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Wrestling Postview: PSU 43, Hofstra 10

More than meets the eye in Rec Hall.

Cael and Cody Sanderson
Cael Sanderson looking on.
Scott Pilutik

(ed. note: BSDWrestle’s Brian Beltz / Succss With Honor Always is back again this season—jp)

Hofstra came into Rec Hall Sunday to take on the Nittany Lion wrestlers in their second home dual of the season. While the outcome seemed almost certain, the lineup that Penn State would be putting on the mat was anything but.

In addition to the usual considerations for fielding a lineup such as injury, illness, eligibility and development, this year presents an additional challenge of the added wear and tear of Olympic preparation and competition. The result is anyone’s guess as to who will be seeing the mat, especially in the earlier duals of the season, with the first question mark starting us off at 125.

125: Braeden Davis, PSU vs Dylan Acevedo, Hofstra

Braeden Davis secures a takedown for Penn State
Braeden Davis secures a takedown for Penn State | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries
Scott Pilutik, BSD

True freshman Braeden Davis took the mat for Penn State, a strong sign that his redshirt may be burned this season amidst the uncertainty of the 125 pound spot for Penn State.


Davis took the mat and immediately went on the offensive, opening with an initial flurry of shots. On his second attempt he was able to work through a scramble off of a single leg and score the takedown to get out to a 3-0 lead. An escape by Acevedo after nearly a minute of riding time was all the scoring there would be as Davis was clearly the aggressor throughout the initial 3 minutes.


Davis chose bottom to start the second and worked his way out to an early escape roughly 30 seconds into the period. Braeden continued to be the aggressor and fought through the posts and ties of Acevedo to score another takedown off a clean single leg, after which he rode out the period to maintain his 7-1 lead.


Acevedo took his turn on bottom to start the third, however he wouldn’t have as easy of a time getting out. Davis was able to maintain a hard ride, repeatedly returning Acevedo to the mat. After looking to the corner for direction, Braeden finally cut Acevedo with a little over a minute left in the period to look for the major (after looking to the corner. Dylan relied heavily on underhooks and ties to try and stymie Davis’ attacks, but Braeden was able to create just enough distance to drop down on another single leg and get the takedown for the 11-2 major decision once the riding time point was factored in.


For one of the few contested weights in the lineup, Davis made a strong case that he deserves the spot. Not only was he effective in all positions, but he clearly had an eye on bonus. While Acevedo isn’t the same level of competition Braeden would be facing in March, it was still a convincing win. Most encouragingly, he was able to fight through defense to score, creating space for himself to get to his shots. While this question mark didn’t seem likely to be answered anytime soon, we may already have an answer after just our second dual. Look for Braeden to get the majority of matches at 125 in order to aid in his development.

PSU 4, Hofstra 0

133: #4 Aaron Nagao, PSU vs Ryan Arbeit, Hofstra

Aaron Nagao on his way to a tech fall
Aaron Nagao on his way to a tech fall | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoes Diaries

Nagao took the mat looking to bounce back from his loss last week to Lehigh’s Crookham. While the uncertainty at the previous weight was regarding who will ultimately win the spot, the question at 133 is just how high is Nagao’s ceiling?


In what would be a consistent theme for Penn State, Nagao came out aggressive. A series of snaps and feints found Nagao in on a low single that he was quickly able to finish for the takedown. Shortly thereafter he had Arbeit flattened out with both boots in, looking for a turn. After accruing over a minute in riding time, Nagao cut Arbeit for the escape to look to add to his 3-1 lead. After a restart Aaron was able to hit a double from far out and get his second takedown of the period. Not content with the 6-1 lead he cut Arbeit and immediately was in on another shot at the edge of the mat to finish the period with a 9-2 lead.


Arbeit chose bottom to start the 2nd and Nagao conceded the escape to continue the offensive onslaught. A takedown near the edge of the mat put Aaron up 12-3, before conceding another escape on the restart. Aaron would rack up 3 more takedowns to earn the tech fall at 1:22 in the 2nd. 21-6 TF, 4:20


The takeaway from last year was that Nagao had a dominating ride on top. The question for this year that will likely determine his ceiling for 2024 is how strong his offense can be. Arbeit is not at the level that Nagao will need to score on in March, but it’s clear Nagao’s focus is on his offense in neutral and this had a little bit of everything on display. He had lateral quickness, he was able to find shots, and he was able to finish when slightly out of position, all while staying incredibly low. However while he didn’t spend a lot of time attempting it, he was unable to turn Arbeit which is something that you’d really want to see him develop to compliment that dominating ride and blossoming offense.

