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Wrestling Postview: PSU 36, Oregon State 3

Penn State dominates on the West Coast.

Coaches Cael & Cody Sanderson look on
Coaches Cael & Cody Sanderson look on
Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Penn State travelled to Corvallis to face the #17 Oregon State Beavers on Friday night in front of a record-setting 8,540 fans. Following up on the fall semester and Olympic trial qualifications, it’s starting to feel a lot like wrestling season.

This is going to be a difficult year for the coaches. When you recruit wrestlers with higher aspirations than NCAA championships, that comes with some extra baggage during an Olympic year. Fortunately for the rest of the season, the focus should primarily be on the NCAA championships.

Typically in a Cael Sanderson wrestling season, this is the point where we see guys get pushed out of their comfort zone in order to get better for March. In some cases, that could even lead to dropping a match now that will result in better performance in the NCAA tournament. However it was interesting to hear Cael’s comments during his media availability this week where he spoke to how guys have handled the break and that the staff will need to work with where guys are at. This would be a comment you’d expect in September, not January. But before you go thinking that guys are less committed this season, Braeden Davis made it very clear that this team is focused and putting in the work.

125: Braeden Davis, PSU vs #15 Brandon Kaylor, OSU

All indications point to this spot being the true freshman’s to lose. However nothing is given in this lineup and Davis will have to continue to earn that spot. What better way to make your case than to take on a ranked opponent?

1st

Davis immediately commanded control of the action against the 13th-ranked Kaylor. Imposing himself, he was able to get in on a double and drive through for the opening takedown. Davis racked up over a minute of riding time before Kaylor was able to get enough separation to fight his way back to his feet for the escape. Davis continued working collar ties and controlling the action before getting in on yet another double that he finished for the takedown to end the period with a 6-1 lead.

2nd

Kaylor chose bottom to start the second, nearly getting caught trying to sit out before finally getting the escape nearly a minute into the period. Kaylor began pushing the action a bit in neutral but the period ended without any real scoring opportunities for either wrestler.

3rd

Davis chose bottom to start the third with over 2 minutes of riding time advantage. Unsurprisingly, the true freshman struggled to get out but was finally able to find his opportunity as Kaylor looked for the turn. Immediately off the escape Davis lined up his third double of the match, lifting Kaylor clear off the mat and nearly catching him on his back, extending his lead to 10-2. Kaylor was able to get a quick escape off a restart and successfully dialed up his offense in an effort to avoid the major decision. After drawing Davis down to his knees, Kaylor was able to win a scramble for his first takedown of the match and keep the match to an 11-6 regular decision once the riding time point was awarded.

Takeaways

Expect Davis to quickly work his way up the rankings at 125. This was an impressive win where the freshman was able to assert himself the entire match. While we briefly glimpsed his youth towards the end, as he was pursuing a major, Davis was able to control this match most of the way. He was consistently controlling the action on the mat and most impressively was consistently sound, not giving up any opportunities for Kaylor to find his offense until the very end. For someone who looks so young, he’s wrestling like an experienced college wrestler.

PSU 3, OSU 0

133: #4 Aaron Nagao, PSU vs #26 Gabe Whisenhunt, OSU

Nagao is probably who I’m most excited to see during the next month of wrestling. Coming in to Penn State Aaron had a very developed skill set, but in order to win a national championship he needs to round it out. This is the time of year where we see that happen and any quality opponent will usually result in excitement.

1st

Right out the gate both wrestlers looked to create openings for themselves as the action stayed squarely in the center of the mat. After creating a bit of space for himself, Nagao was able to get in on a low single which resulted in a very exciting scramble that was eventually stopped for potentially dangerous. Immediately off the restart Nagao once again stepped back before getting in on a low single and this time he was able to work up to a double and finish the takedown with about 30 seconds left in the period. After throwing in legs, Nagao got a bit high but was able to hold on for the rest of the period to take a 3-0 lead into the second.

2nd

Nagao started the second period on bottom where he hit a standing gramby roll off an attempted mat return by Whisenhunt to get a reversal and extend his lead to 5-0. Aaron was able to get Whisenhunt broken down and nearly turned several times but just couldn’t take the Oregon State wrestler to his back.

3rd

Whisenhunt chose neutral to start the third period and started to look for some offense of his own. Nagao fought off a good attempt from Whisenhunt to draw a stalemate. On the restart Whisenhunt again was looking for a shot but Nagao was able to capitalize on Whisenhunt getting himself out of position and spun behind for his third takedown of the match. A rideout for the remainder of the match secured the 9-0 major decision for the Nittany Lion.

