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Wrestling Session 4 Recap: Penn State Extends Their Lead

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Aaron Brooks is back in the National Finals.
Scott Pilutik | Black Shoe Diaries

This is the greatest tournament in all the world.

It is. Check the receipts.

And the Friday night Session 4, which hosts the Semifinals and the Bloodround, whose winners earn All-American and whose losers are eliminated, is the greatest session of this great tournament.

Oh, the dog bone was celebrated alright.

Was it ever!

Heading into Friday night’s Semifinals, I wrote:

At the risk of stating the obvious, Kerkvliet has the biggest challenge, but the other 5 Semis are winnable. If Penn State goes 5-1 and adds 35 points to their current 73, for ~108, they should be in good shape versus both Michigan and Arizona State.

After Friday night’s Semifinals, the updated team standings:

via Penn State Wrestling Club

Hey look at that! Penn State went 5-1, has 108 points, and is in pretty good shape versus Michigan & Arizona State.

As the great Bo Nickal once famously said: “this is what we do.”

I mean, it really is. Cael Sanderson-led Penn State wrestlers are an insane 45-6 in the National Semifinals. If mathematics is one of your kinks, that’s an 88% success rate.

I mean...

What can you do except for look at the results?

Michigan Session 4 Results

Semis

125: W: #1 Suriano DEC #4 Courtney (ASU) 4-1

157: L: #5 Monday (PRIN) DEC #8 Lewan 3-2

165: L: #2 O’Toole (MIZZ) DEC #6 Amine 4-0

174: L: #2 Lewis (VT) FALL #3 Massa 6:19

184: W: #1 Amine DEC #5 Truax (CP) 3-1 SV1

R12

133: L: #7 Byrd (ILL) DEC #6 Ragusin 6-5

141: L: #12 Composto (PENN) DEC #24 Micic 10-4

285: W: #7 Parris MD #13 Orndorff (tOSU) 12-1

Penn State Session 4 Results

133: #1 Bravo-Young DEC #5 DeSanto (IOWA) 3-2; PSU +7, 80

And so ends another great Penn State - Iowa individual rivalry. Desanto started out 2-0 in their career matchups, but RBY won the last 6 to cap it at 6-2.

Thus spake RBY:

Q. I’ve been bothering you all year about this. I really want you to come back next year. Is there any chance we can get you back next year for another year?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: I don’t know. Maybe I can be convinced, but right now, not worried about that. There’s a lot of times and other things that I want to do, but for now just take it step by step, and if I do decide to come back, I’ll make that decision later on in the year, but if not, it’s a great way to go out. Another NCAA final. It’s grateful to be in this position. Like I said, do my part and hopefully get closer to the team title.

Q. Why are you so hard to score on you?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: I’m not too sure. I was wrestling Gilman every day. Gilman helps me quite a bit. He is tough and strong, but I think I just have a lot of defense and just move my feet quite a bit. Other than that, I don’t know why.

Q. A couple of good shots, a couple of — what was the key to converting?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: That’s probably my eighth or ninth time wrestling. It gets harder every time. Like I said, when I got off the mat, I have to thank him. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He pushes me in different kinds of ways. I’m doing extra workouts and stuff. I knew how to get one takedown, and I just found I away to get that at the end, once again, but, yeah.

Q. Roman, rematch from last year’s NCAA final with Daton Fix, obviously he is a world silver medalist and as tough as it gets. Beat him in overtime last year. What do you have to do to repeat the performance, repeat as a national champion, and knock off Daton Fix tomorrow night?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: Just got to find a way. It’s obviously going to be a tough match, and we wrestled before, and I just have to do what I do. Grateful win or lose, but other than that, I’m going to go out there and move my feet and have a good time and enjoy it. You don’t get to wrestle in the NCAA finals too often. I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun night, and hopefully I’m in the finals along with my teammates.

Q. Congratulations. What’s it mean to be a repeat NCAA finalist at least and especially, like he said, against Daton again?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: It means everything to me, and I don’t think — I don’t think a lot of people understand how tough it is and how tough this tournament is. You can see a lot of people go down upset, and not only is it tough wrestling, but the mindsets and roller coaster of emotions. You have to be on point every single match. You can’t slip up. It’s not easy.

I think I’ve been undefeated all year, and it’s definitely hard when everyone is coming after you. I have to be on every match. I can’t get hurt. I have to watch what I eat, diet, and everything. It’s definitely a lot in the process, but I’m grateful. I am going to enjoy it. It’s not an easy process.