Penn State 9, Hofstra 0

141: David Evans, PSU vs Alex Turley, Hofstra

David Evans attempts a bow and arrow.
Not quite archery season yet in Happy Valley | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

David Evans took the mat in place of the presumptive 141 starter, #2 Beau Bartlett. While 141 will hopefully not be up for contention this year, 149 is. True freshman Tyler Kasak showed what he has to offer last week, this week we’d see what else the room has to offer.


Evans wasted no time in finding his offense, finishing a standing single for the opening takedown. Evans put on a strong ride before getting himself a little high, creating an opportunity for Turley to get the escape. With a 3-1 lead Evans was immediately back in on offense and won the scramble to take a 6-1 lead. Evans kept Turley flattened out for most of the next minute to ride out the period and take over a minute of riding time to the second period.


Evans chose bottom to start the second. After hitting a granby roll off a mat return from Turley, Evans was able to get out for the escape to build his lead to 7-1. Evans worked a tie to get in on another shot and score his third takedown of the match. Evans continued to look for turns with Turley flattened out, including an attempt at a bow and arrow but he just couldn’t secure the far shoulder to hip Turley over. Instead, he’d settle for riding out the rest of the period with a 10-1 lead.


Turley chose bottom to start the third and was quickly out for the escape. Evans continued to attack, racking up 3 more takedowns on an overmatched Turley to secure the tech fall at 48 seconds of the third period.


Evans certainly made his case for deserving a shot at 149 this year while also showing what he can do at 141 next year. Turley was clearly outmatched in this one and Evans just took it to him, but that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from this team. Similar to Beau, who he was filling in for, Evans looks strong enough to hold his own at 149 where he’ll likely be getting more mat time.

Penn State 14, Hofstra 0

149: Connor Pierce, PSU vs Noah Tapia, Hofstra

Connor Pierce attempt to finish a single on Noah Tapia.
Connor Pierce attempts to finish a single | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

After seeing what Kasak had to offer last week and what Evans had to offer in the previous match, it was Connor Pierce’s turn to make his case for the 149 spot in the wake of SVN’s injury.


Pierce was in on a single immediately off the whistle and was able to bring it up to his feet. However after over a minute or trying, Pierce was unable to finish the takedown before a potentially dangerous stoppage from the ensuing scramble. Tapia answered with an ankle pick off the restart to score Hofstra’s first takedown of the afternoon. Tapia turked Pierce’s leg on the takedown and used it to turn Pierce at the edge of the mat to score 3 additional near fall at the end of the period. The wrestlers appeared to clear the cylinder out of bounds at points while Pierce was fighting off his back, but it wasn’t clear whether the count was ever interrupted or not, and Connor found himself trailing 0-6.


Tapia chose bottom to start the second and was able to quickly stand and work his way out for the escape. After tying up in the center of the mat, Tapia was able to work double underhooks into a throw-by to score another takedown. Pierce fought his way out to another escape, but was unable to close the gap and remained behind 2-10 as the period ended.


Pierce chose bottom to start the third but struggled to get out for nearly the entire period, finally getting clear of Tapia’s ride with 10 seconds remaining in the period. With the riding time point, Pierce dropped the 2-11 major decision and Hofstra got onto the team score board.


Pierce started the match aggressive and got in on a good shot, but it was all downhill from there. He seemed to lose confidence and started overthinking, which Tapia took full advantage of. Several times during the match Pierce seemed to go for something without full commitment, once nearly getting sucked back with near risk of additional near fall.

With strong showings from Kasak and Evans, it’s hard to believe Pierce will still be in contention for the 149 vacancy, but who knows what he’s showing the staff in the room?

Penn State 14, Hofstra 4

157: #1 Levi Haines, PSU vs Dylan Zenion, Hofstra

Levi Haines bullying his way to a pin.
Levi Haines bullying his way to a pin | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries
Scott Pilutik, BSD

After such a strong season last year with promise of even more to come, this hasn’t exactly been the start to the season we were expecting for Haines. But Levi took the mat looking to dispel those concerns and he made about as strong of a case as could be made against Dylan Zenion.


After working a collar tie and some head taps, Levi quickly got in on a low single. Somehow, despite being overextended, Levi was able to suck in the leg, bring his hips underneath him, and drive Zenion up and off the mat, before finishing the takedown on the return. Following a restart, Levi was able to trap the left arm of Zenion and combine that with an arm bar to turn the Hofstra wrestler and secure the fall in 1:03.


There’s not a whole lot to say after a match that’s as utterly dominating as that was. Haines imposed his will all throughout that match before hitting a pinning combination that was as much brute force as it was skill.

