Mark Hall led a skeleton crew of Penn State wrestlers into action at Sunday’s Army West Point Invite.
The Nittany Lions, who were without Brady Berge, Vincenzo Joseph, Shakur Rasheed, Anthony Cassar, crowned four champs and took second to the hosts in the team race .
Berge is still recovering from a head injury suffered at the U23 World Championships. Joseph was competing in freestyle at the Bill Farrell Memorial Invitational, trying to qualify for Olympic Trials in March. Cassar, who was supposed to join him, did not compete, and Rasheed is still recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Hall, Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee and Jarod Verkleeren claimed tournament championships.
At 125, Brody Teske looked the best of he, Brandon Meredith and Devin Schnupp. Teske took third with a major decision and tech fall. His lone loss came to No. 11 Drew Hildebrandt of Central Michigan, who won the weight.
Bravo-Young looked solid, notching two major decisions in three matches. Lee was awesome, picking up two falls and a tech before narrowly missing a major in the final.
Up at 149 we had a ton of intrigue. Luke Gardner started the first dual of the season, he went 2-1 with a major decision and a solid win over PJ Ogunsanya of Army, who could well be an NCAA qualifier. Verkleeren won the tournament, going 3-0 with a fall, a 6-1 win, and a 3-2 finals win over Gardner. In the semifinals Verkleeren scored his six points off a headlock and struggled to find anything else from his feet. Gardner still appears like the best option right now in a vacuum.
Bo Pipher and Paul Feite both sturggled a bit at 157, with the former taking fifth and the latter not placing. Konner Kraeszig was a pleasant surprise at 165. The redshirt freshman walk-on went 3-1 with a pair of major decisions to take third. His lone loss came to No. 12 Cael McCormick of Army.
Mark Hall dominated at 174, going pin, pin, major decision en route to a title. Creighton Edsell once again filled in at 184 for Rasheed. He went 2-2 and took fifth.
Things are officially interesting at 197. After a lackluster showing in the dual against Navy, Kyle Conel went 1-1 and then injury defaulted out. In his only win, he needed tiebreakers to takeout Jaron Smith of Maryland, who is 20-18 in four years at Maryland, to win 2-1. Conel is one of my favorite people in all of college wrestling, but in a year where the title race will be close and the dual streak is on the line, I have to wonder how long you can wait before giving Michael Beard a chance.
Penn State did not send a heavyweight, since redshirting wrestlers could not compete.