Takeaways

We knew that Nagao was a hammer on top coming into this season. He’s also very solid in neutral but tended to rely more on his counter wrestling than initiating offense of his own. This staff is all about developing wrestlers to generate offense at their choosing, not depending on their opponents to afford them the opportunity, and that transition will likely serve Nagao very well. This was a well rounded showing, featuring two takedowns, a reversal, strong defense, and a dominant ride. Nagao’s clearly comfortable on the mat but look for more time spent in neutral throughout the remainder of the season.

Penn State 7, OSU 0

141: #2 Beau Bartlett, PSU vs #25 Cleveland Belton, OSU

For most #2 wrestlers, their focus is on beating the #1 ranked wrestler. But Beau isn’t most #2 wrestlers. He seems focused on becoming the most complete wrestler he can be and in order to do that it will require more consistent offensive production.

1st

The wrestlers started the action feeling each other out through a series of feints and collar ties. After settling in, Belton seemed to focus mostly on defense while Beau hunted for a takedown. Beau took a few shots from long range but Belton was ready and was able to get his ankles clear in time. After Belton spent much of the first period wrestling from a knee, Beau continued to press and was able to draw a stall call as the period expired.

2nd

Bartlett chose bottom to start the second period and exploded for the quick escape to take a 1-0 lead. After reaching for an ankle pick, Beau followed with a double to catch Belton on his heels and get the takedown as the wrestlers went off the mat. A challenge from the Oregon State staff was unsuccessful as Bartlett took a 4-0 lead. During the action off the restart, Belton nearly caught Bartlett for a reversal and potentially near fall but Beau was able to cut him loose for the escape as the wrestlers went out of bounds. The wrestlers continued to trade shots in the center of the mat, but neither got close to scoring throughout the remainder of the period.

3rd

Belton started the third period on bottom and quickly got out for an escape of his own to tighten the score to 4-2. Beau lined up a low single that he was able to shelf, however in the ensuing scramble Belton cleared his leg and converted a head-inside single for a takedown to take a 1-point lead. Bartlett quickly got out to an escape and the period would end with the wrestlers tied at 5.

SV

The sudden victory period started off with good action, with Beau unable to spin behind Belton for the deciding score. The wrestlers traded shots but with 15 seconds remaining in the period, Belton got in deep on a double and dropped Beau to the mat. Beau was able to free his hips and come around for the takedown to win the match by an 8-5 decision.

Takeaways

This match wasn’t as tight as the score indicated, however Belton was very close to pulling the upset in overtime. Belton put up a good defense but it was only due to Beau’s constant pressure that this match went to sudden victory. While you’ll never see it called in today’s wrestling, a stall call should’ve ended this match before the decisive takedown.

This was a great learning opportunity for Beau. He is impressively explosive despite the methodical, plodding style he typically wrestles in neutral. He was very quick to escape from bottom and was controlling on top. Bartlett has great defense to rely on should he get in trouble and that will undoubtedly help him be more willing to take chances in neutral, which is exactly what we saw in this match. While his defense failed to close out the match in the third period, it’s ultimately what won him the match in sudden victory.

Penn State 10, OSU 0

149: Tyler Kasak, PSU vs #12 Nash Singleton, OSU

149 is probably the only weight that’s still up for grabs on the roster. What is most likely to determine who gets it will be how Kasak and Evans fair against ranked wrestlers to determine who will be most competitive come March. Kasak got the opportunity to make his case in what was a well selected spot for the true freshman whose redshirt is still intact.

1st

Both wrestlers came out looking to create an opportunity to score. Kasak primarily worked a Russian tie while Singleton looked more to work off collar ties. The period ended without any real scoring opportunities as Kasak wasn’t able to get Singleton moving enough to commit to an ankle pick.

2nd

Kasak started the second period on bottom but was quickly on his feet and out for the escape after a couple switch attempts. The wrestlers continued to tie up in the center of the mat with Kasak making a more concerted effort to get in on a shot but he was unable to finish.

3rd

Singleton chose bottom to start the third period and fought his way out for an escape to tie the match at 1-1. Singleton started to come forward a bit more and Kasak set up a single off a snap down to get the first takedown of the match and take a 4-1 lead. The Oregon State staff challenged the call in an effort to afford Singleton some time to catch his breath and formulate a game plan for the final 23 seconds of the match. After the call was upheld, action resumed with Kasak able to ride out the rest of the period on top and win the bout 4-1.

Takeaways

This was certainly a test for Kasak and he passed it. Not only was he facing a tough opponent, the Oregon State staff challenged the refs and bought Singleton time throughout the match to give their wrestler the best opportunity to get the Beavers their first win. And despite all of that, Kasak came away with the win.

