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Wrestling Preview: No. 3 Penn State vs Indiana, at Northwestern (Tri Meet)

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Wrestling’s back, y’all!

NCAA Wrestling: Penn State at Iowa
welcome back, young sir.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

After a few delays to begin the season, Penn State wrestling is officially back this week, y’all! If you aren’t signed up for the NLWC or PSWC emails, Casey Cunningham had a great explainer this week in his email blast - normally, Coach Cunningham gives great insight into wrestling itself, but this week’s was about COVID protocol, and I, for one, found it super interesting. Check it out if you haven’t yet, as it sheds some good light on why the dual meet last week was cancelled out of precaution.

This week’s full steam ahead - so far, at least. And instead of a regular ol’ dual meet to start this shortened season, we start off with one of the new innovations for 2021 - a tri-meet. This trip sees Penn State’s squad fly out to Evanston, where they’ll take on Indiana early on on Saturday, and Northwestern later. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Also interesting will be the “extra matches” - matches that aren’t part of the actual dual, can feature wrestlers who wrestled in the dual (but not the same matchups), and can go towards the wrestlers’ records so they’ll be able to make the four-match minimum for postseason tournament entry, even if they (like Penn State’s guys) have had scheduled matches scrapped due to protocols.

Entering into this week, Indiana is 0-2, with lopsided losses to both Illinois and Michigan (then-#3, now #2). Northwestern is a tournament-ranked team and comes in at 1-2, with losses to Purdue and Nebraska and a win over Maryland. This weekend should be interesting not only in terms of on-mat results (which will give us a baseline of how this young PSU squad is going to fare) but also what potential lineups could be.

In years past, the match previews put out by Penn State have included a lineup, not only of the good guys, but their opponents as well. This week’s preview had no such lineup, including only the roster of Penn State - so the lineups below may be a bit skewed, with liberal doses of guess work (based on past entrants for each schools). The preview, too, will only include what I am guessing will be the dual matchups themselves - no extra match predictions in this post, though I may (interesting matchups permitting) discuss who else we may see take the mat.

Before we start the match-by-match predictions, I’m gonna ask all our dear readers for one - the first pin of the year. It’s not unrealistic for PSUers to expect it’ll come on Saturday - but who in the blue and white will get the first fall?

Poll

Which Nittany Lion will get the first fall of the 2021 season?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Roman Bravo-Young
    (118 votes)
  • 54%
    Nick Lee
    (243 votes)
  • 12%
    Aaron Brooks
    (55 votes)
  • 3%
    Greg Kerkvleit
    (17 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (answer in comments)
    (10 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now

Onto the preview, and welcome back, Penn State wrestling!

How To Watch - Dual Meet 1

What: #3 Penn State vs Indiana University

Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, IL

When: Saturday, January 30, 12 pm

Audio: Free, via GoPSUSports

Video: BTN+

Lineup - Dual Meet 1

No. 3 Penn State WT Indiana
No. 3 Penn State WT Indiana
Baylor Shunk (Fr., Centre Hall, PA) OR Robbie Howard (Fr., Cranford, NJ) 125 #16 - Brock Hudkins (Sr., Danville, IN) OR Jacob Moran (Fr., Portage, IN)
#3 - Roman Bravo-Young (Jr., Tucson, AZ) 133 Asa Garcia (So., Avon, IN) OR Cayden Rooks (So., Columbus, IN)
#2 - Nick Lee (Sr., Evansville, IN) OR Beau Bartlett (Fr., Tempe, AZ) 141 Kyle Luigs (Jr., Evansville, IN) OR Nico Bolivar (Fr., Oak Park, IL) OR Paul Konrath (Jr., Mount Vernon, IN) OR Jonathan Moran (Jr., Portage, IN)
#10 - Jarod Verkleeren (Jr., Greensburg, PA) OR Terrell Barraclough (Fr., Kaysville, UT) OR Luke Gardner (Sr., Pottsville, PA) 149 Luke Baughman (So., Wadsworth, OH)
#11 - Brady Berge (Jr., Mantorville, MN) OR Bo Pipher (Sr., Paonia, CO) 157 Matt Ortiz (So., St Charles, IL) OR Jonathan Kervin (Fr., Floyd Knobs, IN)
#6 - Joe Lee (Fr., Evansville, IN) OR Mason Manville (So., Lorton, VA) 165 Nick South (So., North Vernon, IN) OR Derek Gilcher (Fr., Novi, MI)
#5 - Carter Starocci (Fr., Erie, PA) OR Creighton Edsell (So., Wyalusing, PA) 174 Donnell Washington (So., Portage, IN) OR Robert Deters (Fr., Chandler, IN)
#3 - Aaron Brooks (So., Hagerstown, MD) 184 Drayton Harris (Fr., Gallatin, MO)
#13 - Michael Beard (Fr., Pottstown, PA) 197 Nick Willham (So., Greenwood, IN)
#5 - Greg Kerkvleit (Fr., Grove Heights, MN) OR Seth Nevills (So., Clovis, CA) 285 Rudy Streck (Jr., Merrillville, IN) OR Jacob Bullock (So., Cahokia, IL)

