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Wrestling Postview: PSU 30, Lehigh 10

Penn State extended its Dual Meet Win Streak to 45, with a steady win over its longtime in-state rival.

The Penn State Nittany Lions prepare to kick of the 2024 dual meet season against Lehigh.
The Penn State Nittany Lions prepare to kick of the 2024 dual meet season against Lehigh.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

(ed. note: new BSDWrestle author, Nathaniel Rasmussen / nerfstate is writing his first postview—jp)

Another year, another season-opening banner-hanging ceremony for Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lion Wrestlers.

In a year where the only question is just how many NCAA points can they score, there is perhaps no better time to host in-state rival (110 and going!) Lehigh for a dual that is never as easy as you want it to be. Coach Pat Santoro’s kids are always well conditioned, have good gameplans, and don’t give an inch. This dual had quite a few surprises in terms of who competed, but it had the feel of any number of PSU vs Lehigh matchups of the past.

I, for one, was stoked to hear some Gil Scott Heron in the new Rec Hall hype video. PSU Wrestling has gotten a lot of miles out of Imagine Dragons, so it was nice to have a changeup this year. Cool to hear “The Revolution will not be Televised” over some sweet PSU footage, to be sure. Does that mean Flo will be streaming the revolution to subscribers, technology permitting?

125: Gary Steen, PSU vs Sheldon Seymour, Lehigh

Gary Steen locks up a cradle momentarily vs Sheldon Seymour.
Gary Steen locks up a cradle momentarily vs Sheldon Seymour.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

After much speculation among fans over which of PSU’s bevy of 125lbers would go, a familiar face in Gary Steen was given the nod for the inaugural Rec Hall dual meet of the 2023-24 season. For Lehigh, instead of freshman Luke Stanich, Sheldon Seymour toed the line opposite: he competed in the 2022 post season of the Mountain Hawks.

1st

Seymour was the aggressor, but Steen showed stingy defense in getting out of several deep shots. 0-0.

2nd

Gary hustled for his escape to start the 2nd in just 5 seconds. Steen followed up by catching an ankle on a reshot, but as we’ve seen before, Gary seemed to struggle to find a finish. Take that as a precursor for what followed, as Steen got in deep on a head outside single on a sweet arm drag, but again found himself unable to free himself from Seymour’s wrist control and couldn’t finish. 1-0.

3rd

Gary started with a promising mat return and ride–even briefly locking a cradle just before Seymour managed to shrug him off overhead for his own escape with 21 seconds of RT accumulated. Gary was then dinged for stalling late in the 3rd after repeated body-lock double-over positions where Seymour seemed to have the strength advantage in taking ground. With just 10 seconds left, Seymour shot a head outside single, and upon official review, was granted the 3pt TD as time expired. 1-4 DEC.

It was a very familiar match dynamic with Steen–he fought hard, but was simply unable to convert on his offense to get the win. That said, I think Gary has shown notable improvement this year—especially defensively—and he should leave feeling he could win that match going forward. I likely speak for most fans in hoping we get chances to see Robert Howard and especially Braeden Davis give the Rec Hall fans something to cheer about soon too.

PSU 0, Lehigh 3

133: #3 Aaron Nagao, PSU vs #5 Ryan Crookham, Lehigh

Aaron Nagao and Ryah Crookham in one of many scrambles.
Aaron Nagao and Ryah Crookham in one of many scrambles.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Then it was time for the marquee match-up of the dual. Lehigh’s top recruit and freshman Ryan Crookham walked in sporting his fresh #1 (Flo) ranking after shocking defending NCAA and World Champion, Vito Arujau at Nov 12’s Journeyman Classic. Crookham squared up across the first of several highly-anticipated Rec Hall debuts in Minnesota transfer, and returning AA, Aaron Nagao.