We know Levi has the ability to power his way to points. The takedown in this match was the type of takedown we saw him get all through last year on his way to 2nd place at NCAAs. The thing to watch for this year will be how much finesse he adds in. He very well could win a title on his brute force alone, but adding in some refinement will really separate Haines from the rest of the competition.

PSU 20, Hofstra 4

165: #14 Mitchell Mesenbrink, PSU vs Matthew Waddell, Hofstra

Mesenbrink running a half nelson
Mesenbrink running a half nelson | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Up next for Penn State was Mitchell Mesenbrink, who has quickly acclimated himself to Rec Hall. He’s clearly on a mission. Coming in from Cal Baptist and with Haines one weight below and Starocci one weight above, he’s in good company to get there.


In a bit of surprise it was the Hofstra wrestle to take the first shot. Waddell was able to get in on a single but Mesenbrink was able to fight off the attempt. Following a restart, Mitchell shot for Waddell’s left leg but quickly switched to the right leg off of Waddell’s sprawl to get the takedown. With Waddell broken down Mitchell worked an arm bar and a half to get the Hofstra wrestler to his back and get the fall.


Even though it was a short match, that was a pretty technical showing by the recent addition to the room. He showed good defense after being caught a little off guard and he showed his quickness when finishing a shot of his own. We’ll have a better gauge of his strengths and weaknesses once he faces some tougher competition but for now it’s fun to watch him go psycho on the competition.

PSU 26, Hofstra 4

174: #1 Carter Starocci, PSU vs Eric Shindel, Hofstra

Starocci with no regard for shoulders.
Starocci with no regard for shoulders. | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries
Scott Pilutik

Next up was Carter Starocci taking the mat and looking to continue the pin parade against an overmatched Shindel. After the previous matches, there was no way Starocci wasn’t looking to get the pin.


From the start Shindel looked like he wanted to put all of PA, New Jersey, and NY between himself and Starocci. After stalking Shindel through his circling and fighting through his hands, Carter scored a pretty easy takedown off an underhook and spin behind. He quickly cut Shindel and scored another takedown off a single before letting Shindel up again to continue his attack. Starocci scored two more takedowns that appeared nearly effortless by the half way point in the first, building up to a 12-3 lead, before he started to look for the turn. Unfortunately for Carter, Shindel’s only goal this match was to not get turned and his efforts on bottom were simply to stay bellied out and sacrifice his shoulders if necessary. Carter worked a series of turning combinations but was unable to get Shindel to his back as the first period came to a close, with Carter up 12-3 and over a minute of riding time.


Shindel chose bottom to start the second and Carter immediately went to work on trying to turn him. Action was stopped for potentially dangerous situations twice more without Starocci being able to score any nearfall, settling for a stall warning on Shindel. Following an equipment stoppage for Shindel’s headgear, Starocci continued his attack. Carter threw the kitchen sink at Shindel, but was only able to draw more 2 stall calls to extend his lead to 14-3.


Starocci chose neutral to start the third and another stall call on Shindel quickly followed. Up 15-3 and with a takedown stopping the match, Starocci started looking to go feet-to-back. Shindel dove in on a weak shot and bellied out, seemingly looking to concede the tech fall to Starocci who didn’t want it. After Shindel turned into Carter in an effort to give up the takedown, Carter finally went behind to end the match by a 19-3 tech fall at the 37 second mark of the third period.


With Starocci seeming to need some time to decide if he’d be coming back this year, it has a similar feeling to RBY last year. However while RBY seemed to already start looking towards MMA, Carter appears to be solely focused on wrestling. This outing appeared effortless, dominating, and yet somehow still disappointing, but not due to anything Carter did or didn’t do. Starocci is clearly looking to dominate this season and it’s just a shame his opponent was only looking to prevent it at all costs.

PSU 31, Hofstra 4

184: #2 Bernie Truax, PSU vs Will Conlon, Hofstra

Bernie Truax looking for a fall of his own.
Bernie Truax looking for a fall of his own. | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

The question this year for Truax is how much better can he get in this room, working with guys like Starocci and Brooks on a daily basis? After a very successful Rec Hall debut against Lehigh, there was little doubt this match would be any different.


Truax got out to a quick start, hitting a low single for a takedown within the first 5 seconds. Conlon worked up and out for the escape where Truax again used his quickness to spin behind for another takedown. He quickly conceded another escape to continue the scoring. After tying up with Conlon, Truax was once again able to hit an ankle pick and worked up for the takedown to take a 9-2 lead. Nearing a major decision half way through the first, Truax started looking for the fall. After trapping Conlon’s arm behind his back, Truax was able to power the Hofstra wrestler over and quickly collect the fall at 1:51 in the first.


