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Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Goes 5-for-7 in Big Ten Finals

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Cael Sanderson

College Park, Maryland— The noise after Braeden Davis’ 125-pound finals could have rivaled the level of a Bryce Jordan Center match with a crowd that was about 50 percent Penn State fans;

That continued the rest of the finals session as the Nittany Lions went 5-for-7 in the Big Ten finals on Sunday evening at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.

Penn State captured the Big Ten championship with 170.5 points. Michigan was second with 123.5 points, while Nebraska was third with 118 points.

Davis was joined by Levi Haines (157), Mitchell Mesenbrink (165), Aaron Brooks (197), and Greg Kerkvliet (285) as Big Ten champions. Beau Bartlett (141) and Bernie Truax (184) lost their finals bouts.

“They show out,” said Brooks of PSU wrestling fans. “I’ve been very blessed to wrestle at Penn State. They make wrestling really fun.”

“Coming to Penn State was awesome. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” Mesenbrink said. “I was up there watching Penn State guys, and now I’m a Penn State guy, and that part is really cool.”

In the consolation bouts, both Aaron Nagao (133) and Tyler Kasak (149) both went 2-0 on Sunday to finish in third place at their respective weights.

Carter Starocci (174) had to injury default in both of his matches on Saturday. He will be very likely to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships in Kansas City in two weeks.

Mesenbrink’s rally

It didn’t look great for Mesenbrink against Dean Hamiti in the beginning. Mesenbrink was down 9-2 early in the second period, but got a takedown just before the end of the second period to make it 9-6. Hamiti reversed early in the third period, but Mesenbrink exploded for a takedown and three back points to get a 13-11 victory for the match of the evening.

Mesenbrink was also named Freshman of the Year.

“He’s a beast, man. He can just go, go, go,” said Haines of Mesenbrink. “I didn’t doubt it for a second. The way he wrestles, it’s just a matter of time.”

Mesenbrink still kept things in perspective after the match, despite remaining undefeated and probably earning himself a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s not too much about the outcome. Whatever would have happened in this tournament, it’s about getting better,” Mesenbrink said. “After nationals in two more weeks, the season is over. And then it’s on to Olympic trials, so it’s about just getting better.”

Davis’ road to the finals

Davis probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite to win the 125-pound bracket. He came in as the sixth seed, and was aided by top-seeded Matt Ramos of Purdue and No. 2 Drake Ayala of Iowa being upset in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

But Davis put together a dream weekend for a true freshman, which culminated in an 8-1 victory over No. 4 Patrick McKee of Minnesota.

“It doesn’t matter if they have five years ahead of me,” Davis said. “I just keep going out there and try to win.”

Starocci not at arena

Starocci apparently left College Park after injury defaulting twice on Saturday. He sent out a cryptic tweet late Saturday night thanking Penn State.

PSU coach Cael Sanderson insisted that him and Starocci are ‘good,’ and he may be ready for nationals in a couple weeks.

“He has to get healthy, and I think he’s close,” Sanderson said. “You have to take care of what’s in front of you.”

Does seeding matter?

It’s common sense that the Nittany Lions will have plenty of high seeds at NCAAs in a couple weeks. The NCAA at-large bids come out on Tuesday with the pre-seeds coming on Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see where someone like Davis will end up at in seeding. He came in to the tournament at 19-2 and a No. 6 seed, but rattled off four wins.

But does it matter to Davis where he is seeded?

“It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same,” Davis said. “I think the 125 weight class just proves that even more. This has been happening the entire year.”

Haines, who had a bruise under his eye from his semifinal match on Saturday night, echoed Davis’ sentiment.

“You just go in there and you’re going to wrestle five matches and see what happens,” Haines said.

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