1st

While Nagao seemed focused on quick “head taps” and motion from space, Crookham asserted early what he is known for–excellent position and strength. It was Nagao in on the first shot of the contest halfway into the first. Crookham was able to scramble to a position that got him a restart on a potentially dangerous call. Nagao stayed active with his head fakes and level changes, drawing a stall call just as he got off the 2nd deep shot of the match with less than a minute left. Again, Crookham showed his mat savviness in forcing what was to my eye a mighty quick stalemate with 30 seconds left. Then Crookham got in on a nice head inside single, and again the 2 well-known scramblers neutralized each other for a stalemate. 0-0.

2nd

Nagao chose bottom, earning his escape on a quick stand up in just 5 seconds. Crookham was at this point in his match tactics looking to score, and he was able to convert on a sort of swing single, finally able to hook a leg and turn in for the finish w/ 1:15 remaining 3-1. Nagao took 15 seconds to work his way out 3-2, and Nagao sprang deep into Crookham’s right leg again creating a scramble situation–and again Crookham was able to come out on top for the 3pt TD, and getting the ride-out in short time. 6-2.

3rd

With the comfort of a 4 point lead, Crookham decided to test the waters of going under Nagao. Aaron needed to find a turn to close the gap, and while he didn’t, he did put on his smothering ride for the entire period, earning riding time, and a 2nd stall call for another point (with the help of the Rec Hall faithful’s friendly suggestion). Crookham took this scrambling battle, and looked every bit the top recruit we thought he was. 4-6 DEC.

Nagao was by no means out of the match though, he just needs to find ways to win those 50/50 scramble positions against who appears to be one of the strongest 133lb wrestlers I’ve seen in recent memory. It was a true “strength against strength” matchup, and I hope we might get to see a rematch at NCAAs.

Penn State 0, Lehigh 6

141: #2 Beau Bartlett, PSU vs Carter Bailey, Lehigh

Beau Bartlett with a strong front headlock on Carter Bailey.
Beau Bartlett with a strong front headlock on Carter Bailey.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Lehigh’s #12 athletic 141-lber Malyke Hines sat out what was expected to be a rematch of the Journeyman Classic contest that saw Beau Bartlett win by major. In his place, was a game Carter Bailey.

1st

Beau came out full speed, hooking an underhook and quickly threatening that pancake that Beau and Shayne seem so fond of this year. Bailey conceded the position and turned down after just 7 seconds–Beau taking the lead 3-0 briefly before Bailey crab-walked out of it for the escape 3-1. Beau may have been trying to line up a headlock when Bailey drove in on a go-behind, scoring his own 3pt TD with 2:42 remaining for a 4-3 lead. Beau worked his way up with a leg of Bailey’s in the air, but eventually settled for the escape 4-4, halfway through the period. Emboldened by his score, Bailey tried an arm spin and later a duck under–both to no effect, and later, Beau did connect on a lightning quick low single–but wasn’t able to convert before time ran out. 4-4.

2nd

With Bailey deferring, Beau chose bottom and got an easy escape 5-4, before lining up a high-crotch, running the pipe and getting the finish on a double, to make it 8-4. Beau tried to work wrist control into a turn but lost his hold, giving Bailey the escape 8-5. Beau then got to a front headlock on the mat and turned to threaten a cradle as he came around for the takedown. 11-5.

3rd

Feeling bonus in the air, Beau cut Bailey, 11-6. Beau methodically worked for the last takedown with half a minute remaining, and ride-out for the major decision. 14-6 MD.

Penn State 4, Lehigh 6

149: Tyler Kasak, PSU vs Drew Munch, Lehigh

Tyler Kasak squares off with Drew Munch.
Tyler Kasak squares off with Drew Munch.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

In a bit of a surprise twist, true freshman and well-regarded recruit and normal 141lber Tyler Kasak got the nod over Shayne Van Ness, here at 149 pounds.

1st

He was on his offense right away on a quick single. Munch was able to slow the finish down, but eventually conceded it. Upon restart, Munch got out quickly, 3-1, and soon they found themselves in another scramble, with Kasak finding the position needed to get behind for his second TD of the period. Munch shrugged him off, though, and the period ended. 6-2

2nd

Kasak deferred, and Munch took down. Kasak almost snuck a half in for nearfall, but Munch got out with a minute and change remaining. Munch got to a leg late, but Kasak worked a strong shin whizzer to evade giving up points at the end of the period, 6-3.

