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Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling Takes Opening Dual Meet Over Lehigh

Carter Starocci, Penn State Wrestling
Photo by NCAA: Carter Starocci

Sunday afternoon’s lineup in the Penn State wrestling opening dual meet of the season might be a long way from what the finished product might look like in March.

Nonetheless, it was still the same old song and dance for the Lions.

PSU took a 25-11 advantage in takedowns, while getting bonus points in five of the seven wins for the day in a 30-10 victory over Lehigh at Rec Hall.

Regular starters Robbie Howard (125), Shayne Van Ness (149), and Aaron Brooks (197) all sat out the match.

Carter Starocci, who is continuing his ways as a buzzsaw through all competition at 174 pounds, was the Ridge Riley award winner after getting a first period pin of the Mountain Hawks’ Thayne Lawrence.

Mitchell Mesenbrink and Bernie Truax got a technical fall at 165 and 184, respectively, while Beau Bartlett (141) and Greg Kerkvliet (285) both picked up major decisions.

Tyler Kasak, who wrestled for Van Ness, picked up a 7-5 win.

Beard returns to Rec Hall

Former Penn State wrestler Michael Beard, now at Lehigh, returned to Penn State and had an impressive display in front of the former home crowd.

Beard picked up a 20-6 major decision over backup Lucas Cochran, who was competing for Brooks on the day.

Beard was an All-American his freshman year at Penn State in 2021, finishing in seventh place at 197 pounds. After transferring to Lehigh, he got back to the NCAA Championships last season and finished one win shy of becoming an All-American again.

“Mike was here for two or three years, and he did an awesome job when he was here,” PSU coach Cael Sanderson said. “He was an All-American as a freshman. He’s a very good wrestler, as you saw today. Nothing is personal or anything. It’s not a good way to go about long-term success. We’re happy for Mike. He kicked our butt today.

“The whole Lehigh program is one of my favorite teams outside of Penn State. I like those guys. They’re good people. They do things the right way. They always compete hard. We always have tough matches with them. Today was no exception.”

Nagao upset in Rec Hall debut

It was the first time wrestling in a Rec Hall dual meet for five PSU wrestlers – Aaron Nagao, Kasak, Mesenbrink, Truax, and Cochran.

The five went 3-2 on the day with Nagao being knocked off by Lehigh’s fifth-ranked Ryan Crookham, 6-4, at 133. Crookham needed just two takedowns in the second period to pick up the upset, even though Nagao picked up a riding time point in the bout.

“I think Aaron will be fine,” Sanderson said. “It’s a tricky match against a tough opponent. I’m glad we were able to get that match now, and give us an opportunity to get better-prepared in the future. Aaron is as solid as they come. He’ll be perfectly okay.”

‘Extra energy’

Speaking of the first time wrestling in a Rec Hall dual, both Truax and Mesenbrink were taken aback by the atmosphere that a Penn State crowd brings to a meet.

Truax was a transfer from Cal Poly, which obviously wouldn’t bring the same type of crowd as Penn State. But it was still a lot for even a three-time All-American to digest.

“The energy in there was so different compared to a lot of places I’ve wrestled,” said Truax. “I was excited, but I was nervous. Carter (Starocci) had just wrestled his match, and everyone was standing up and celebrating. I felt extra energy. It was a lot of fun going out there and competing.”

Mesenbrink is a redshirt freshman that spent last year at Cal Baptist. He’s from Wisconsin, and had never seen a dual meet in Rec Hall, even as a fan.

“The first time I ever got to be here for a dual, and I’m wrestling in it, it was really cool,” he said. “I always wanted to wrestle for Penn State. It was kind of overwhelming to take it all in after the match.”

Next up

Penn State hosts Hofstra next Sunday at 1 p.m. back at Rec before taking an extended break for the holidays.

Penn State 30, Lehigh 10

125 – Sheldon Seymour, L, dec. Gary Steen, PSU, 4-1.

133 – Ryan Crookham, L, dec. Aaron Nagao, PSU, 6-4.

141 – Beau Bartlett, PSU, maj. dec. Carter Bailey, L, 14-6.

149 – Tyler Kasak, PSU, dec. Drew Munch, L, 7-5.

157 – Levi Haines, PSU, dec. Max Brignola, L, 12-6.

165 – Mitchell Mesenbrink, PSU, tech. fall Jake Logan, L, 18-2 6:13.

174 – Carter Starocci, PSU, pinned Thayne Lawrence, L, 2:23.

184 – Bernie Truax, PSU, tech. fall Jack Wilt, L, 19-4 7:00.

197 – Michael Beard, L, maj. Dec. Lucas Cochran, PSU, 20-6.

285 – Greg Kerkvliet, PSU, maj. dec. Nathan Taylor, L, 11-1.

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