Wrestling Postview: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same (Penn State Defeats Indiana 35-8)


Penn State continued their road trip this weekend traveling further west to face the Indiana Hoosiers. While there were fewer ranked matchups than Friday night's dual against Ohio State, there was still a lot to watch.

Before getting into the action I like to share my perspective going into the match for some added context and to demonstrate my stupidity. We're over half way through the Big Ten schedule with the biggest matches (Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio State) out of the way. Matches like this are a great opportunity to try and extrapolate what the coaches are thinking and telling guys as they're preparing for March. That's not to say they're looking past Indiana, but rather they're asking what's the most they can get out of this dual against Indiana that will set up guys to achieve the most they possibly can come NCAAs, whether that's experience, experimentation, or rest.

With that said, on to the action!

125 - Marco Vespa vs. Jacob Moran

Following the rather disappointing showing on Friday from Steen, Vespa took the mat on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately Marco wasn't able to get off to as strong of a start against Moran as he was against Lee and quickly found himself trailing 1-4, and also facing a deficit of over 2 minutes in riding time by the end of the 1st. Moran continued to pour it on in the 2nd, opening with an escape followed by a takedown and 2 sets of 4 NF points. An escape from Vespa resulted in Moran's last takedown and earned him the technical fall 17-2, putting Indiana out to a 5-0 lead in the team race.

I haven't seen anything discussing what's going on with Steen that may explain why he didn't go against Iowa (and why Byers said we may not see him for several weeks), and whether or not that issue (if there even is one) played an issue on Friday night. This is a match that the staff would definitely want to use for experience, so if Steen is still their guy then it's likely a sign he's dealing with issues. If there is nothing wrong with Steen and this was just an opportunity for Vespa to make it a competition at 125, it did not go in his favor. Regardless, 125 looks like an uphill battle to qualify for NCAAs and even more unlikely to contribute to the team score.

133 - Baylor Shunk vs. Henry Porter

For the second straight match we saw a less frequent participant take the mat for the Lions. RBY apparently had the night off. Shunk is a very game wrestler so there was still going to be action. The 1st period saw plenty of action with Porter taking a 2-1 lead to the 2nd period.

Porter chose bottom and Shunk put on a strong ride before finally giving up the escape about a minute into the period. Scrambling ensued, with Porter coming out on top for the takedown. However, Shunk was able to get a reversal and even 2 swipes, tying the match up at 5-5 to end the period.

Shunk chose bottom to start the 3rd and with the escape was able to get the lead for the first time in the match. Porter was able to win another scramble while Shunk was able to get another escape, ending the period tied at 7-7. In overtime, Porter emerged victorious with his 4th takedown of the match, extending Indiana's lead to 8-0.

After taking some time to decide to come back, and with his clear interest in MMA, I'm honestly surprised we've seen RBY as much as we have this season. I'm speculating that the staff felt another day of rest served RBY better than the experience he would've gotten in this match.

141 - Beau Bartlett vs. Joey Showalter

This was not slated to be a day off for Beau, but getting a pin in 12 seconds is about as close as you're going to get while still making weight and your opponent showing up. As Beau was getting the takedown he immediately looked for more and found it, getting the fall and putting Penn State on the board 6-8.

Beau is a very hard-nosed, technical wrestler. He's clearly more comfortable at 141 where not being at a strength deficit helps him wrestle his style. This time of year is usually reserved by the staff to push guys to score bonus, and that's exactly what Beau did. Hopefully we continue to see more of it.

149 - Shane Van Ness vs. Graham Rooks

Van Ness took the mat and went to work getting 3 takedowns in the 1st period to end the period up 6-2. Rooks chose bottom to start the 2nd where he escaped, only to be taken down again by SVN. After another Rooks escape the period ended in neutral with Van Ness still up by 4.

SVN chose neutral to start the 3rd and got himself a pair of takedowns. With the riding time point assured and needing only to ride out Rooks to get the major, Van Ness scored 4 NF to win 17-5 and put Penn State in the lead 10-8.

I suspect that the mantra in the room this month is bonus, bonus, bonus. Van Ness was active early and often, never settling. He's gotten himself close to the top of the bracket. While he may not be there yet, it'll be interesting to see far his relentlessness will carry him in March.

157 - Levi Haines vs. Derek Gilcher

Now that his redshirt has been burned, I expect we'll see Levi getting as much experience as possible, so it wasn't surprising to see him go on Sunday. Haines opened the scoring with a takedown followed shortly after by an escape from Gilcher.