3rd

Tyler got out quickly in the 3rd, but it appears the toll of his attacking pace started to take some effect, as he conceded an illegal hold call for locking his hands behind a double underhook 7-4, followed by a 2nd stall call 7-5, before he finally clung to a leg to kill the clock and win by decision. 7-5 DEC.

Kasak will win a lot of matches for the blue and white–his attacking style will fit right in, and I think the fade we saw had as much to do with the adrenaline of getting his first start at Rec Hall as anything else.

Penn State 7, Lehigh 6

157: #1 Levi Haines, PSU vs #24 Max Brignola, Lehigh

Levi Haines reaches for the ankle.
Levi Haines reaches for the ankle.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

There had been some concern among fans that Levi Haines might not be ready to compete in the dual, since he had missed his All-Star Classic match vs Jacori Teemer for unknown (where fans love to speculate!) reasons. So it was nice to see Levi get the nod, even if one knee was taped and the other had at least a sleeve on it.

1st

The match started out with Levi over-committing on an attack and Brignola’s counter strike scoring the first TD 40 seconds in, and Levi got right out 3-1. Brignola almost hit home on a slide by, Haines and Brignlola traded leg attacks, and then Levi connected on a swing single with 20 seconds left and collected the double on the edge for 3. Brignola escaped on the whistle though. 4-4.

2nd

Haines rode for 36 seconds before Brignola got out for the lead. Haines appeared to be improving position after extending Brignola on a shot, but again a quick stalemate. Haines got to a leg, but too late to finish. 5-4.

3rd

Levi escaped off the whistle, and soon after hit another swing single with a clean finish 8-5. He rode for over a minute before Brignola got out with 30 seconds left, Brignola hit a desperation shot and Levi got to the corner and eventually finished another takedown before the buzzer. 12-6 DEC.

Levi seemed a bit rusty, and Brignola brought his best, but it was never really in doubt. Early December is an OK time to be rusty.

PSU 10, Lehigh 6

165: #16 Mitchell Mesenbrink, PSU vs #32 Jake Logan, Lehigh

Mesenbrink reaches for an ankle pick.
Mesenbrink reaches for an ankle pick.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Yet another beginning of a beautiful friendship between Rec Hall and a new Lion. This time Ben Askren wunderkind and reigning 74Kg U20 World Champ Mitchell Mesenbrink took the mat.

1st

Mitchell created a lot of action leading up to and then within a long scramble—I’m not sure what a danger count is after one isn’t called for him at one point—but with 20 seconds left, Logan connected on a single, but Mitchell executed a textbook far ankle scramble and scored the counter takedown. 3-0.

2nd

Mitchell got out after threatening a peterson, then hit a low single and converted. He released, then got another single-leg takedown before riding out Logan, who received a stall warning. 10-1.

3rd

Logan took neutral and managed to get called for stalling again for a point before Mitchell struck again, 14-1. With a minute left, the coaches told him to cut and push for the tech, which Messenbrink secured in 10 more seconds with a low double to ice it. 17-2 TF.

Mitchell seemed thrilled to thrill the crowd. I think we have something to work with here.

PSU 15, Lehigh 6

174: #1 Carter Starocci, PSU vs Thayne Lawrence, Lehigh

Carter Staroccci Pins Thayne Lawrence.
Carter Staroccci Pins Thayne Lawrence.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

When I saw Lawrence had a heavily wrapped shoulder, I immediately started having concern for his well being. It’s that kind of season for the field facing Carter Starocci.

1st

Ferocious snaps, heavy front headlock, got the corner with ease. Let him up. Another single/go behind and cut. Some furious hand fighting and faking set up a smooth slide by and it was 9-2 when Carter decided riding might be fun. It wasn’t long before the arrows came out of the quiver, and Lawrence was counting the lights. Pinfall at 2:07.

