Friday night saw the Nittany Lions take on the Rider Broncs in the state of New Jersey, and almost blanking the host team. In arguably the night’s most anticipated matchup, returning national champ Max Dean fell to Rider’s highest ranking wrestler, #12 Ethan Laird, on a somewhat debatable call in sudden victory. Dean had an unexpected loss in last season’s run to the title, and learned from it - and this year should be no different.
But aside from that, as per usual, the Penn State team looked GOOD. We didn’t have a chance to gauge Terrell Barraclough’s bounce back after his first loss of the season (to teammate Levi Haines) after his opponent injury defaulted in the first thirty seconds of the night, but Alex Facundo, Shayne Van Ness, and Beau Bartlett all responded well to their challenges, with the latter coming up big in the final minutes after being down. Certified stud Donovan Ball, stepping in for the resting Aaron Brooks, once again proved that he’s got Rider’s number, and looked to be no match for his opponent in their 184 pound bout, and Gary Steen was the definite aggressor (which paid off) to kick off the night!
Next up for the Nittany Lions is their toughest bout this season, and it’s not even close - taking on Lehigh, in Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks boast a deep lineup with some tough outings for Penn State - and none more difficult than Dean’s opponent, former PSU teammate Michael Beard. It should be a good meet, with a ton of fans for both sides in front of a sell out crowd!
Last year’s bout against Lehigh was in Rec Hall, a tight one against an injury and illness-depleted PSU squad. This should be a different animal, but no less entertaining. Let’s get into it!
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State vs #22 Lehigh*
Where: Stabler Arena, Bethlehem, PA
When: Sunday, December 4, 2 pm
Audio: Free (via GoPSUSports)
Video: Flo ($$)
|#1 Penn State||WT||#22 Lehigh|
|#1 Penn State||WT||#22 Lehigh|
|Gary Steen (Fr., Hermitage, PA)||125||#26 - Carter Bailey (Fr., Livermore, CA)|
|#1 - Roman Bravo-Young (Sr., Tucson, AZ)||133||#19 - Connor McGonagle (So., Danville, NH)|
|#9 - Beau Bartlett (Jr., Tempe, AZ)||141||#30 - Malyke Hines (So., Kissimmee, FL)|
|#20 - Shayne Van Ness (Fr., Somerville, NJ)||149||#26 - Manzona Bryant IV (So., Columbus, OH)|
|#30 - Terrell Barraclough (So., Kaysville, UT)||157||#8 - Josh Humphreys (Sr., Parkersburg, WV)|
|#17 - Alex Facundo (Fr., Essexville, MI)||165||Brian Meyer (Jr., Phillipsburg, NJ)|
|#1 - Carter Starocci (Jr., Erie, PA)||174||Jake Logan (So., New Rochelle, NY)|
|#1 - Aaron Brooks (Sr., Hagerstown, MD)||184||#22 - Tate Samuelson (Sr., Castle Rock, CO)|
|#1 - Max Dean (Sr., Lowell, MI)||197||#9 - Michael Beard (So., Reading, PA)|
|#2 - Greg Kerkvliet (So., Grove Heights, MN)||285||Davis Szuba (So., Brick, NJ)|
Steen had a great Friday night bout, looking aggressive and assertive. His path doesn’t get easier; this may not be as tough an outing as his first dual of the year, in a matchup against Anthony Noto of Lock Haven, but this isn’t any easier. I do think Steen will keep it closer, though.
Prediction: Bailey by decision
Score: PSU 0, Lehigh 3
Some folks may be still harping on that overtime call in Dean’s matchup, but I’m still thinking about that no-TD call to end RBY’s match in a technical fall. Ultimately meant nothing on the outcome of the dual meet (and Roman won either way), but I like being right even more.
In this bout, RBY takes on a wrestler who was at 141 in last year’s dual, and lost by a near-major to Nick Lee. He himself won by major (one point shy of a tech, sound familiar?) over McGonagle’s teammate, Sheldon Seymour. McGonagle’s better at this weight than 141, but our returning champ is just far too much for most wrestlers.
Prediction: RBY by major decision
Score: PSU 4, Lehigh 3
Beau had an opportunity to tie his bout on Friday night at the end of the second, and instead went for the big move. I second guessed him (and I’m sure I’m not alone) - but it’s that same sort of decision that netted him six points instead of three later on in the third period. His weekend doesn’t, on paper, get any easier, but I have a feeling he’ll be brimming with confidence headed back to PA.
