods (141), Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso (149), Nebraska’s Peyton Robb (157), Wisconsin’s Dean Hamiti (165), and Michigan’s Mason Parris (285).

Penn State wrestling is probably the favorite to win the team title over Iowa. The question is: will it get everybody qualified for the NCAA Championships in two weeks?

The only real concern about advancing to Tulsa for NCAAs for Penn State is 125-pounder Gary Steen. Steen is ranked 11th in the Big Ten at 125. He’s struggled in his redshirt freshman season to a 6-12 record. The Big Ten is allocated nine spots in the NCAA Championships. Steen will have to finish higher than his seed. There are four at-large bids at 125. But it’s unlikely that Steen would get a spot if he doesn’t qualify this weekend.

Bravo-Young is the heavy favorite at 133, but could have an interesting matchup in the finals with Ohio State’s Jesse Mendez. Mendez is 13-3 on the season and got the No. 2 seed at Big Tens as a freshman. He held Bravo-Young to an 8-2 decision in this season’s dual meet.

At 141, PSU’s Beau Bartlett is the No. 2 seed and will have a good shot to wrestle Woods in the final. Woods, a Stanford transfer who was twice a PAC-12 champion, beat Bartlett, 4-1, in the dual meet.

Penn State’s Shayne Van Ness is seeded fifth at 149 pounds in a rugged bracket. Van Ness will likely see Central Cambria graduate Max Murin of Iowa in the quarterfinals. Murin edged Van Ness in the dual meet. A solid performance from Van Ness through the wrestlebacks could help Penn State immensely in the team race.

Penn State’s Levi Haines didn’t become the full-time starter at 157 until halfway through the season, and he’s made the most of his time on the mat with an 18-1 record and a No. 2 seed this weekend. He didn’t see the top-seed in Robb at all this season. Robb is 23-0 thus far.

Penn State’s Alex Facundo is seeded fourth at 165 pounds as a freshman and could be a darkhorse to make a run at the title. He didn’t wrestle the top-seeded Hamiti in the dual meet, but he has a win over Michigan’s No. 2 seed Cameron Amine. Facundo fell to No. 3 seed Patrick Kennedy of Iowa in a tiebreaker.

Starocci, Brooks and Dean should all have more than reasonable chances at titles. An interesting matchup could be Starocci and Illinois’ 5th-seeded Edmond Ruth at 174 in the quarterfinals. Edmond Ruth is the brother of former PSU star Ed Ruth. Ed is now an assistant coach at Illinois.

PSU heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet is the No. 2 seed in a true toss-up for a title between the top three seeds. Parris and Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi are all more than capable, and all three have beaten each other at some point in their careers. Kerkvliet lost to Parris in the regular season but beat Cassioppi.

Saturday’s action will begin at 10 a.m. with Session 1, followed by Session 2 at 5:30. Both sessions Saturday will be televised on Big Ten Network. Sunday’s will begin at 1 p.m. on BTN+, and the final session will be at 4:30 p.m. back on Big Ten Network.

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