PSU 21, Lehigh 6

184: #2 Bernie Truax, PSU vs Jack Wilt, Lehigh

One of the many cradles of the match for Bernie Truax.
One of the many cradles of the match for Bernie Truax.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

As Bernie walked out, I couldn’t help but remember all these new kids saying their dream was to wrestle for this team. You could feel the excitement from and for them. I was looking forward to being reminded what a good wrestler Bernie is after his handful and more vs Parker Keckeisen at the All-Star Classic.

1st

Bernie hit a nice ankle pick and finished quickly. He got a cradle a couple of different times but couldn’t solve the puzzle on turning Wilt—then he got it a third time and got a bit sloppy and lost Wilt’s head, setting up an easy Wilt reversal, and then Bernie got out. 4-2.

2nd

Quick escape for Bernie and he connected on another low single, followed by a good ride that lead to a stall warning on Wilt. 2:27 RT. 8-2.

3rd

Wilt took neutral. Truax got yet another cradle with those long arms—he was able to get the takedown, but no nearfall. Cut him and then got behind again with 30 seconds left. Another cut and with a 2nd stall call, Truax secured the techfall with a go behind and ride-out. 19-4 TF.

While it’d be great to see some of those cradles turn into back points, it’s hard to complain about that performance.

PSU 26, Lehigh 6

197: Lucas Cochran, PSU vs #10 Michael Beard, Lehigh

Lucas Cochran was a gamer against the very talented Michael Beard.
Lucas Cochran was a gamer against the very talented Michael Beard.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Aaron Brooks took the afternoon off, and so it was Lucas Cochran who had the opportunity to face former Nittany Lion, Michael Beard.

1st

Cochran got to Beard’s leg, but under some heavy Beard hips, which stopped it cold. Beard was able to get a go behind halfway through the period. Beard worked for a tilt but couldn’t get it before letting Cochran up. 3-1.

2nd

Beard took down and got his escape point. Cochran tried a shot, but Beard got behind easily on the counter. Again Cochran got to a leg, and again Beard turned the corner for the takedown. Cochran appeared to fade in this period. 10-3.

3rd

Beard got RT up to 1:30 and Cochran collected a stall call on bottom before getting cut. Cochran again got to the leg, and again gave up the go behind, before two more rounds of release and go behinds for the major decision. 6-20 MD.

PSU 26, Lehigh 10

285: #1 Greg Kerkvliet, PSU vs #12 Nathan Taylor, Lehigh

Greg Picks Taylor up and prepares to put him down.
Greg Picks Taylor up and prepares to put him down.
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

A rematch from the Journeyman Classic, where our man DGK seemed content with a dominant 6-1 decision. After his scintillating showing at the following All-Star Classic, he seemed poised to make more of a statement today.

1st

Halfway in, Greg makes moving as a big man look easy, taking the single for 3, and a quick release. Then it’s Taylor in on an explosive double that Kerkvliet had just enough balance to avoid, but tweaked his bare knee, and took some injury time. Thankfully, he shook off the minor ding, and Taylor chose neutral on the restart. 3-1.

2nd

Again Greg got an escape by just casually getting to his feet and tossing the large human on his back off like a backpack. Shortly after, he got a high single and lifted that large human being up and put him back down for 3. 7-1.

3rd

Taylor again took neutral. Took a shot with his double-leg again, but Greg matadored it. Taylor got on a single but Greg hipped in and eventually got behind. A strong ride earned a stall call on Taylor and it’s a major decision. 11-1 MD.

PSU 30, Lehigh 10

Executive Summary

Box Score: PSU over Lehigh, 30-10
Box Score: PSU over Lehigh, 30-10

Wrestling only 6 of its 8 top-3-ranked starters in this dual, Penn State secured 7 bout wins, 5 of them via Bonus Points, and won the takedown battle, 24-11.

Ridge Riley winner: Carter Starocci.

The Takery

Nerfstate

In the end, the score was lop-sided enough to have nothing but optimism for the season ahead. The day had a celebratory note to it, both in recognizing the achievement of another team title and the welcoming of several fresh and exciting faces to the one of a kind experience of a home dual in Rec Hall.

