The University of Akron’s Stile Field House was the play to be this weekend.
As it does each year, the University of Akron hosted USA Wrestling’s U23 and Cadet level (2002-3 birthdate) World Team Trials.
Penn State only had one rostered wrestler competing, but there were a number of other targets in addition that I’m sure Cael Sanderson (who was in attendance with Cody Sanderson) had his eye on.
Bravo-Young, who just arrived on campus two weeks ago, was competing at 61 kilograms (134.4 lbs) in the U23 division after missing last month’s Junior World Team Trials due to injury.
The freshman, who looks set to man the 133-pound starting spot for Penn State next season, acquitted himself well in a stacked 61kg field despite being the youngest wrestler entered at the weight.
RBY, as he’s known, received a first round bye and defeated Northern Illinois’ Drew West VSU1 (Tech fall with points scored by the opponent) 12-2 in 2:58.
In the round of 32, he picked up another victory, this time 13-2 over Menlo College’s Mikel Pirales at the 5:19 mark.
He kept the momentum rolling in the round of 16 with a 14-4 victory over Coe College’s Brock Henderson in 3:26.
The most impressive performance of the weekend came in Sunday morning’s quarterfinals against 2018 ACC champion and three-time NCAA qualifier Sean Fausz of North Carolina State.
Bravo-Young used superior chain wrestling to live on Fausz’s leg and pick up an 11-0 VSU (Tech fall without allowing points) win in 3:13.
In the semis, RBY notched a tough 4-2 win over Cornell’s Chas Tucker, who could start at 125 next season for Rob Koll.
Unfortunately, Bravo-Young ran into a bit of stumbling block in the finals when he met former Cadet World silver medalist Vito Arujau.
Arujau, who spent his last year training at Cornell’s Finger Lakes Wrestling Club and will start at 133 next season for the Big Red, got the better of RBY two-straight times in the best of three finals series, 15-4 and 10-0 thanks to a strong leg lace and then a pair of four-point moves.
In all, an impressive showing for Bravo-Young in his first action at the age group and coming off an injury.
“It was fun,” Bravo-Young said of returning to the mat. “I thought I wrestled all right. I’m only on two weeks of practice and I just moved out to Penn State. I like it there and I’ve just gotta move forward from here.”
Bravo-Young added that he thinks he’s ready to step in and man the 133-pound spot immediately for the Nittany Lions.
“I know I’m right there,” he said. “I’ve just gotta keep listening to the game plan and just know I can scrap with anyone.”
A handful of prospects to watch were impressive in making the Cadet World Team.
At 48kg (105.8), Richard Figueroa of California dominated his way through the bracket including a tech and pin in the finals. Figueroa is a FloNationals champ, a state champion this past year as a freshman, and the younger brother of women’s junior world team member Gracie Figueroa. He’s coached by Ruben Valencia, the father of Arizona State duo Anthony and Zahid Valencia.
The outstanding wrestler at the cadet level was Bergen Catholic sophomore Robert Howard at 55kg (121.2). Howard, a New Jersey state champion, downed top-ranked Trevor Mastrogiovanni (another NJ name to watch) in the quarters, 10-0 teched Missouri prospect Teague Travis in the semis and then dominated returning world team member Julian Tagg (OH) 10-1 and 4-1 to win the finals series in consecutive matches.
Carson Manville, the younger brother of PSU wrestler Mason Manville and a Wyoming Seminary (PA) product, made the world team at 65kg (143.3). Manville teched Cael Valencia (of THAT Valencia family) in the round of 16 and Kevon Davenport 8-4 in the quarters. Things got a bit dicey in the semifinals. Manville was trailing Virginia Tech commit Bryce Andonian 6-3 in the first period before stepping over on a gutwrench and getting a quick fall. He was then pinned by Fidel Mayora (IL) in the first of their best of three series, but came back to top Mayora 4-2 and 10-0 to win the series.
Alex Facundo, a freshman out of Michigan took the spot at 71kg (156.5). Facundo is a state champion and burst on the scene in the fall with a good performance at Super 32.
Erie Cathedral Prep’s Carter Starocci, a junior, took third in a loaded 80kg (176.3) bracket. Penn State is rumored to be pursuing Starocci heavily.
The last name for Penn State fans to remember is Allen Texas’ AJ Ferrari. Allen is the former home to Penn State’s Bo Nickal and Ferrari is a two-time Texas state champ as well as a Fargo champ. He claimed a spot on the team at 92kg (202.8) with 10-0 and 10-1 wins in the finals over Konner Doucet (OK). Ferrari’s younger brother Anthony finished as the runner-up at 51kg (112.4).