Senior Night turned out to be a big night for the Penn State wrestling program on Monday evening.
The Nittany Lions, who featured just two seniors in the lineup, shutout visiting Maryland 44-0 to finish out the regular season with an undefeated dual record.
The matchup started at 285 pounds and in a significant turn of events, it was redshirt freshman Greg Kerkvliet who took the mat for the Nittany Lions. Kerkvliet had been out injured and was expected to miss the entirety of the season. Instead, the highly touted transfer was as dominant as every, easily building a 6-2 lead with a wide array of offense before slapping on a cradle for the fall at the 1:12 mark.
Following the dual, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson noted that no decision has been made yet as to the starter in the postseason at heavyweight, but that both Kerkvliet and Nevills were options.
Fellow freshman Robbie Howard then followed in impressive fashion, building a 16-1 lead before securing a fall of his own over Zach Spence in 3:38.
Roman Bravo-Young and Nick Lee both put in typical, workmanlike performances to secure major decision victories at 133 and 141 respectively before Beau Bartlett once again took the mat for PSU at 149.
Bartlett, yet another freshman on a fresh-faced Nittany Lions squad, used a pair of takedown to build a 4-1 lead over Hunter Baxter after the first period. He added another takedown to lead 6-2 after two and eventually came out with a comfortable 9-3 win, making it 23-0 at the intermission.
Similar to the situation at heavyweight, it appears 149 is still up for grabs heading into the conference and national tournaments.
Out of the break it was not Brady Berge, but rather Luke Gardner who got the start to celebrate senior night. Gardner notched an early takedown to take a 2-1 lead over Michael Doetsch following the first period, but was ridden out for the entirety of the second. A Doetsch escape made it 2-2 with riding time in hand for the Terp, but Gardner went right back to work. He secured another single leg to make it 4-2 and then locked on a nearside cradle, turning Doetsch for a full set of back points, narrowly missing out on the fall and taking an 8-2 victory.
At 165, Joe Lee bounced back from a loss to Ohio State’s Ethan Smith with a dominating performance against the Terps’ Jonathan Spadafora. Lee built an early 12-2 lead after two sets of four back points and then, in the third period, locked up a cradle of his own to score the fall at 5:56.
Both Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks then followed with major decision wins over Phillip Spadafora and Kyle Cochran at 174 and 184 respectively to bring the score to 40-0.
Michael Beard then closed the night out in style, dominating Maryland’s Jaron Smith to the tune of a 13-4 major decision victory.
Penn State finishes the regular season with a 6-0 dual record and looked to improve with each passing contest. The Nittany Lions will now return to the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex for two weeks of practice ahead of the Big Ten Tournament on March 6 and 7 at the Bryce Jordan Center.