Q. Most guys get pretty intense before their match. You see them getting shaking and running in place and all ready to go. You are skipping around smiling and having a good time. Where does that come from?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: I like to move my feet and be loose, and you think I said this last year, in ten years, no one is going to remember this, no one cares. They might remember me winning or being in the finals, but other than that, this is all earthly things that really don’t matter. Doing the right things and living a good life and inspiring other people. That’s all I really care about.

Q. You have had some battles with Austin DeSanto. You touched on it a little bit. This might have been one of the last times you’ll wrestle him. When you reflect back on that in match-ups with him, what will you remember the most?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: Hell of a competitor. Honestly, if that’s one person in the bracket or somebody you don’t want to wrestle, it’s him. He is coming at your face and complete opposite style of me. I like to dance around. He comes at you hard. He is a hell of a competitor, and you know, I’m sorry I had to be the one to beat him, but he had a great career doing whatever he is doing. He inspires me and pushes me. After that dual, I almost lost, and I didn’t like the way I wrestled, so I just hit a different gear after that. I really needed him to be where I’m at today.

Q. You kind of touched up on DeSanto, and he is a great wrestler, and no one really wants to wrestle him. I think you have beaten him five times in a row. How do you consistently come out on top?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: It’s hard. It’s not my style. It is complete opposite. I know he knows what I do. Found a way to get it done in the end. We got in a crazy scramble. Ran out of bounds a little bit when I was down, but other than that, just found a way. It’s not easy, but those big moments, you have to stay calm and poised.

Q. You talked about — what is Daton Fix’s style? What do you expect to see?

ROMAN BRAVO-YOUNG: He is solid. He is strong. Good inside. It’s going to be a fun match, and I’m excited for it. Yeah, it’s funny, like I said, I’ve watched him growing up and I have seen him be on all these world teams. I saw him after NCAA’s last year and he took second in the world. He is the real deal. That just excites me. I haven’t gotten as many chances as he has on the world stage, so this is my stage for now. I hope we go out and put on a show. That’s it. Just enjoy it.

141: #1 Lee DEC #4 Woods (STAN) 3-2; PSU +7, 87

Thus Spake Nick Lee:

Q. Congratulations, Nick. Your weight class especially there seemed to have been upsets all around. How have you kind of avoided that throughout the session so far?

NICK LEE: It’s a really tough weight class. Every year, there’s new guys coming in that can challenge the top guys, so I think just sticking to my stuff, sticking to the process is what’s helping me out.

Q. Nick, slow offensive pace tonight. What was the key to your — to that takedown?

NICK LEE: I think just not letting go of the legs and continue to fight for it is something that we work on, so it worked out.

Q. We don’t know how the rest of the night is going to go with your Penn State guys. You guys just don’t seem to give up points. That’s consistent. Is it technique? What is it? Is it mindset?

NICK LEE: You give up less points than your opponent. You win the match generally, so I think that’s kind of where we’re coming from.

Q. For you guys, it’s more than just words. You guys do it. How is that happening?

NICK LEE: Technique, conditioning. That kind of stuff I think.

Q. Nick, this being your last year, is this a little different? Does it feel a little different knowing this is your last time to go around here?

NICK LEE: A little bit. Not too much different, but there’s definitely that spectrum in the back of my mind, I think just trying to have a little more fun, enjoy it, and keeping things in perspective, what’s the big picture, right, so I think those are things I’m thinking about.

Q. Nick, you do it again tomorrow night. Does it make it more special because you did not have to be here this year?

NICK LEE: I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of guys that don’t have to be here, but it’s not a have to or not have to. It’s a get to, right? There’s 32 guys in this weight class that get to do this. It’s a really incredible opportunity. They focus in on the heartbreak a lot, but I don’t know if that’s good marketing, but they focus in on it, and that’s real, right, because it is an awesome opportunity, and it’s a cool thing to do, so I’m just grateful for it.

Q. What’s it mean to go back to the national championships for the second year in a row?

NICK LEE: It’s really awesome. I feel like I’m just trying to be my best self, and if my best self is in the national championships, then that’s where I want to be.

