Greeting from sunny Phoenix, Arizona where in just a handful of hours Penn State’s top-ranked wrestling team will put its dual win streak on the line against a feisty Arizona State team led by two-time national champion Zahid Valencia.
The Nittany Lions come into this one with lineup questions left and right and some potential injury holdouts, so we could be looking at a nail biter. The Sun Devils, meanwhile. are 4-0 on the year with ranked wins over Purdue and Virginia.
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State vs No. 6 Arizona State
Where: Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, Arizona.
When: Friday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m.
Audio: Free, Jeff “Ironhead” Byers, via GoPSUSports
125: Brody Teske Fr. Duncombe, Iowa/Fort Dodge 5-1 OR Devin Schnupp Jr. Lititz, Pa./Warwick 1-2
133: #3 Roman Bravo-Young So. Tucson, Ariz./Sunny Side 4-0
141: #3 Nick Lee Jr. Evansville, Ind./Homeschool 5-0
149: Luke Gardner Jr. Pottsville, Pa./Pottsville 3-1 OR Jarod Verkleeren So. Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield 4-0
157: #5 Brady Berge So. Mantorville, Minn./Kasson-Mantorville 0-0 OR Bo Pipher Jr. Paonia, Colo./Paonia 4-2
165: #1 Vincenzo Joseph Sr. Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic 1-0
174: #1 Mark Hall Sr. Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley 4-0
184: #2 Shakur Rasheed Sr. Coram, N.Y./Longwood 0-0 OR Creighton Edsell Fr. Wyalusing, Pa./Wyalusing 3-2
197: #7 Kyle Conel Sr. Ashtabula, Ohio/Lakeside 2-1
285: #1 Anthony Cassar Sr. Rocky Hill, N.J./Montgomery 1-0
125: #19 Brandon Courtney So. Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge 7-1
133: #16 Josh Kramer Sr. Buckeye, Ariz./Desert Edge 7-1
141: Cory Crooks Jr. Anthem, Ariz./Boulder Creek 2-2 OR Navonte Demison So. Bakersfield, Calif./Bakersfield 2-4
149: Josh Maruca Sr. Murraysville, Pa./Franklin Regional 3-4
157: Jacori Teemer Fr. Long Beach, N.Y./Long Beach 0-1 OR Dillon Ulrey Jr. Central Point, Ore./Central Point 2-0
165: #5 Josh Shields Sr. Murraysville, Pa./Franklin Regional 6-1
174: #8 Anthony Valencia Jr. Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco 6-1
184: #1 Zahid Valencia Sr. Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco 7-0
197: Kordell Norfleet Jr. Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic 0-0 OR Cade Belshay So. Clovis, Calif./Buchanan 3-4
285: #5 Tanner Hall Sr. Meridian, Idaho/Meridian 6-1
Assuming we start at 125, the dual will begin immediately with one that both teams feel they have to win to take home the victory. We’ve got Brody Teske, who has looked good in limited action this season for Penn State as a redshirt freshman, and Brandon Courtney, who is 7-1 for the Sun Devils but was picked apart by Purdue’s Devin Schroeder. This one could go either way, but I think you could be looking at a big time performance from Teske to prove that he’s the undisputed starter at 125 this year.
Prediction: Teske dec. Courtney
Score: Penn State 3, Arizona State 0
Josh Kramer has been awesome thus far for the Sun Devils this year. He’s 7-1 with three ranked wins, but did suffer an 11-7 loss to talented Rutgers freshman Sammy Alvarez. Roman Bravo-Young, on the other hand, has looked solid but not quite up to speed in the early season. He had to pull out a Winn Dixie late to get a major against Navy and then kind of cruised through the Army West Point Invite. Bonus here for Bravo-Young would be huge, but I’m not sure I see it happening, even in his return home.
Prediction: Bravo-Young dec. Kramer
Score: Penn State 6, Arizona State 0
On the contrary, Nick Lee has looked every bit the national title contender we expect him to be for Penn State this year. Lee has continued to develop his nasty top game and can get to legs against just about everyone. Crooks and Demison have struggled this season in battling one another for the wide open spot at 141 for ASU.