There’s not a lot to take from this match other than to be impressed by just how quick Bernie is. He’s clearly strong, having competed at 197 last year, but somehow he’s been able to remain quick despite dropping down to 184. His skill set fits very well with Starocci and Brooks and it’ll be very exciting to see how much he can benefit from having them as partners in the room regularly, not to mention his experiences with the NLWC.

PSU 37, Hofstra 4

197: #1 Aaron Brooks, PSU vs Nikolas Miller, Hofstra

Aaron Brooks hitting an ankle pick
Aaron Brooks hitting an ankle pick | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

After not wrestling last week, Brooks took the mat for the Nittany Lions to make his Rec Hall season debut. With every Penn State wrestler looking to score early and often, there was no reason to expect anything different from the 3-time champ.


Brooks took the mat and immediately went to work in his stalking style. A slick ankle pick scored his first takedown and showed off his finesse. After briefly looking for a turn, Brooks conceded the escape and this time powered a high crotch into a double to score his second takedown of the match. Brooks continued to look for a turn but was unable to get Miller over before the period expired, with Brooks holding a 6-1 lead.


Aaron chose neutral to start the second and hit another ankle pick to extend his lead to 9-1. Brooks quickly gave up another escape and, after a scramble initiated by a Miller shot, Brooks ended up behind for his 4th takedown. An arm bar and a half nelson later, Miller was flat on his back and counting the lights as Aaron Brooks won by fall at 1:21 in the second period.


What’s there to do when you have a 3-time NCAA champion and USA men’s freestyle alternate wrestling for you other than appreciate what you’re seeing? Despite all the top talent this program has had, it’s possible that Aaron Brooks is the most complete wrestler yet in the Cael Sanderson era. He may not have the brutality of Zain or the flash of Nolf, but it’s always there if needed. He just never seems to need it.

PSU 43, Hofstra 4

285: AJ Frichionne, PSU vs Keaton Kluever, Hofstra

AJ Frichionne wrestling for Penn State
AJ Frichionne wrestling for Penn State | Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Greg Kerkvliet got the weekend off, giving AJ Frichionne an opportunity to wrestle in Rec Hall. With the dual meet already in hand, the biggest question was whether this match would be the first regular decision of the meet.


Frichionne was clearly undersized in this match, and from the jump Kluever seemed intent on using that advantage. Kluever came forward with double underhooks, driving AJ off the mat twice to start the period. AJ countered with a high crotch attempt but Kluever was able to drop all his weight onto Frichionne to thwart it. Eventually Kluever secured a single leg in the ensuing scramble and scored the counter takedown. Frichionne battled to his feet for the escape, but he could not negate the size disadvantage. Kluever was able to convert another single. Frichionne continued to fight and was finally able to slip out for an escape with only 2 seconds remaining in the period and trailing 2-6.


Kluever chose neutral to start the second and immediately got another takedown to extend his lead. Frichionne worked for another escape only to be followed by another Kluever takedown. Kluever worked an arm bar of his own to turn AJ and get the fall at 1:31 in the second period.


Frichionne fought that entire match but unfortunately he was just outsized and overmatched. He just didn’t have enough quickness to overcome it an often times found himself under the full weight of Kluever who looked every bit of 285.

PSU 43, Hofstra 10

Executive Summary

Box Score, Penn State 43, Hofstra 10
Box Score, Penn State 43, Hofstra 10

Despite not seeing all the starters, despite Hofstra fielding only one ranked wrestler, there was constant action and bonus points throughout this dual. Penn State took 8 of 10 bouts and dominated the takedown battle, 30-6.

Every match ended in bonus for one side or the other as both sides took full advantage of the opportunities they were presented.

Ridge Riley winner: Mitchell Mesenbrink

The Takery


We’ve grown accustomed to the first matches of the season being measuring sticks to see how much guys need to improve. Against an overmatched opponent like Hofstra, there’s not much opportunity for that. Yet this season is presenting unique challenges and opportunities, and this dual put that on full display. The few spots up for grabs (125 & 149) are getting worked out. The transfers have not only acclimated themselves to the room and embraced what we’ve come to expect from this program, they’re potentially driving forces behind it. We have guys that are still looking to overcome the last hurdle on their way to a championship and we have other guys that we’re just spoiled to get to see continue to take the mat.

In a season where Penn State is such a heavy favorite, against an opponent that is heavily outmatched, there’s a lot going on and a lot to be grateful for and I’m here for it.

Next Up, Olympics Path: 2023 U.S. Senior Nationals / 2024 Olympic Trials Qualifier, 12/15/23 - 12/17/23, Fort Worth, TX
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Next Up, College Duals: AT Oregon State, 8pm Friday, 1/5/2024, Pac12 Network ($), LionVision Audio

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