Q. Nick, how much will you spend time watching the rest of the guys in the finals tonight?

NICK LEE: I’ll watch them a little bit. I try to not if I’m feeling nervous. I don’t think it helps them or me, so sometimes I just try to find out results later, but I’ll probably log on and see if I can watch tonight. Got to make weight too, so there could be some work there to do, but —

Q. You’re wrestling Clarke. Went in overtime against Matthews. You know anything about him?

NICK LEE: No. He is in the finals of the national tournament, so he is an incredible wrestler, so I’m excited. It should be a fun match.

Q. Tell us a little bit about what it’s been like being at Penn State for the last five years with Cael as your head coach, and the great assistant coaches he has and the bond you guys have. You guys are such a close family. Tell us a little bit about that, will you?

NICK LEE: I’ve actually been there for six years, I spent my senior year of high school there training. I competed very little, but I was out there, and I would describe it as a family. I think a lot of teams would probably say the same, but I think anybody that comes into our room from outside can tell you it’s a very different vibe, a different atmosphere than most college rooms.

I think that has a lot to do with our coaching staff. They’re just incredible. I’m not going to name names because I’ll forget somebody, but we have an incredible staff all the way around. They’re the best in the world as far as I’m concerned. And them fostering that, and I think older guys helping the younger guys kind of understand where we’re coming from and why we do what we do is really important.

Q. Are you in for an Olympic cycle?

NICK LEE: We’ll see. We’ll see. I haven’t even made that decision yet.

174: #1 Starocci DEC #4 Hidlay 10-3; PSU +7, 94

Q. You might be the most confident person I’ve ever talked to in the course of this season. What are your thoughts heading into the NCAA Finals?

CARTER STAROCCI: A lot of confidence comes from God. I put God first in everything. With him in my life I know that I’m just a blip of existence. I’m not going to care what no one thinks about me. I’m going to go out there and do what I want. I don’t get up in the morning to say another guy can beat me. I’m coming to take everyone out. That’s what it is, that’s the mind-set, that’s what our coach’s mind-set is, my team, my team, line ‘em up.

Q. What were you seeing that you were able to get in and finish shots as cleanly as you did?

CARTER STAROCCI: Just like I said before, I don’t get up in the morning just to half, like, give half the effort. I come, I look for my technique — can I get bonus points?

Q. You did — no, it was 10-3.

CARTER STAROCCI: I have to do better, I got to get bonus points for our team. I’m coming for the individual title, and the team title, I have to keep pressing forward, keep moving forward, keep looking forward, keep improving in all areas.

Q. You talked about the team attitude, is it one of no fear? Is that how you guys wrestle, without any fear?

CARTER STAROCCI: Yeah, we don’t fear anything, we near no man. Yeah, that’s not even a thought. I haven’t heard that word in a minute.

Q. I want to talk about how your teammates inspire you.

CARTER STAROCCI: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m sitting back, relaxing, watching Roman, watching Nick and I’m warming up and I see Max, I see Greg, all of our guys, our coaches, our coaches get in the fox hole with us, it’s day in and day out effort across the board. All the people back stage you guys don’t see, but we’re doing work all the time. Being part of this program, there are no words. It one of those things you have to experience to understand what it is.

Q. The way you describe your teammates sounds like you’re describing a machine that’s brought together by heart, is that what this is?

CARTER STAROCCI: I think it’s God, our words, thoughts, action, everything is sacred so I think it’s better than a machine, it’s almost like — just like — I mean, we all have a lot of power. I don’t know, I think when it comes to my life it’s God and he brings peace and love into all of our hearts and that’s what our program is.

Q. You had some close matches and you found ways to win, didn’t matter what the match was, you would find a way to win. I heard this year you spent more time in the wrestling room and they almost have to kick you out almost every day because you’re working so hard. What brought that on?

CARTER STAROCCI: There is not a guy that’s close to my level so last year I had to hop in the fox hole and shoot all the clips but this year I’m not looking to do that I’m looking to dominate. That’s a testament to my family and where I come from. Our whole family is all fighters, my dad works real hard, my Grandpa, my brother, my mom, my sister, everyone works hard so that’s kind of our nature, when one of us go to war all of us get in there with you.

It’s not just me out there, it’s a lot.

Q. Brooks is up next and then Max and Greg follow you, with Roman and Nick also in the NCAA Finals what are your thoughts?

CARTER STAROCCI: My thought was I was trying to go out there and get some bonus points. I could have got more points, and that’s something I will build on next match. That’s a blessing that opportunity brings. That happened, it’s gone, get it next time and keep moving forward. It’s day by day, and I love the life that I live, our teammates do.