Prediction: Lee MD. Crooks
Score: Penn State 10, Arizona State 0
Decision time for Cael Sanderson and Co. Luke Gardner looked good against Navy and in his path to Army West Point Invite finals. Jarod Verkleeren was up and down at the Invite, but topped Gardner in the finals. Last year Berge got the nod over Verkleeren in the Maruca match and came up victorious. Will it be Gardner this year? I’d like to see him get the opportunity. Maruca, a PA native and NCAA qualifier, has flashed his talent in the past at the college level but is just 3-4 this year with some puzzling losses. A win would be huge for his confidence.
Prediction: Verkleeren dec. Maruca
Score: Penn State 13, Arizona State 0
This is where the Sun Devils could start to claw back into it. I highly doubt we see Brady Berge until at least Dec. 6 at Lehigh, and probably not until the second semester. That means we see Bo Pipher, who has struggled early this year and is more focused on joining the fray at 149. Jacori Teemer was awesome last year at 149 as a true freshman, going 10-2 while in redshirt with losses to only Matt Kolodzik and Pat Lugo. Now up at 157, he’s a bit dinged up and took an odd loss to PA native Justin McCoy of UVA at Journeymen. I expect he’ll right the ship fairly quickly.
Prediction: Teemer MD. Pipher
Score: Penn State 13, Arizona State 4
Last year this match in the dual came down to essentially one move where Joseph picked up six points and never looked back on the way to major decision. They then met again in the NCAA semifinals, which Joseph took 3-2 before Shields semi-slid down to a sixth-place finish. Shields started the year strongly, but lost 7-1 to Isaiah White in the Journeymen finals (White also beat Shields on the backside of last year’s NCAA tournament). I expect this one to be more like the NCAA match between the two, with Cenzo taking the narrow win.
Prediction: Joseph dec. Shields
Score: Penn State 16, Arizona State 4
With Zahid Valencia up at 184, it’s be Anthony Valencia’s turn to take a crack at Mark Hall. The last time these two met was in high school at FloWrestling’s Who’s #1 event in 2014, where Hall dominated to the tune of a 10-1 major decision. I’ve seen nothing from either through their college careers to expect much difference this time around.
Prediction: Hall MD. Valencia
Score: Penn State 20, Arizona State 4
Valencia got a serious, serious scare from Taylor Venz at Journeymen where he eeked out an 8-7 victory after falling behind early. But otherwise he’s looked as dominant as ever. We’ve yet to see Shakur Rasheed this year and this feels like an odd spot to run him out for his first match of the year. I’m expecting Creighton Edsell here.
Prediction: Valencia FALL Edsell
Score: Penn State 20, Arizona State 10
Penn State has some serious choices to make over the next two months at 197. Kyle Conel has not looked good so far thus year and just got dinged up again at the Army West Point Invite. I’d be surprised if we see Conel out there tonight, but Michael Beard isn’t coming out of redshirt anytime soon. Don’t be surprised if the Nittany Lions decide to send Beard to the Southern Scuffle unattached in January the way they did with Mark Hall in a similar spot in 2016. With Conel out, Austin Hoopes is the likely fill-in. For the Sun Devils, Kordell Norfleet has yet to wrestle this year, but this would be an opportune spot to get him back. If he’s at all able to go, expect to see him out there.
Prediction: Norfleet MD. Hoopes
Score: Penn State 20, Arizona State 14
The latest on Anthony Cassar seems to be that he was a healthy scratch at the Bill Farrell last week as well as the Army West Pointe Invite, so we’ll assume he’s a go tonight in a battle of heavyweights who are just years away from being AARP eligible. Hall has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been generally inconsistent after taking third in the country as a sophomore. I’m leaning major decision for Cassar on this one, but think Hall may be just savvy enough to keep the score respectable.
Prediction: Cassar dec. Hall
Score: Penn State 23, Arizona State 14
So there you have it. The Nittany Lions, under these predictions, would keep their dual streak intact. But with 125 and 149 up in the balance, this could be one that comes down to the wire.