It will certainly be interesting to see how long Ryan Crookham can keep his win streak going, with Daton Fix and Vito again looming on the schedule. As for Nagao, I think he got a lot of material to work with in this match. He’ll need to find a way to finish a takedown against him though.

In Gary Steen and Lucas Cochran, I feel good about how they competed, and they surely have positions to work on in that blessed room after their contests.

As for the rest of the team—yes, we’re watching a special group of young men. I get the feeling we won’t often see the full lineup together—at least this first half of the season, but I am definitely getting the tingles thinking about the possibilities with this squad.

Author note: Just wanted to say hello, and that I’m excited to be lending a hand on these pages with some good folks such as yourself and the team here at BSD. Be gentle on my first write-up, but I’d love to know what you think. I expect I’ll be able to shine some more personality on this as I get in the groove, but wanted to make sure this time at least I got the facts straight.

Jp

Hey, welcome, nerfstate!

Nathaniel Rasmussen is a longtime wrestling fan and State College resident, who some of you may know from the PSU mess board over at Rivals. Please do offer him some of the feedback he has solicited here! I for one think he’s done a fantastic job with his first one. We’re also hopeful he can represent BSDWrestle at some of the upcoming media scrums with Coach Cael & the lads, so we can continue to bring you fine folks some additional original content. Also back representing BSDWrestle’s photographic interests is Scott Pilutik.

An additional thank you goes out to Etta Blue, who valiantly tagged in for Bubba in providing BSDWrestle’s live play-by-play in the comments of Cari’s Preview. I know I’m like many of you in deeply appreciating this additional fun method of consuming Penn State Wrestling results content.

In an Olympic year during which Penn State’s 12th team National Championship is all but a foregone conclusion, this college wrestling season should be interesting in its own ways. For Penn Staters, that interest is likely to take the form we saw yesterday vs Lehigh: which of the Nittany Lions broad and deep room will the coaches select to toe the line each week?

There are a number of new rule changes, which Bubba has graciously unpacked for us in his updated Wrestling Primer. Bout scoring, we expect, should be wayy up this year, with the new 3-point takedown. But remember this eligibility rule is in place as well:

Freshmen wrestlers may compete in up to five ‘competition dates’ without burning their redshirt. After a wrestler’s first semester, they are allowed to wrestle ‘unattached’ without impacting eligibility. (‘Unattached’ means a wrestler competes in an open tournament ‘on their own’ without the support or singlet of the university.)

This was in place last year as well, but Coach Cael didn’t use it much:

Penn State’s 2023 Season Dual Results Statistics.
Penn State’s 2023 Season Dual Results Statistics.

Even when giving breaks to “starters” (the eventual postseason representative), the depth he used was most often from upperclassmen, like Terrell Barraclough (the starter until Levi Haines’ NCAA redshirt was pulled/postponed), Baylor Shunk, Certified Stud Donovan Ball, and Seth Nevills.

Coach reminded us yesterday that, as ferocious and broad (across 10 weights) as this starting lineup is, Penn State has a number of talented true freshmen who provide depth at many weights. Perhaps seeing Kasak with spot duty—and up a weight—indicates the coaches might be more liberal with substitutions this season? Might we see true freshmen 125-pounders Braeden Davis or Brendan Wetzel, 165’s Erik Gibson or 184’s Josh Barr?

With this season’s breadth & depth, I expect we’ll continue to see the Dual Meet Win Streak accrue, but I’ll be curious to see if any more than 3 teams this season can manage to win 4 bouts against whatever variation Coach Sanderson chooses. Last year, only Lehigh, Iowa State & Iowa did so.

It should also be fun to see how 2024’s takedowns and bout scores look compared to 2023’s.

And lastly, with the schedule deeply carved out to make room for the 2023 U.S. Senior Nationals on 12/15/23, at which propably 6-8 wrestlers on this year’s college team, as well as maybe 10+ veterans representing the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, the BSDWrestle Community can expect a lot of variety.

Once again, it’s good to be the king.

Next Up: Hofstra 1pm Sunday, 12/10, Rec Hall, BTN+($), LionVision Audio

MMQB - 5+7

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