They’re excited for this opportunity. They’re well aware it comes and goes, one day you will wake up with all your dreams in your face so it’s like having that— like what you doing every day with all your decisions and being focused.

184: #1 Brooks DEC #3 Hidlay 6-4 SV1 7:11; PSU +7, 101

Thus spake Aaron Brooks:

Q. I couldn’t help back to the Big Ten final when — scored late and this went into overtime, when this went into overtime, what was your thought?

AARON BROOKS: Gosh, God. My mind was in other places, but God is my peace. I know he’s got me. Stay calm and relaxed.

Q. You said your mind was in other places, do you know why?

AARON BROOKS: We’re human. It happens, right? I was on kind of a hot streak, like I said it took a minute to make me realize these things and come back to my roots. It’s a blessing.

Q. Aaron, you kept shooting. How confident were you it was going to work?

AARON BROOKS: I just exert myself every time I go out there. I wanted that second stall card, he goes to the edge a lot. It’s his style, you’ve got to put — put his hips in when he shoots so you have to stay on him, be consistent.

Q. You wrestled with no fans and now you had all these fans out here tonight, talk about that?

AARON BROOKS: It’s electric. It’s a blessing that God has given me to be out here and glorify him. I’m not worthy of his blessings, but I’m just grateful. It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of so to be here in the moment, living the moment, I look up see my fans, my family, I just want to acknowledge them, they’re a huge part of this with me so it means a lot.

Q. During the match he was wrestling the edge, same tactics as he used last year and you were so close to scoring on the edge three or four times that I saw. It gets frustrating. How do you react to that frustrating. You wanted to be back in the middle and you were at the end. What do you say to yourself to get you where you need to be?

AARON BROOKS: It’s funny, I had a dream a week ago, it was me and him wrestling in the semis and I scored a takedown but it was a weird call and in my dream I was like, stay calm. I’m out there and that happened and I’m like, I knew this would happen, kind of, so this is God, he prepares me for these things ahead of time and when it happened I knew it was a time to keep my faith and keep going.

Q. You are one win away from a perfect night again. Y’all are so hard to score on. Why is that?

AARON BROOKS: Our coaches, the things we do in the room. They’re the best coaches in the world, you know? Second to none. I give credit to the coaches. I guess I’m blessed to be at the place I’m at. It’s just a blessing. I’m grateful. Whenever you’re in a place like that you are prepared the right way so thanks to my coaches.

Q. Aaron, you had two close matches there with the guy you’re going to be seeing tomorrow night. Has that been on your mind? Looking to get another crack at him?

AARON BROOKS: You kind of figure who it’ll be, when you look at the brackets. You want to picture yourself in the finals and when you look at these guys you can kinda tell. But a bronze medalist, 25 years of age, he’s been in the game a while. Worthy opponent. It’s a blessing. He’s going to bring out the best in me tomorrow and I’m sure I will do the same for him, so grateful.

Q. You haven’t lost a match today in the semis as a team, what does that mean to you?

AARON BROOKS: We feed off each other, watching Roman in a close one with DeSanto, he pulled it out, that motivates me, when I’m in a great match we do it together, we’re a family. I think that’s what makes this team special. I’ve been at Penn State for three years now and this team is special. The atmosphere, we’re smiling, we’re having a good time all the time. We love what we do, we love each other so I think that’s why our team is so successful this year. Past years we were always good, come in second, second, past years, but this team is special, you know, something different. Give it to God. This is God’s plan.

Q. You said you had the dream and that God prepared you for events like this. (Away from mic.) You pointed up to the sky. Was that an extra reference to that preparation?

AARON BROOKS: Yeah. You know, I think Coach came up to me and he saw my head band — for Christianity sign. I just felt— he’s a gamer, credit to that kid, coach was talking about he’s a gamer, too, and Coach said the ultimate gamer and he said imagine the pressure he had to be perfect and that took all the pressure away from me. It was like our savior went through this, he puts me in these situations, I thought I would be like him, calm and relaxed. He had the pressure of the world to never sin so yeah.

197: #1 Dean DEC #21 Hoffman 9-3; PSU +7, 108

Thus spake Max Dean:

Q. This will be the second time you will be in the finals of the NCAA Tournament. What’s the difference between last time and this time?

