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Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State vs No. 14 Arizona State

The Lions face a cross country opponent in their last dual of the year!

NCAA Wrestling: DI Wrestling Championships
He’s no Mark Hall, but anytime I can advertise a loss of an Amine brother, I’ll take it.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Hands down the best non-conference dual meet on Penn State’s schedule (since Lehigh was so banged up when they came to Happy Valley), Arizona State comes to Rec Hall with one of the toughest schedules in the sport to date, with losses to Ohio State and NC State and a win over South Dakota State on the short season. It also features one of the best matches of the year, likely a preview of the NCAA finals in March, at 174 (plus another top ten matchup at 165).

The two squads haven’t met in a dual meet since 2001, but there’s been a ton of common opponents and matchups at the tourney. The Sun Devils got into town on Wednesday (to get acclimated to the time change, or the weather?) and have been using the Lorenzo complex to train prior to the matchup - it should be a good one!

How To Watch

What: #1 Penn State vs #14 Arizona State*

Where: Rec Hall, University Park, PA

When: Friday, December 14, 6 pm

Audio: Free, Jeff “Ironhead” Byers, via GoPSUSports

Video: ESPN2


No. 1 Penn State WT No. 14 Arizona State
No. 1 Penn State WT No. 14 Arizona State
Devin Schnupp (So., Lititz, PA) 125 #7 - Ryan Milhof (Sr., Suwanee, GA) OR Brandon Courtney (Fr., Goodyear, AZ)
Roman Bravo-Young (Fr., Tucson, AZ) 133 Josiah Kline (So, Tucson, AZ) OR Josh Kramer (Jr., Buckeye, AZ)
#4 - Nick Lee (So., Evansville, IN) 141 Cory Crooks (So., Anthem, AZ)
#12 - Brady Berge (Fr., Mantorville, MN) OR Jerod Verkleeren (Fr., Greensburg, PA) 149 #11 - Josh Maruca (Jr., Murrysville, PA)
#1 - Jason Nolf (Sr., Yatesboro, PA) 157 #16 - Christian Pagdilao (Sr., Redlands, CA)
#1 - Vincenzo Joseph (Jr., Pittsburgh, PA) 165 #5 - Josh Shields (Jr., Murrysville, PA)
#2 - Mark Hall (Jr., Apple Valley, MN) 174 #1 - Zahid Valencia (Jr., Bellflower, CA)
#4 - Shakur Rasheed (Sr., Coram, NY) 184 Kordell Norfleet (So., Chicago, IL)
#1 - Bo Nickal (Sr., Allen, TX) 197 Austyn Harris (Sr., Broomfield, CO)
#5 - Anthony Cassar (Sr., Rocky Hill, NJ) OR Nick Nevills (Sr., Clovis, CA) 285 Brady Daniel (Fr., Olney, MD)

125 LBS

Prediction: Milhof by major decision

Score: PSU 0, ASU 4

133 LBS

Is this the match that causes RBY to be ranked? I hope so.

He’s not wrestled the best competition so far this year, but Bravo-Young has had some pretty darn exciting moves on the short season:

He’ll get it done this week, and in impressive fashion.

Prediction: RBY by major decision

Score: PSU 4, ASU 4

141 LBS

Nick Lee is quietly becoming one of the best wrestlers in the country at this very deep weight. And who wants to bet that pulling his shirt last January and wrestling in the 2018 tourney has something to do with that? Lee knows what he wants, and he’s going for it - and he seems so business like in doing it.

Prediction: Lee by major decision

Score: PSU 8, ASU 4

149 LBS

I still don’t know what to make of this weight now that Zain is gone. I think both Berge and Verkleeren have the talent to hang with anyone in this weight (and really, none of them would be like the fight they have in the NLWC practice room) - but can they do it? This week is the first test,

Prediction: Maruca by decision

Score: PSU 8, ASU 7

157 LBS

Jason Nolf does Jason Nolf things - even with a ranked wrestler at this weight. I predict we’ll see something from Nolf that we didn’t expect, and he’ll get the pin if he really, really wants to (but I’m not sure he’d rather not wrestle longer).

Prediction: Nolf by tech fall

Score: PSU 13. ASU 7

165 LBS

Prediction: Cenzo by decision

Score: PSU 16, ASU 7


In the 2017 NCAA tournament, Hall and Valencia met in the semifinals, since Hall was seeded fifth after losing the Big Ten final to BoJo. He beat fourth seed Zach Epperly, and then up was Valencia. It was controversial, to be sure, but Hall narrowly overcame the Sun Devil, and went onto a more decisive victory over the Buckeye in a rematch of the previous tournament’s finals.

Then came the next season. Valencia and Hall met in a preseason match that didn’t count towards their sophomore season records, with Valencia on top. Hall blew through the Big Ten season with only one loss, and faced an undefeated Valencia in the finals.

That’s all well and good, Cari, but what about this season? Well, as you might guess, I waffled a bit on this prediction. One thing I was pretty sure about: whoever loses this match wins in the rematch in March. I think the home crowd, and sleeping in his own bed, is enough for Hall to get by in December - and I hope I’m wrong about the tourney.

Prediction: Hall by decision

Score: PSU 19, ASU 7

184 LBS

I went into this season feeling like Sheed would be either boom or bust, pin or a narrow decision. So far this year, he’s proved me wrong - and I’m sure he can win in whatever position he puts himself. New hair, new year. New Shakur?

Prediction: Rasheed by major decision

Score: PSU 23, ASU 7

197 LBS

Bo was a little disappointing last weekend, but we all know he thrives on the big stage. This match, on the deuce, doesn’t come much bigger during the regular season; if not because of the opponent (Harris will be terribly overmatched), then because of how many people will be watching. Bo’s a heel for many a wrestling fan, and this week should be fun for those of us who disagree.

Prediction: Bo by fall

Score: PSU 29, ASU 7

285 LBS

I know, I know. My Cassar-is-like-Snyder-only-lite is probably still premature. But still - how great is he out there? He’s outweighed by up to fifty pounds, but this isn’t Jan Johnson in the 2015-2016 season (which was also so much fun, despite the outcomes). Cassar fits right in at this weight, and is more athletic than almost anyone he faces. He’ll be fun to watch.

Prediction: Cassar by major decision

Score: PSU 33, ASU 7

*most places have Arizona Ranked #9, which is their Intermat tournament ranking; their dual meet ranking is #14, and since this is, in point of fact, a dual, I used that.