Last season, the 2022 Penn State Nittany Lions wrestled 17 dual meets and outscored their opponents an average of 29.9 to 9.1 while extending their dual win streak to 28.
Of the 170 individual bouts in those 17 dual meets, Penn State won 126 of them, to 44 losses, for a 74% winning average.
That team sent 9 wrestlers to Nationals, where it placed 6 All-Americans and 5 National Champions.
Folks, the 2023 Nittany Lions might be even better.
This year’s new lineup dominated the Bald Eagles of Lock Haven on Friday, November 11, 44-3.
And man, did they look good doing so!
125 #13 Anthony Noto MD Gary Steen, 14-4; LHU 4-0
This was a decent benchmark for fans to set their expectations around, in the wake of the news of Robbie Howard being out for the season. Noto is strong and has a good shot that he finishes securely. He went 1-2 in last year’s Nationals, but he controlled Steen from start to finish. He scored two takedowns in each period and accumulated 1:39 in riding time.
133 #1 Roman Bravo-Young TF Gable Strickland, 23-8 (6:55); PSU 5-4
RBY looked as quick as ever in putting on another great show for the Rec Hall crowd. He scored 4 takedowns in the first period, 3 in the second and 3 in the third, when he also added 2 Nearfall points to put the final nail in the coffin.
141 #16 Beau Bartlett MD Ty Linsenbigler, 10-0; PSU 9-4
In a preseason interview with an unidentified Nittany Lion Club interviewer on $Rokfin, Bartlett talked about wanting to push the pace more this season to increase his scoring. When I heard that, I was picturing him in neutral, but what we saw on Friday night was him pushing the pace from the top position.
His 10 points consisted of 2 takedowns, a reversal, a stalling point and over 2 minutes of riding time.
149 #27 Shayne Van Ness WBF Connor Eck (6:32); PSU 15-4
Well, this was an exciting debut!
Van Ness was highly regarded when he chose Penn State a few years ago, but injuries hampered his visibility during his redshirt year last year. It’s usually exciting for fans when Cael unveils a new hammer, and this was certainly no different. Van Ness looked smooth and confident and comfortable, and like he’s going to be putting up lots of points and pins in his Nittany Lion career to come.
Van Ness tallied 2 takedowns in the first and 2 in the second, after which he demonstrated his willingness to join teammate Max Dean in the always-open Archery Season. Note the bottom of Eck’s shoe just behind Eck’s head in Scott’s photo above.
In the third, he took his opponent down for a fifth time, forced a stall point, then finished off the pin with a strong cradle.
Handing off to Ironvoice Jeff Byers for the finish:
Cradle to get the pin, what a finish!! pic.twitter.com/gsAdi594Wj— Penn State WRESTLING (@pennstateWREST) November 12, 2022
157 Terrell Barraclough DEC #20 Ashton Eyler, 3-1; PSU 18-3 (Unsportsmanlike team point deduction for LHU, for striking the refs with the challenge brick)(it’s a soft foamy brick, so this seemed a little silly)
This is Bear Claw’s 4th year in the Penn State room, and he’s got a fine chance this year to represent the Lions in his first postseason. In his season debut, he nearly had a takedown in the first, but it was waved off after review. In the second, he orchestrated a reversal that he couldn’t hold onto very long, and he granted the escape.
In the third, Eyler chose bottom, and that is where he remained. That’s a fine win over a ranked opponent to start the season.
165 #23 Alex Facundo TF Aiden Gaugler, 27-12; PSU 23-3
It could shape up to be a fun battle between Van Ness & Facundo to see who will become the most dominant newbie to the lineup. Whereas Van Ness booked the first pin of the night, Facundo took home takedown honors by totaling 13!
174 #1 Carter Starocci MD Tyler Stoltzfus, 19-5; PSU 27-3
This bout started out very active, as Starocci earned 5 takedowns and a penalty point for a head butt in the first period. In the second, from bottom, he earned another penalty point, this time for an illegal choke. He finished that period with two more takedowns.
In the third, Stoltzfus chose top and put on a long ride, which Starocci finally reversed from in the closing seconds.
184 #1 Aaron Brooks TF Colin Fegley, 24-9 (6:32); PSU 32-3
Brooks came in second behind Facundo in the takedown derby with 11, and he spread them out. 4 in the first, 3 in the second and 4 in the third.
Looks like much more of the same excellence and domination we’ve come to enjoy from Aaron Brooks this year.
Aaron Brooks cross ankle pick to back side double leg finish. Initial knee drop allows him to secure ankle control & he then takes a big step forward with trail leg, cuts the corner & does another knee drop while his collar tie arm finds the far leg below the knee.@B1GWrestling pic.twitter.com/AeF6OFsm0w— Dan Sweeney (@DPSBreakdowns) November 14, 2022
197 #1 Max Dean WBF Brad Morrison (2:03); PSU 38-3
Every day is Archery Season for Max Dean.
A single takedown, a bow and arrow to flip the hips, and a pin to begin Dean’s repeat bid.
285 #2 Greg Kerkvliet WBF Ethan Miller (1:21); PSU 44-3
Kerk is just too big and strong and fast and smooth for most opponents he’ll face this year.
In this bout, he granted an early escape after his initial takedown, but after the second takedown he decided to just pin his opponent. Byers volume warning, take heed:
Of the Lions’ 9 bout wins, 8 earned Bonus Points, and there was no shortage of variety. Two Major Decisions, 3 Technical Falls and 3 Pins filled out the box score. The new lineup racked up an incredible 137 bout points (including points earned before pins at 157, 197 & 285), to Lock Haven’s 52, and it dominated the takedown battle 51 to 6.
This lineup is sick.
Heading into a new season, the 4 returning National Champions and 2x AA Greg Kerkvliet are about as good as any team could hope for out of 5 of its 10 weight classes. Add in two elite recruits, who have been incubating in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex for 15 months or so (Van Ness & Facundo), drop 2x qualifier Beau Bartlett down to 141 and you’ve got 8 incredible wrestlers primed to stand on the podium in March. Round out the lineup with a 4x Utah state champ at 157 and a 2x PA state champ at 125, and the prospects for qualifying all 10 weight classes for Nationals seem viable.
In Penn State’s dual meet schedule, only Iowa and Ohio State have the firepower to challenge the 2023 Nittany Lions, and they’ll each have to wrestle a perfect meet if they hope to do so.
More realistically, we’re looking at another season of Penn State excellence.