Haines chose bottom to start the 2nd, quickly getting the escape and then getting another takedown and a stall call against Gilcher. In the 3rd, Gilcher chose bottom and earned an escape off a not really an escape, not really a reversal, not really still in control scramble. Haines answered with another takedown and won an 8-2 decision with the riding time point, extending Penn State's lead to 13-8.

The best thing for Haines is experience and this was a good amount of it. Gilcher did well at defending Haines' offense, forcing him to increase the quality of his offensive attempts. I suspect that's going to be a trend we see continue but I have to say I love seeing someone take a shot from too far out, get extended, and still just horse his way to a takedown. Against lesser opponents, I hope we continue to see it.

165 - Alex Facundo vs. Robert Major

Alex Facundo is ranked #8 in the country. He's pretty damn good at wrestling. And yet when thinking about what matches I'm most excited to see, it always takes me a while to think of him before immediately going 'He's a top 10 wrestler! Do you realize how spoiled you are?'

With that said, Facundo is just a well rounded wrestler. Which is probably why I just take him for granted. So I was pretty surprised to see him come out on the losing end of the opening scramble and falling into an 0-2 hole. But he quickly righted the ship thanks to a penalty point for a full nelson, followed by an escape and a takedown to go up 4-2.

Major chose bottom to start the 2nd, eventually getting an escape. Facundo went on to rack up 4 takedowns in the 2nd, as well as draw a stall warning, finishing the period with a 12-6 lead. Facundo chose bottom to start the 3rd and then continued the takedown clinic with 3 more, finishing with a 20-9 major decision (including riding time). Penn State was then up 17-8.

165 is pretty deep, but Facundo is right there with most of the top guys. It wouldn't surprise me to see him high on the podium, it wouldn't surprise me to see him fall just short of the podium. As to what will be the difference, I honestly have no idea. But I'm sure Cael & Company do. Facundo being capable of pushing the pace for a full 7 minutes will definitely help.

174 - Carter Starocci vs. DJ Washington

Carter came into this match with as much of a chip on his shoulder as a 2-time NCAA champ who is currently #1 in the weight class can muster. So I was pretty shocked to see Washington score the first takedown. Carter continued to stay active and earned the escape, but finished the rest of the 1st not quite comfortable with Washington's lankiness.

Starocci chose bottom to start the 2nd, getting the escape and tying the match up at 2-2. He then found a way to get to a more comfortable distance and got a takedown to go up 4-2, which he followed up with a punishing ride on top to also draw a stall call.

Washington chose neutral in the 3rd where Starocci continued to push the pace. 2 more stall calls extended Carter's lead to 6-2, followed by a takedown to extend it to 8-2. Starocci continued to push for points, getting another takedown on a very gassed Washington. The riding time point secured the major decision, 11-3, and put Penn State up 21-8.

After the match there was an altercation bringing coaches to the mat from both sides. Where Washington got the energy is anybody's guess.

Carter Starocci continues to just win. He's great in all positions. He came to this match intending to make a statement, and like other times this year that's what he did. Here's hoping he continues to find motivation for the remainder of his matches.

184 - Certified Stud Donovan Ball vs. Clayton Fielden

Ball took the mat looking to make the most of this opportunity, as he always does. He was hit with a stall call for backing straight off the mat, but got a takedown off the restart. He then chose bottom to start the 2nd, getting the escape and then another takedown to take a 5-0 lead. Another stall warning for being unable to work up earned Fielden his first point of the match. His second was via an escape, which Ball answered with another takedown and ended the 2nd up 7-2.

Fielden chose bottom and got the escape to start the 3rd, followed by another Ball takedown, earning him a 10-3 victory and putting Penn State up 24-8.

The main takeaway here is that the staff is clearly happy with where Brooks is at and who can blame them?

197 - Max Dean vs. Drayton Harris

Forgive me if you heard this one before. Max Dean gets a takedown, Max Dean hits a bow and arrow, Max Dean gets the fall. It's a good story (unless you're the recipient of said bow and arrow).

And with that, Penn State was up 30-8. Max Dean is still a title contender, but this match was just to get it over with.

HWT - Greg Kerkvliet vs. Jacob Bullock

This was a mismatch right out of the gate. Kerk is bigger, faster, and stronger than Bullock. And so it wasn't surprising to see him secure a takedown and then earn 2 sets of 4 swipes. 2 stall calls earned Kerk another point, ending the 1st period up 11-0. Bullock chose bottom but another stall call and 4 more swipes from a tilt locked up the tech fall shutout 16-0. Penn State won 35-8.

Kerk did exactly what he should do against an opponent he's all around better than, score relentlessly while wearing out your opponent.

Take Aways:

Penn State is getting ready for March and it's a very promising picture. If they keep this hunger for bonus, they're going to give the Penn State team record a run for it's money.

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