The Big Ten is the premier wrestling conference in the NCAA, and it’s not close. Nothing is evidence of this fact more than this matchup - Penn State, the undisputed team title favorite (and gold standard of current programs) is wrestling at Indiana, a 7-2 (3-2 in conference) team with no starters with losing records, that might be a challenger for crowns in any other conference.
But this isn’t any other conference, and the Nittany Lions are stacked - which means that, even with some likely backups in the lineup for Penn State, the question really on Sunday will be how much PSU wins by, and how much bonus they score.
What a time to be a Nittany Lion wrestling fan!
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State vs #22 Indiana*
Where: Wilkinson Hall, Bloomington, IN
When: Friday, February 5, 2:00 PM EST
Audio: Free (via GoPSUSports)
|#1 Penn State||WT||#22 Indiana|
|#1 Penn State||WT||#22 Indiana|
|Gary Steen (Fr., Hermitage, PA)||125||Jacob Moran (Jr., Portage, IN)|
|#1 - Roman Bravo-Young (Sr., Tucson, AZ)||133||#29 - Henry Porter (Fr., Gilroy, CA)|
|#5 - Beau Bartlett (Jr., Tempe, AZ)||141||Cayden Rooks (Sr., Columbus, IN)|
|#13 - Shayne Van Ness (Fr., Somerville, NJ)||149||#30 - Graham Rooks (Sr., Columbus, IN)|
|#9 - Levi Haines (Fr., Arendtsville, PA)||157||Derek Gilcher (Jr., Novi, MI)|
|#8 - Alex Facundo (Fr., Essexville, MI)||165||Nick South (Jr., North Vernon, IN)|
|#1 - Carter Starocci (Jr., Erie, PA)||174||#15 - DJ Washington (Jr., Portage, IN)|
|#1 - Aaron Brooks (Sr., Hagerstown, MD)||184||Clayton Fielden (Jr., Garret, IN)|
|#4 - Max Dean (Sr., Lowell, MI)||197||Nick Willham (Sr., Greenwood, IN)|
|#2 - Greg Kerkvliet (So., Grove Heights, MN)||285||#28 - Jacob Bullock (Sr., Cahokia, IL)|
Steen took one step forward in his bout against Lujan, and then two steps back in losing by fall to Malik Heinselman on Friday. He has the ability to beat Moran in Bloomington on Friday, but will he stay in his own head?
Prediction: Moran by decision
Score: PSU 0, Indiana 3
Roman Bravo-Young could be one to sit this Sunday, but I think it’s unlikely as I’m not sure who traveled with the team on the road this weekend. In theory, Marco Vespa, who took Spencer Lee down last week, could bump up and go here, but I don’t really see that happening. What’s more likely than that is that RBY goes out and finishes this bout early; it’s bound to be bonus either way with the champ on the mat.
Prediction: RBY by major decision
Score: PSU 4, Indiana 3
Beau beat D’Emilio for the first time in his life after going 0-8 since childhood on Friday, which should give him confidence going forward. He looked significantly better this week than vs Iowa, and acknowledged that getting on his offense was the difference. He might get bonus here, or at least come close, but on paper I’m predicting something in the range of a 9-4 win.
Prediction: Bartlett by decision
Score: PSU 7, Indiana 3
This’ll be the second time SVN faces the Indiana senior this year, after beating him handily at the Black Knight Open. Whether this recent tough stretch has gotten to Shayne’s previous confidence or not will determine whether he gets the bonus here; he looked a lot better against Sasso than he did versus Murin, letting the Hawkeye dictate the match, and I think it’ll be darn close with a late defensive hold off of a takedown the difference in the extra point for the PSU freshman.
Prediction: Van Ness by decision
Score: PSU 10, Indiana 3
After his redshirt was officially burned versus Iowa, Haines introduced the NCAA wrestling world to his offense against Ohio State. He’s gotta be a favorite to be an All-American, and will challenge for a spot in the finals on Saturday night in Tulsa. Gilcher is a good wrestler, but Haines is next level and just keeps getting better.
Prediction: Haines by major decision
Score: PSU 14, Indiana 3
I was close to predicting bonus for Alex for Sunday, but I think he’s just very Starocci-as-freshman-like, with every bout closer than you’d think. He should come out with the victory and South may never really be close to scoring anything but escapes, with Facundo finding his offense late.
Prediction: Facundo by decision
Score: PSU 17, Indiana 3
If Carter Starocci was set to wrestle anyone but DJ Washington, I’d expect he actually would have a break on Sunday. But Washington was the first wrestler Carter lost to as an NCAA wrestler for Penn State, and I think he’ll take any opportunity to dominate from here on out. It’ll be a lot of catch and release, with Washington (who is good and could challenge for an All-American year) having no answer for Starocci’s wrath.
Prediction: Carter by major decision
Score: PSU 21, Indiana 3
Of all of the weights of Penn State’s hammers this year, 184 is the weight with arguably the most capable backup. Michael Ball as filled in for a resting Brooks a few times this season, very capably; I expect he’ll do the same on Sunday. He actually could even get bonus here, as he’s facing the only Indiana starter without a winning record (Fielden is 9-9 on the year).
Prediction: Ball by decision
Score: PSU 24, Indiana 3
Dean is just getting better year in and out. This one will either be a pin or a decision in the realm of 4-2; with Max, there’s rarely anything in between.
Prediction: Dean by decision
Score: PSU 27, Indiana 3
Seth Nevills made the trip to Columbus so he could definitely get the nod here. If he does, this might be a low-scoring affair with the Nittany Lion coming out on top - somewhere in the realm of 5-2 or 3-2. If Kerkvliet goes, Bullock’s will will be broken in the first period.
Prediction: Kerk by major decision
Score: PSU 31, Indiana 3
Overall score prediction: Penn State 31, Indiana 3
*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; Indiana is #22 in the dual meet rankings, and unranked in the tournament rankings.