Penn State entered this weekend’s Big Ten Wrestling Tournament at the Bryce Jordan Center with a very small, but mathematical chance of taking home a conference championship.
After Saturday morning’s opening session, that chance feels like it was a pipe dream.
The Nittany Lions went just 11-6 in the first session of wrestling and advanced just four wrestlers to Saturday night’s semifinals.
Freshman Robert Howard started the morning with a quick takedown of Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett, but Barnett notched an early reversal and rode out much of the rest of the period. He’d go on to take a 3-2 decision victory with riding time.
Howard did win his back side match against Maryland to keep his NCAA qualification hopes alive.
Up at 133, top-seeded Roman Bravo-Young looked solid, but far from his usual spectacular self in a 9-3 win over Jake Rundell of Purdue. He’ll have Northwestern’s Chris Cannon in tonight’s semis.
Normal service resumed at 141 pounds as Nick Lee looked as dominant as ever. Lee was a hammer, turning Ohio State’s Dylan D’Emilio three separate times to notch a 17-1 tech fall in just 3:12.
At 149, Beau Bartlett was unable to get to his offense as he fell to sixth-seeded Michael Blockhus of Minnesota, 5-3. On the back side, Bartlett pinned Michael North of Maryland to stay alive for the NCAA tournament.
Moving up to 157, Brady Berge looked fantastic in the opening round. Berge notched six takedowns in a 13-4 major decision win over Illinois’ Evan Mologousis. In the quarters, however, Berge failed to register a takedown and dropped a 3-2 decision to Purdue’s Kendall Coleman.
Joe Lee had perhaps the most disappointing showing of the morning. The freshman was facing Phillip Spadafora of Maryland, whom he’d dominated just two weeks ago en route to a pin. This time around was different, however, as Lee looked labored throughout and dropped a 7-5 decision in sudden victory. On the back side, then, he had to come from behind to pick up a 4-3 win over Wisconsin’s Josh Otto to keep himself alive with a shot at qualification.
Carter Starocci was a bright note for the Nittany Lions. In his first match of the day, the 174-pound redshirt freshman pinned Maryland’s Phillip Spadafora in the second period. He then came back in the quarterfinals and gutted out a 2-0 win over Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero, riding out the entire third period.
The showing of the session came from none other than Aaron Brooks at 184 pounds. Brooks was locked in a battle with Iowa’s Nelson Brands in the second period when he appeared to roll his ankle severely. Brands built a 6-3 lead and Brooks was twice forced to take injury time. A late takedown brought him back into it at 7-5, and in the third period he notched a reversal to tie it at 7-7 off the whistle. Brands escaped, but with riding time the two were effectively tied at 8-8. From there, Brooks took Brands directly to his back for a six-point move, riding out the last minute and taking a 14-8 victory.
Up at 197, Michael Beard was impressive in his two matches despite going 1-1. Beard first claimed a 7-3 win over Rutgers’ Billy Janzer to advance to the quarterfinals. There, he met second-seeded Myles Amine of Michigan, who many consider a national title favorite. Beard and Amine went back and forth, with the Nittany Lion freshman taking a 6-4 lead late in the third period. Unfortunately for the Malvern (Pa). product, he then tripped and conceded a reversal to send us to sudden victory. In the sudden victory period, Amine converted a low single for a takedown to grab an 8-6 victory and move on.
Lastly, Greg Kerkvliet looked strong in his first match of the day, taking 16-5 major decision victory over Northwestern’s Jack Heyob. In the quarters, however, he ran into a freight train in the form of Michigan’s Mason Parris. Kerkvliet made an early mistake to put Parris up 2-0 and the Wolverine’s heavy rode out the period. From there on, it was all Parris; he added three more takedowns and came away with an 11-3 major decision. Kerkvliet, who needs to win another match to qualify for NCAAs, also appeared to reaggravate an injury to his left knee that required minor surgery earlier in the season.