Bartlett lost his bout against Lehigh’s 149er Bryant last year, by one point - this year, at his more natural weight, I think we’ll see more comfort. I almost picked bonus on this but I do think Beau’s tries for the big move will cost him a bonus point (but not the bout).
Prediction: Bartlett by decision
Score: PSU 7, Lehigh 3
Speaking of confidence - woo boy! Shayne Van Ness took on Rider’s only other ranked wrestler on Friday, and while he didn’t get bonus, he dominated from the first whistle. Kinner wasn’t the only Rider wrestler who was tired out by a PSU grappler, but it might have been the most stark - by the end, Van Ness had his way. Sunday’s bout against a ranked wrestler in Bryant should tell us a lot; the Mountain Hawk pulled out a squeaker against Bartlett last season, but he’ll have his hands far fuller against a more natural 149-pound-wrestler this year.
Prediction: Van Ness by decision
Score: PSU 10, Lehigh 3
I think we all were looking to see how one of this year’s most improved PSUers, Terrell Barraclough, would fare for seven minutes after his first loss of the year; unfortunately, that was not to be (and I truly hope Rider’s Jake Silverstein is doing ok). That look-see will now have to happen on Sunday, against arguably the best wrestler on Lehigh’s team in Humphreys.
Last year, PSU sometime-starter Tony Negron took it to Humphreys, but ultimately didn’t prevail. This should be similar; Bearclaw will put up a fight and score at least one takedown (or be close), but the home wrestler will come out on top, possibly literally as well as figuratively.
Prediction: Humphreys by decision
Score: PSU 10, Lehigh 6
Alex Facundo started slower than he wanted on Friday, but worked into domination. He’ll only continue to climb the ranks this season; it starts against a wrestler against whom last year’s PSU wrestler, Creighton Edsell, beat on a riding time point. That won’t be how the freshman wins, with an expected takedown clinic coming in the third period.
Prediction: Facundo by major decision
Score: PSU 14, Lehigh 6
Carter Starocci’s been itching for a big move and lots of points, and I’m going to keep on predicting it until it happens. Why not on Sunday, against a wrestler who had no answer for the Penn Stater last season?
Prediction: Carter by pin
Score: PSU 20, Lehigh 6
Aaron Brooks took a rest day on Friday, but according to Jeff Byers, was fine and just had a day off (no injury or illness) - unlike last year, when Ball had to fill in for this dual. Unlike last year as well, Lehigh’s got a ranked wrestler at this weight, so it should be a different story if AB was still out; as it is, he’s planning on wrestling, which means that we should see the Hagerstown champ set the pace from the jump. He’s taking on a four-time NCAA qualifying transfer from Wyoming, so this should be a good change of pace.
Prediction: AB by major decision
Score: PSU 24, Lehigh 6
197 LBS - Match of the Meet
Sometimes, a lot of the time I’m a fan of early season losses for wrestlers; it helps them learn, grow, and not breed complacency. I’m not sure that Dean needs to learn or grow or that he was complacent, but I do know that he seemed somewhat tentative in the bout in New Jersey, and I definitely think he’ll learn from the loss.
And when better to start learning than right now? Dean won the wrestle offs in the weight room against Beard to be the starter last season, and understandably, Michael Beard left to be a starter at another program. I think this bout won’t have the fireworks of Dean’s match last year vs Lehigh (which saw him WBF) but I do think he’ll bounce back with a late takedown to win it.
Prediction: Dean by decision
Score: PSU 27, Lehigh 6
It’s never easy replacing a multiple-time conference champion, which is what Taylor’s having to do after Jordan Wood. And it doesn’t help when you’re having to face an NCAA title contender who, though the official stat sheet doesn’t show it, dominated a fellow hopeful a few weeks ago. Kerk’s on a mission this year, and as of now, the only one who can derail him in my opinion is himself.
Prediction: Kerk by major decision
Score: PSU 31, Lehigh 6
Overall score prediction: PSU 31, Lehigh 6
*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because this happens to be a dual. Penn State is #1 in both rankings; Lehigh is #22 in the dual meet rankings, and unranked in the tournament rankings.