Penn State wrestling took to the The City of Brotherly Love on Sunday to compete in the 23rd annual Keystone Classic.
Unsurprisingly, the Nittany Lions ran away with the team title for the third consecutive year, scoring an almost unfathomable 192 team points and winning eight individual championships with nine finalists.
While there was very little drama in terms of the team race, Penn State did learn a bit about its lineup going forward.
We didn’t learn much of anything at 125 where we continue to wait for the debut of Brody Teske. Both Justin Lopez and Devin Schnupp went 2-2 for PSU and failed to place.
Roman Bravo-Young continued to pillage the 133-pound division early in his career. RBY only wrestled two matches thanks to a first-round bye and semifinal injury default win, but in those matches he picked up a first-period fall and a 24-9 technical fall to claim the title.
Nick Lee, still sporting a pretty bulky knee brace, went 5-0 on the day with two falls, two tech falls and a 17-9 major decision in the finals over Duke’s Josh Finesilver.
Our first bit of intrigue came at 149 pounds where both Brady Berge and Jarod Verkleeren were drawn on the bottom side of the bracket. Berge grabbed two tech falls and a major decision en route to the semis, while Verkleeren had a fall and two majors.
The two teammates squared off in the semifinals and Verkleeren took a 1-0 lead in the first period after an escape following injury time for Berge. The two found themselves in a scramble position and Berge appeared to tweak his knee but continued in the match. They then exchanged escapes in the second and third periods to give Verkleeren a 2-1 lead.
Both wrestlers had a pair of good shot attempts but couldn’t finish in to keep it 2-1 late in the third, but with time running down Berge was able to put Verkleeren into danger, get a count and come up with two points with just a second remaining on the clock to claim a 3-2 victory.
Berge would then default out of the finals, likely do to the earlier knee issue, and Verkleeren wrestled back to fourth place. While Berge may start the next dual against Bucknell, it’s likely that nothing is settled until January’s Southern Scuffle.
Jason Nolf grabbed the top spot at 157 with three falls and a major decision victory over former Penn State turned Rider wrestler Gary Dinmore.
At 165, Vincenzo Joseph was utterly dominant, going 5-0 with four falls and one tech fall to take the top spot. He dominated No. 20 Ebed Jarrell of Drexel 20-5 in the finals.
Mark Hall took the top spot at 174 but wasn’t the most convincing in doing so. Hall picked up a pair of pins in his opening bouts, but then won 4-0 in the semifinals and just 6-4 in the finals. That being said, his finals opponent was No. 17 Matt Finesilver of Duke. Regardless, Hall will have to bring much more than he did today if he wants a chance to beat Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia both in the dual and at NCAAs.
Unlike Hall, Shakur Rasheed looked fantastic in his first tournament at 184. Rasheed, as he’s wont to do, picked up three falls, all in the first period, and a 15-0 tech fall to win the championship at 184. He’s also yet to concede a point this year in five matches. I’m not sure whether Rasheed has what it takes to topple Ohio State’s Myles Martin for the title in March, but I do think he may well be Martin’s toughest challenger.
Bo Nickal wrestled just three matches and went 3-0 with two falls and one major decision. He thoroughly defeated No. 11 Stephen Loiseau of Drexel in the finals, 18-4.
Lastly, we had heavyweight where Nick Nevills made his season debut and joined Anthony Cassar on the top side of the bracket. Both had first round byes to the quarterfinals. In his debut match, Nevills picked up a 21-6 tech fall, while Cassar advanced to the semis with a pin at the 1:20 mark.
In the semifinal, Cassar looked fantastic. He used three takedowns and a point for riding time to take a 7-2 win, the largest margin of defeat for Nevills since his loss to Adam a year ago.
Cassar then rolled past No. 18 Joey Goodhart of Drexel 11-3 in the finals, while Nevills wrestled back for third.
While I’d expect that battle to continue until the second semester as well, it appears for now that it’s Cassar’s position to lose.