125 LBS - Match of the Meet

Prediction: Hudkins by decision

Score: PSU 0, IU 3

133 LBS

I will go to my grave saying RBY would have made Friday night’s semis, with bonus, had last year’s tournament not been halted by the global pandemic. We’ll forever lament over what could have been - but the march for a title (and, in effect, a “free” year) begins this weekend for the birthday boy, and he’ll put up big numbers immediately.

Prediction: RBY by major decision

Score: PSU 4, IU 3

141 LBS

Another one where we’ll look back and know in our heart of hearts what the 2020 NCAA tournament would have held...Nick Lee should be a returning national champ. And this year, with the free year for all entrants, Lee won’t be held out for olympic redshirt purposes, and he’ll put up gaudy numbers. Being ranked second to start the season is, frankly, insulting (no disrespect to Eierman), and I hope Lee takes it out on his opponent - whomever it may be.

Prediction: N. Lee by tech fall

Score: PSU 9, IU 3

149 LBS

I feel like Verk will either come in and pin his opponent in the first period, or it will be within a takedown at the end. Either way, he’ll be victorious.

Prediction: Verk by decision

Score: PSU 12, IU 3

157 LBS

Can a loss be heartening? I think so, and that was my reaction after seeing Berge take on NC State’s Hayden Hidlay in a NLWC card a few weeks ago. I’m excited to see what an actually healthy Berge can accomplish in folkstyle, wearing a Penn State singlet. It may not be as filled with firepower as us fans want, but this should be a comfortable decision that is a foundation Brady builds on.

Prediction: Berge by decision

Score: PSU 15, IU 3

165 LBS

Prediction: J Lee by major decision

Score: PSU 19, IU 3

174 LBS

Another weight, another freshman in the lineup. Carter Starocci is one of the young guns who should be incredibly interesting to watch - and I expect some firepower early on, which should get all of us excited by his future prospects. He’s my second favorite new entrant to the lineup for a reason - I’ll miss Mark Hall and his confidence, but I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Prediction: Starocci by major decision

Score: PSU 23, IU 3

184 LBS

Ah, the third of our returnees who had a great shot at a national title in 2020 - and the only one who is the returning conference champ. Aaron Brooks is my home-state boy, my favorite from the squad last year, and the jump between freshman and sophomore seasons is one of the largest. He’ll get the first pin of the season.

Prediction: Brooks by fall

Score: PSU 29, IU 3

197 LBS

I’m not gonna lie and say I’m not a little concerned about Beard’s motor. I think he’ll win fairly easily, but a little letdown near the end will keep him out of bonus.

Prediction: Beard by decision

Score: PSU 32, IU 3

285 LBS

Here’s my pessimism showing. Greg Kerkvleit is the new wrestler I’m most looking forward to seeing - and yet he’s the one with the most capable backup, even if there’s still a drop off. There’s rumors that he may not be able to take the mat this weekend, so I’m going to start off the first dual’s predictions and end them in the same way - with pessimism. Big snacks is a backup and narrowly misses the bonus here.

