Well, this is a surprise.
Instead of turning around and heading back to State College after Saturday’s tri-meet in Evanston, the Nittany Lions instead turned north to Madison, where they were supposed to participate in another tri-meet this upcoming weekend. Instead, due to Michigan’s cessation of all sports activities due to COVID, PSU and Wisconsin will have a standalone dual meet on Tuesday evening.
It’s a quick, but not too-quick, turnaround, and provides even more of a barometer of the team’s readiness to compete for titles this year.
This past weekend saw Penn State win the tri-meet at Northwestern, albeit not without some surprises along the way—everyone’s favorite potential 5-time champ Carter Starocci got stuck to start his Penn State career, finding himself in a 10-1 hole early before clawing his way back to a 10-9 loss, and some scratches due to lack of medical clearances at 125 and 197 revealed some holes in the PSU lineup. There were, though, some positive surprises; Seth Nevills shocked this humble blog with the first pin of the PSU season in a backup role, and Roman Bravo-Young looked positively Nolf-esque in his takedown clinic to kick off the second of last week’s tri-meets (before he decided playing with his food was not as fun as eating it).
This year’s Wisconsin squad may not have the lights-out studs that previous teams have featured, but they’re no slouches either - and how close this dual ends up could be a result of additional medical forfeits (the rankings on this post won’t tell the story, as they’re expected to be updated some time between the writing of this preview and match time). Let’s err on the side of positivity, shall we? This is Penn State wrestling, after all, and PSU wrestling under Cael Sanderson does nothing if not meet continued high expectations.
How To Watch
What: #3 Penn State vs #24 University of Wisconsin*
Where: UW Field House, Madison, WI
When: Tuesday, February, 5 pm
Audio: Jeff “Ironhead” Byers, free, via GoPSUSports
|#3 Penn State||WT||#24 Wisconsin|
|#3 Penn State||WT||#24 Wisconsin|
|Baylor Shunk (Fr., Centre Hall, PA) OR Robbie Howard (Fr., Cranford, NJ)||125||Eric Barnett (So., Greenville, WI) OR Ethan Rotondo (Jr., Vancouver, WA)|
|#3 - Roman Bravo-Young (Jr., Tucson, AZ)||133||Kyle Burwick (Fr., Hettinger, ND)|
|#2 - Nick Lee (Sr., Evansville, IN) OR Beau Bartlett (Fr., Tempe, AZ)||141||Dominic Dentino (So., Brookfield, WI)|
|#10 - Jarod Verkleeren (Jr., Greensburg, PA) OR Terrell Barraclough (Fr., Kaysville, UT) OR Luke Gardner (Sr., Pottsville, PA)||149||Drew Scharenbrock (So., Sun Prairie, WI)|
|#11 - Brady Berge (Jr., Mantorville, MN) OR Bo Pipher (Sr., Paonia, CO)||157||Garrett Model (Jr., Stoughton, WI) OR Devin Bahr (Jr., La Crosse, WI)|
|#6 - Joe Lee (Fr., Evansville, IN) OR Mason Manville (So., Lorton, VA)||165||Josh Otto (Fr., Brookfield, WI)|
|#5 - Carter Starocci (Fr., Erie, PA) OR Creighton Edsell (So., Wyalusing, PA)||174||Jared Krattinger (So., Waterford, WI)|
|#3 - Aaron Brooks (So., Hagerstown, MD)||184||#11 - Chris Weiler (Sr., Biglerville, PA)|
|#13 - Michael Beard (Fr., Pottstown, PA)||197||Andrew Salemme (So., Wauwatosa, WI)|
|#5 - Greg Kerkvleit (Fr., Grove Heights, MN) OR Seth Nevills (So., Clovis, CA)||285||#7 - Trent Hillger (Jr., Linden, MI) OR Peter Christensen (So., Norridge, IL)|
Robbie Howard could win this bout—or this could be another forfeit. Let’s split the difference, shall we?
Prediction: Barnett by decision
Score: PSU 0, UW 3
Our young Arizonan started off last weekend slow, but something in between matches lit a fire under him, and he came out absolutely gangbusters against Northwestern. RBY’ll be a definite force at this still-deep weight this season, and I feel almost like I’m being pessimistic in picking only one bonus point here. It was only a few days ago, of course, where he had zero back points before deciding to up and pin his opponent - and what a good time that was for PSU fans.
Prediction: RBY by major decision
Score: PSU 4, UW 3
Oh, ye of little (heavyweight) faith! The sole senior starter on this team, Nick Lee overwhelmingly ran away with this blog’s vote in which PSUer would start this year’s pin parade - and not only did Lee not do that, he didn’t pin his Northwestern opponent either. Something for us to worry about? No, not at all. Nick’ll be ready, and gunning for a title. It’s the (by today’s calendar, at least) match that will show everyone on the schedule what’s up.
Prediction: N. Lee by tech fall
Score: PSU 9, UW 3
Verkleeren looked out of sorts on Saturday, and rather than getting the nod in the second dual of the tri-meet, he settled for some extra matches. That could be a good thing, as young Terrell Barraclough looked, dare I say?, admirable against a tough, ranked opponent in his stead. I expect the freshman to get the nod against tonight, with his Wisconsin opponent doing just enough to fend off a late takedown attempt to win by 1 or 2.
Prediction: Scharenbrock by decision
Score: PSU 9, UW 6
Hello, Brady Berge! Finally, seemingly, injury free (and with a most interesting choice of headgear), might the promise of what Berge’s flashed in the past come to fruition this year? I expect that this one will just build on what we saw last week, with bonus points close but just out of reach.
Prediction: Berge by decision
Score: PSU 12, UW 6
Welcome to Penn State, Joe Lee! The middle Lee brother looked great for much of Saturday, before letting his wildcat opponent claw his way back into the match as the day went on. He’s my pick, then, this week to not let it go all seven minutes - and what a way to upstage his older brother.
Prediction: J Lee by pin
Score: PSU 18, UW 6
Here is where I tell you that Mark Hall lost the first dual meet match of his Penn State career. Here is also where I remind you that Bo Nickal got stuck early on. Both had careers in the blue and white that Carter Starocci would love to have - and he definitely still has a chance. My money’s on Carter to get smarter and better, and prove any naysayers wrong.
Prediction: Starocci by major decision
Score: PSU 22, UW 6
Aaron Brooks let me down without a pin last week. This week, his bout may be the toughest on-paper - but here’s where he shows that he’s a legitimate national title contender. I don’t think this one will be close.
Prediction: Brooks by major decision
Score: PSU 26, UW 6
I’m hopeful that Michael Beard will be able to make his PSU debut in the Tuesday night bout, with whatever issue kept him out of Saturday being cleared up. Let’s again be optimistic (how unlike me!) and expect him not only to trot out onto that mat, but also come up with a big win (closer than it looked at the end of the 2nd, thought).
Prediction: Beard by decision
Score: PSU 29, UW 6
The younger Nevills looked great this past weekend, getting the nod when freshman phenom Greg Kerkvleit was out. I’m going to revert to pessimism here and expect Seth to take the mat again - and this is a different level of opponent from last weekend. Hillger is legit, will likely be an all-american, and this one will be a rough go to end the dual.
Prediction: Hillger by decision
Score: PSU 29, UW 9
Overall score prediction: PSU 29, UW 9
*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; in those rankings, Wisconsin is unranked. I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because this happens to be a dual; Wisconsin is #24 in the dual meet rankings. Penn State is ranked third in both.