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Penn State Wrestling: 5 Takeaways From Team’s Title-Clinching Win

Here are five takeaways from Penn State wrestling clinching its fourth straight Big Ten regular-season championship Sunday against Nebraska.

PENN STATE WRESTLING: CLOSER THAN EXPECTED

Penn State wrestling wining a dual meet generally isn’t newsworthy. Penn State winning a dual meet by single digits, well, that’s a different story. Penn State is known to make good teams look terrible, but that just wasn’t the case against Nebraska. By the midway point, Nebraska had a 10-6 lead.

“I think it was business as usual,” Carter Starocci said. “Usually, I’m not in the locker room at the break, but I went in today, just because everybody else was. But, I think we were fine. Even though at the break, we were down at the half… I think we can beat that team a lot worse, but we’ll just keep getting better. Like coach said, our best wrestling’s going to be at the national tournament, so that’s our main focus.”

But Penn State cranked it up on the second half, winning four of the last five matches. But before halftime, one of Penn State’s five No. 1 wrestlers did his thing.

 

PENN STATE WRESTLING: LEVI FLYING HIGH

Levi Haines’ coming out party was last March against Nebraska’s Peyton Robb. Robb came into the Big Ten championship match at 157 pounds the No. 1 wrestler in the country for his weight class.

Haines, then a true freshman for Penn State wrestling, upset Robb, then beat him again later in the month in the NCAA Semifinals. Almost a year later, Haines, who’s No. 1 at 157, was the heavy favorite against Robb, ranked No. 7. Haines started slow, trailing 1-0 late in the second period, but got it going and ended up almost majoring Robb, winning 10-3. Haines’ win gave Penn State good vibes going into the second half of the dual meet, and those good vibes continued for the rest of the late afternoon at Rec Hall.

“I don’t think that was necessarily him breaking,” Haines said. “I just kind of hit my groove, and doing what I do,” said Haines on the ease of scoring those takedowns. “Coach told me to go out there and keep getting angles. If you do that, guys get tired, so it allows you to open them up.”

Unfortunately for Penn State, not every wrestler had a great day individually.

PENN STATE WRESTLING: A ROCKY STRETCH FOR FRESHMAN PHENOM

Coming into the month, it seemed like Braeden Davis could do no wrong. The freshman 125-pounder won his first 13 matches and was expected by many to roll over Ohio State’s Vincent Kilkeary Feb. 2. But Davis escaped with a 4-3 win that many felt he didn’t deserve due to a a controversial ruling near the end of the bout. The next week, Davis suffered his first loss at Iowa against a top-five opponent in Drake Ayala. Three days later, Davis got back in the win column, but again, there was controversy due to instant replay not being available.

Sunday, No. 6 Davis took on No. 13 Caleb Smith, and not only lost, but gave up bonus points for the first time in his career. But if Sanderson’s concerned about Davis, he didn’t express it in his post match presser.

THE RETURN OF CARTER

Monday’s BJC dual meet against Rutgers was missing a few things. It wasn’t on a Friday night, which is usually the case, and it wasn’t against what most would probably consider a marquee opponent (no disrespect to Rutgers, but it isn’t Ohio State, Michigan or Iowa). This year’s BJC dual meet also didn’t have Carter Starocci. Well, Starocci was there supporting his teammates, but due to sickness, didn’t compete. He was back Sunday, and gave a reminder to anybody that needed one that he’s the best at 174, and maybe the best pound for pound wrestler in the country.

Starocci tech falled his opponent, scoring a fantastic 20 points and conceding just four (he still hasn’t allowed a takedown). Next month, Starocci has a chance to become the first Penn State wrestler ever to win four national titles, and Aaron Brooks could join him soon after.

“You probably wouldn’t want to be next to me when I’m not wrestling,” Starocci said. “I’m not very happy. But it’s just one of those things, I mean, I’ve realized that I’ve matured just understanding that, again, your best wrestling’s in March and (I’m) kind of just focused on that. But it’s not a good feeling not being out there wrestling, especially seeing your guys suit up and stuff like that, and you’re kind of just laying low. But, if things escalate outside (the mat,) I’ll be right there.

BERN, BABY, BERN

True freshman Tyler Kasak gave No. 1 Ridge Lovett all he could handle at 149. Bernie Truax did the same at 184. Truax, ranked No. 6, did the same with No. 3 Lenny Pinto. Truax ended up falling, 8-6, but had Pinto on his heels until the dying seconds, when he was denied what the Rec Hall faithful felt should have been a takedown. Truax has been in solid form since being pinned by Ohio State’s Ryder Rogotzke earlier this month, and although he fell short on the scoreboard, there’s reason to be encouraged heading into crunch time.

 

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