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Wrestling Preview: NLWC Freestyle Event #4: The Christmas Card

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Cael Sanderson’s new model of bringing his athletes to the people expands to two cards tonight, in NLWC Event #4.

Cael Sanderson, here coaching Jake Varner in 2015, has since brought Varner into the Penn State Coaching Tree, and Varner is now the Head Coach of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
Tony Rotundo/WrestlersAreWarriors

2020 has been a wild, wild ride for sports fans. Against the backdrop of a raging global pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and brought pain and suffering to millions more, sports competitions put fans in a deep pickle.

On many hands it’s fair to ask: what are we even doing here?

On many other hands, it is accepted that sports are a most welcome respite.

For many wrestling fans, the struggle is real.

In such times of apparent conflict, as myriad Venn Diagrams converge and intersect, I turn often to these words from Quaker Parker Palmer in his book, The Courage to Teach:

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other, they cohere in mysterious unity at the heart of reality.

I read that as it’s ok for both to be true. Fans can acknowledge the ghoulish backdrop and deeply empathize with those who are suffering—while appreciating the break from it that competition provides.

So as we wrestling fans move deeper into this holiday season, let us continue our empathy and understanding of the larger problems, while we break and rest and cheer.

If we are able, let’s contemplate the mysterious unity cohering in reality’s heart, as we watch our favorite warriors compete tonight.

A Quick Look Back

The links to BSD Wrestle’s Open Threads below provide play-by-play scoring and transcribed quotes from the events’ guest commentators, in the posts comments. Thanks to Bubba and all the great commentary from you wonderful folk in the wonderful BSD Wrestle Community!

NLWC Freestyle Event #1 in September was fun.

NLWC Freestyle Event #2 in October was fun.

NLWC Freestyle Event #3 in November was fun.

Tonight’s Fire Matchups

Last week, we gave credit to the Wisconsin wrestling coaches for borrowing the Penn State coaches’ live streaming model and making their own cards on the same platform. Today, turnabout is fair play, as the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club has learned how the Wiscy coaches used their cards to provide competition opportunities for a broad range of wrestling talent, and have borrowed their model by breaking their event into two cards: an Undercard and a Main Card.

Undercard, 5:30p EST

With 17 bouts on the card and my Teaching hat on, I’ll stop short of doing your homework for you, but will give you all the tools to succeed on your own. As I do for all D1 College research, I recommend starting with @WrestleStat. If you use the Penn State & NC State team profiles on their site, the first default tab is Roster; on that page you can click any wrestler link to view their career college results.

NC State’s WrestleStat Team Page

Penn State’s WrestleStat Team Page

This is a real nice way to get these young athletes some fresh comp. And to teach wrestling fans a little something about what’s been going on in the rooms.

Main Card, 8:05p EST

It’s nice to see weight classes listed for the Undercard. I took a stab at guessing rough weigh-ins for the Main Card above. I suspect that negotiations on weigh-in weights are pretty fluid during these card-making sessions. You’d want to pick something that’s catch-weight enough for both athletes to be able to get there, but you don’t want to make the weigh-in rules so strict that the competition might fall through.

Bout 7: Brady Berge vs Hayden Hidlay

First things first: a hearty welcome back to the Swedish Chef, Bardy Berge! Seeing his name on the card is a most welcome sight!

Last October at the U23 World Championships in Budapest, a horrific concussion effectively ended Berge’s 2020 college season. He managed to compete on December 12, 2019 (a hard-fought 5-3 win over Lehigh’s Josh Humphreys), but post-concussive symptoms kept him out again until the Ohio State dual on February 15, 2020. Berge wore a full head & face mask and suffered through an equally hard-fought 4-3 loss to Quinn Kinner, and did not compete in the Big Ten Tournament.

Hidlay is a 2x All-American and a 157-pound title contender this year. He is a handful.

Berge’s concussion injury combined with Anthony Cassar’s December, 2019 shoulder injury and 2020’s pandemic to prevent Penn State from defending its 4-year streak of team national championships, so tonight’s contest could be a good bellwether for Berge’s availability to PSU as they attempt to restart their title defense and continue their streak in 2021.

(Before we dive into the rest of these, and speaking of injuries, one matchup many fans hoped to see tonight, between PSU’s Aaron Brooks and NC State’s Trent Hidlay, fell apart this week when the younger, bigger Hidlay underwent a successful appendectomy. Heal up soon, Hoagie Boy!)