MAX DEAN: A lot. My whole life has changed but pretty much everything. Experience, the people I have behind me. So those would be the two biggest things.

Q. Max, can you take us back to the journey, what took you to State College, I’m sure you could having someplace else. Why there?

MAX DEAN: It was time for me to leave where I was because the place was no longer consistent with my values. I wanted to explore my options, always had a lot of respect for Cael Sanderson and the way he runs his program. I wanted to go to go to a place where they were going to win NCAA Titles, so excited to have that opportunity with them tomorrow.

Q. Seems like you and Suriano provided the missing parts they needed to take them back to the top, is that what is it?

MAX DEAN: I don’t know if I would go that far, Penn State has a lot of good guys in their upper weights but I came in and tried to contribute as much as I could on and off the mat, tip my hat to Michael Beard he made me raise my level and I raised his level and now I’m here competing. Stinks for him, I know he has a bright future ahead of him and he’s going to do great things.

Q. You are going to wrestle Jacob Warner, he won tonight. You wrestled him in the dual at the University of Iowa, he got up early and you came back late and scored a takedown and grabbed the leg, turned him over, you got a 4-point move. Are you going to have to start earlier tomorrow night or same game plan that you had last time?

MAX DEAN: I’m going to go out and wrestle hard for 7 minutes. That’s what I always do and let the chips fall. It’s a little different every time.

Q. Do you take anything away from your first match with Warner? Clean slate?

MAX DEAN: If there is anything I need to know my coaches will let me know, usually that’s about 30 minutes before the match, outside of that I try to keep my mind empty.

Q. Family has been a big theme in this interview room, your dad reached the finals, your brother, two-time NCAA Champ. What do they mean in this process?

MAX DEAN: Everything, I grew up wanting to be like my dad and wanting to be like my brother. Be not just hard workers but two of the toughest guys you will ever meet. They’ve supported me, been there for me, had my back. It’s been a tough couple of years and knowing I had those guys and everyone else to lean on. They’ve got my six. Family is number one, I love them, love the rest of my family and my extended family at Penn State, just super grateful for everyone behind me. It better that I deserve. Luckiest guy in the world.

285: #1 Steveson DEC #4 Kerkvliet 8-3

For any of you fans with paid Flowrestling subscriptions, I heavily endorse reading Andrew Spey’s live-blog descriptions of each match. I’ve tried to do some live-blogging for recaps in the past and I’m telling you, it is difficult. I watched Spey do this live the past few days and it is hella impressive.

Here, I even got a photo:

It’s paywalled, so I won’t clip much, but here’s how Spey described the Greg Kerkvliet - Gable Steveson bout in real-time:

#1 Gable Steveson, (Minnesota) vs #3 Greg Kerkvliet, (Penn State) - We’ve seen this matchup before, going back to high school. It’s also been Steveson, but Steveson showed he was mortal last round. Steveson’s penultimate collegiate wrestling match begins. Kerkvliet not backing down from the challenge. They go out of bounds around the halfway mark. Steveson goes in for a shot and fights through a whizzer for the first two. Kerk escapes 2-1.

Second period underway, Kerk underneath again. Gable putting on a ride. 1:22 of riding time before Kerkvliet escapes, though the score is tied, 2-2. Steveson takes bottom and is out quickly, preserving riding time at 1:14. Kerkvliet in on shot, he’s got an ankle. Steveson dives for a far ankle of his own and it’s stalemated. Another shot by Kerk and Steveson hits a go behind for a 5-2 lead. Escape makes it 5-3. Repeat that the first half of that sequence and it’s 7-3. And that’s how it ends. Penn State finalist streak is finally broken and Steveson advances to the finals for his last collegiate match!

He’s got stuff like that for EVERY semifinal match. If you’re into math, that’s two bouts at a time, times 10 weights = 20 bouts, all live-described in American English.

I said coming into this week that one of the things I was most looking forward to was rubbing elbows with all the different full-timers in Wrestling Media and seeing how they all do their thing, so I wanted to share this thing I have learned: live-blogging is a craft, and Spey’s a dang craftsman.

The Look Ahead

Penn State is likely to clinch the team title in Session 5, but they might not. Here to break it all down for us is ... the BSD Wrestle community!

I love the volunteer work you all put in. It makes this a fun place, sure, but also generates useful data. Thanks to bubba and bveo and JiC.

Got it?

Let’s go, Kerk!