Prediction: Nevills by decision

Score: PSU 35, IU 3

Overall score prediction: PSU 35, IU 3


How To Watch - Dual Meet 2

What: #3 Penn State vs Northwestern University*

Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, IL

When: Saturday, January 30, 4 pm

Audio: Free, via GoPSUSports

Video: BTN+

Lineup - Dual Meet 2

#3 Penn State WT #16 Northwestern
#3 Penn State WT #16 Northwestern
Baylor Shunk (Fr., Centre Hall, PA) OR Robbie Howard (Fr., Cranford, NJ) 125 Michael DeAugustino (So., Palm Coast, FL) OR Matt Vinci (Jr., Arlington, VA)
#3 - Roman Bravo-Young (Jr., Tucson, AZ) 133 #16 - Chris Cannon (Fr., Oceanport, NJ)
#2 - Nick Lee (Sr., Evansville, IN) OR Beau Bartlett (Fr., Tempe, AZ) 141 Frankie Tal-Shahar (Fr., Delray Beach, FL) OR Colin Valdiviez (Jr., Lee's Summit, MO) OR Justin Benjamin (Fr., St Charles, IL)
#10 - Jarod Verkleeren (Jr., Greensburg, PA) OR Terrell Barraclough (Fr., Kaysville, UT) OR Luke Gardner (Sr., Pottsville, PA) 149 #20 - Yahya Thomas (Jr., Chicago, IL)
OR Jamie Berg (Fr., New York, NY)
OR Trevor Chumbley (Fr., St Charles, IL)
#11 - Brady Berge (Jr., Mantorville, MN) OR Bo Pipher (Sr., Paonia, CO) 157 Ryan Deakin (Sr., Broomfield, CO) OR Maxx Mayfield (Fr., Lincoln, NE)
#6 - Joe Lee (Fr., Evansville, IN) OR Mason Manville (So., Lorton, VA) 165 David Ferrante (Fr., Huntley, IL) OR Ankhaa Enkmandakh (So., Concord, CA)
#5 - Carter Starocci (Fr., Erie, PA) OR Creighton Edsell (So., Wyalusing, PA) 174 Troy Fisher (Fr., Garden Plain, KS)
#3 - Aaron Brooks (So., Hagerstown, MD) 184 Jon Halvorsen (Fr., Park Ridge, IL) OR Jadon Marton (Fr., Fresno, CA) OR Jack Jessen (So., Villa Park, IL)
#13 - Michael Beard (Fr., Pottstown, PA) 197 #11 - Lucas Davison (So., Chesterton, IN)
#5 - Greg Kerkvleit (Fr., Grove Heights, MN) OR Seth Nevills (So., Clovis, CA) 285 Jack Heyob (So., Cincinnati, OH) OR Brendan Devine (Jr., West Chester, PA)

125 LBS

Similar to the first dual, if it’s Howard, he’ll make a gallant showing - and he just might pick off one or the other (but not both). This one, he’s got a greater shot at - if returning All-American hopeful Michael DeAugustino (who hasn’t wrestled yet this year) isn’t on the mat. I’m predicting he will be, and Howard will surprise everyone by keeping it close.

Prediction: DeAutustino by decision

Score: PSU 0, NU 3

133 LBS

Cannon is ranked for the Wildcats, and how RBY handles him will be a good prognosticator of how far he’s come since last year. I’m expecting good things - this could easily turn into a rout that doesn’t last the full seven minutes, but Cannon is gonna do just enough to last the distance. RBY throws some accrobatics in here for good measure.

Prediction: RBY by major decision

Score: PSU 4, NU 3

141 LBS

I’m looking forward to Nick Lee looking Zain-like on top for the first time this year. I’m betting it comes in this second match of the day, with multiple turning combinations and the match not even getting into period 3.

Prediction: N. Lee by fall

Score: PSU 10, NU 3

149 LBS - Match of the Meet #1

Verkleeren and Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas traded wins at last year’s Big Ten tournament, and both were close. I’m expecting much of the same this year; Thomas is one of the best wrestlers on the Wildcats’ roster, so this should be a good match. Verk does just enough to fend off a flurry of Thomas attacks late in the bout, to come home with a win.

Prediction: Verk by decision

Score: PSU 13, NU 3

157 LBS

Northwestern’s returning AA Ryan Deakin hasn’t yet wrestled this year, and if he does join the lineup for the first time in this bout, this would provide a really good barometer of Brady’s ceiling (and floor) for the season. I’m not expecting that, though, so we’ll anticipate NU’s Mayfield here, and a comfortable Berge win.

Prediction: Berge by decision

Score: PSU 16, NU 3

165 LBS

The Lee brothers will have quite a day on Saturday - with Joe trying (and barely failing) to match his older brother’s firepower. I think this one will go into the third period, but a turning combination when his opponent starts on bottom will score Joe the tech.

Prediction: J. Lee by tech fall

Score: PSU 21, NU 3

174 LBS

Will Starocci move up in the rankings after a strong showing this weekend? Probably not, but a girl can hope. This one should be exciting.

Prediction: Starocci by tech fall

Score: PSU 26, NU 3

184 LBS

Two matches on the day, and two predicted pins from the sophomore from Maryland. He’ll not last a full seven minutes combined on the mat on Saturday - unless he wrestles in extra matches (and maybe not even then).

Prediction: Brooks by fall

Score: PSU 32, NU 3

197 LBS - Match of the Meet #2

This one is going to be another very close match, with the motor of both wrestlers coming into question. I expect Beard will give up a late takedown but keep riding time

Prediction: Davison by decision

Score: PSU 32, NU 6

285 LBS

Sticking with the pessimism on this one, it’s more likely if we see Kerkvleit in one dual and not the other, he’ll sit out Northwestern. But in the interest of not looking completely homerish in my lopsided final score, we’ll stick with Seth as a prediction in this meet.

Prediction: Nevills by decision

Score: PSU 35, NU 6

Overall score prediction: PSU 35, NU 6


*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; in those rankings, Northwestern is #16. I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because this happens to be a dual; Northwestern is unranked in the dual meet rankings. Penn State is ranked third in both.