Bout 1: Franklin Gomez vs Malik Amine

I love how Malik Amine keeps traveling and competing. He’ll kick things off against the NLWC’s 2016 Puerto Rican Olympian.

Bout 2: Michael Beard vs Nick Reenan

Beard has been in the Lorenzo wrestling room for two years now. He’s had mixed performances this fall, with a tight win against Greg Bulsak and a tough loss to Nate Jackson. In each, he appeared to have both some excellent leg attacks and a dubious late-bout gas tank.

Reenan has been injury-riddled since his amazing run in the 2018 World Team Trials. Tonight could tell us lots about both wrestlers.

Bout 3: The Grinch vs Santa Claus

Your guess is as good as mine for whatever the Head Bald Coach has cooked up for this doozy! UPDATE: some late-arriving intel:

Bout 4: Kyle Snyder vs Ty Walz

Snyder injured his lower leg or foot in the October Senior Nationals semifinals against Kyven Gadson, and defaulted out to 6th place.

Ty Walz is 4-2 on the Freestyle circuit in 2020. I learned that pretty easily, thanks to this excellent Freestyle website from @JonKozak: https://freestylewrestling.org/

Is Captain America Snyderman back and ready to take on all comers in the coming Olympic Team Trials? Let’s look and see!

Bout 5: Jen Page vs Emma Bruntil

Jen Page is 2-0 on these NLWC cards, and has scored 14 and 10 points in those wins. Emma Bruntil is coming in off a 3-0 loss to Macy Kilty in the headline bout of the Tar Heel Wrestling Club Open in December. She is a 2020 National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling champion.

Bout 6: Carter Starocci vs Daniel Bullard

Starocci has been undefeated since arriving at Penn State after his second PA HS state championship in 2019. He went 16-0 with a 63% bonus rate while redshirting last year, including a Southern Scuffle championship. In the NLWC Fall Freestyle Season, he’s continued to look extremely impressive: he mauled past AA Devin Skatza by pinning him before his Tech Fall score ended the match, and then absolutely battled in a 6-2 win over AA Chance Marsteller.

Bullard is 78-36 in his career as he heads into his Senior year with the Wolfpack. He wrestles hard, which Penn State fans know he’ll need to do tonight.

Bout 8: Nick Lee vs Tariq Wilson

Nick Lee has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks. First, we learned on the new NLWC Show Marky Mark and the Golden Bear ($) (hosted by NLWC coaches Mark McKnight and Eric Thompson) that Nick Lee is taking an Olympic Redshirt this year and that this fall he was only enrolled in & taking one class.

I tend to agree with my boy @nerfstate on the timing being key to that decision; from this post on BWI:

Here’s my guess. Nick decided to Oly RS after witnessing what happened in March. He made a bunch of plans, including a light course load in the fall semester so he could focus on training. When the free year was announced, he was already in the middle of that plan. I bet he enrolls fully for spring though.

Tariq Wilson is also a rising Senior. Since his amazing run to 3rd place his RSFR year in Cleveland, he has battled injuries and failed to reach the podium again.

The two have never met, but Nick Lee is 11-1 against common opponents, while Wilson is 9-3. Should be super f*n!

Bout 9: Jane Valencia vs Xochitl Mota-Pettis

Valencia is also undefeated in NLWC cards, with a tight 6-6 criteria win over Julia Salata in September and a tech fall of Vayle Rae-Baker in October. Mota-Pettis is the 2020 U23 American Freestyle Champion at 57Kgs.

Bout 10: Roman Bravo-Young vs Aljamain Sterlin

This bout is interesting for the way it was made: on twitter! Here’s a visual tale of the story:

Aljamain is a 2x Division 3 All-American wrestler from Cortland who has been competing in the UFC since 2014. It should be interesting to see what the final format agreement is for tonight. It sounds like it will be some part wrestling, some part BJJ.

Bout 11: Zain Retherford vs Bajrang Punia

The Headliner!

Retherford is 6-2 in 2020.

Bajrang is 10-1, including an extremely fresh 3-0 performance on Friday night to secure Flowrestling’s $25,000 first-place bag!

When last the two met, in January of this year at the Matteo Pellicone tourney, Bajrang walked away with a 5-4 win:

Lots of great wrestling tonight!

Please be kind to each other, and let’s appreciate the opportunities!

How to Watch

Rokfin Video Stream Link ($): https://live.rokfin.com/live

To get access to this premium content, you must subscribe with a credit card, to a particular channel on the Rokfin platform. I used the NLWC’s page, and I found this part easy and straightforward.