This was a strong showing for the true freshman, going on the road fresh off a break and pulling off the upset. Tyler may not have settled the competition for this spot (although without knowing what’s happened in the room that could be the case), but he’s certainly made a case to stay in contention and potentially burn his redshirt.

Penn State 13, OSU 0

157: #1 Levi Haines, PSU vs Isaiah Crosby, OSU

When you’re the returning national runner up and the current #1 ranked wrestler in the country as a true sophomore, the question most people ask is how high the ceiling can be. But for Levi, this year hasn’t been the apotheosis that we’ve seen with other promising young talents like Retherford, Nolf and Starocci. What better way to find himself than taking on an unranked opponent with momentum clearly on Penn State’s side?

1st

The Nittany Lion started the match with a fireman’s carry that we’ve seen him score on many times. However Crosby was able to find the slightest opening as they were going to the mat to attempt a lateral and get behind for the takedown and took a surprising 3-0 lead. Haines was up and out for the escape and back on the hunt for a takedown of his own. After some feints near the edge of the mat, Crosby was able to catch the ankle of Haines who immediately attempted to get out of bounds but was unsuccessful, earning Crosby his second takedown of the match. Haines was up and out for the escape off the restart but now found himself trailing the Oregon State wrestler 2-6.

2nd

Haines chose bottom to start the second period and got out for a quick escape to cut the deficit to 3. Haines continued to initiate action but Crosby not only fought off the scoring attempts but had some counter threats of his own. The match was temporarily stopped for blood time, allowing Crosby an opportunity to catch his breath before the period came to an end with no further scoring.

3rd

Crosby chose bottom to start the third, putting Haines in a difficult position having to decide if he’d commit to trying to turn his opponent or let him up to pursue takedowns. Haines initially committed to the ride, but after some aggressive attempts to get a turn, Crosby found the separation he needed to get the escape. Haines was immediately in on a double and was able to clear Crosby off the mat before returning him for the takedown, cutting the deficit to 6-7. Unable to turn Crosby, Haines cut the Beaver wrestler loose with 1 minute remaining in the period. Levi was immediately back on the attack and was able to secure a single for the go-ahead takedown to take a 9-8 lead. A ride out to end the period earned the Nittany Lion the regular decision.

Takeaways

First of all, hats off to Crosby. He was out there looking to compete and he certainly did that. However Levi was just too much. He found the strength he needed to secure the takedowns late in the match that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Expect more adversity for Haines as the season goes on. His offense last year seemed to catch his opponents by surprise but this year they’re ready for the power and athleticism he’s bringing to the mat. This year is going to be about technical improvements and avoiding unnecessary situations. While that looks like regression from last year, it’s really the crucial next step in his development. He’s prone to getting overextended on his shots and against fresh opponents they’re able to fight it off. Finding ways to create offense when he’s in close, as well as avoiding getting extended, will go a long way to rounding out his offense in neutral.

PSU 16, OSU 0

165: #12 Mitchell Mesenbrink, PSU vs #10 Matthew Olguin, OSU

If there’s one weight that exemplifies how atypical this season is, it’s 165. Mesenbrink transferred into the program during the offseason with a lot of positive buzz. Usually by this point in the season guys have established their potential through some duals and a tournament. But this year hasn’t carried with it the same certainty that we’ve had in previous years and so Mitchell remains a somewhat unknown quantity. There’s no doubt he’s very talented and driven, but the question remains whether or not he’s a true contender for a title at a pretty deep weight, or whether All American is a more realistic expectation.

1st

Mitchell came out on the offensive and quickly shot a textbook single for the opening takedown. After conceding the escape on a restart, he was immediately in deep again on a single and won the ensuing scramble to take a 6-1 lead. Mesenbrink went to work with an arm bar to tilt Olguin for 4 near fall and extend his lead to 10-1 to round out the period.

2nd

Mesenbrink chose bottom to start the second and was quickly out for the escape. Olguin reach for an ankle and Mesenbrink was able to counter for a takedown to go up 14-1. A quick escape for Olguin was followed shortly by the final takedown for Mesenbrink, securing the 17-2 tech fall and ending the match.

Takeaways

In a single match, Mitchell gave us the answer that he’s a contender. The Psycho validated all the buzz with a dominating tech fall of the 12th ranked wrestler in the country.

Mesenbrink is a mauler who really takes it to his opponents and it is a blast to watch. While other wrestlers on the team are trying to find more opportunities to be aggressive, there’s no more room for that with Mitch. He comes at opponents and asserts his authority relentlessly. Whether that’s enough to win a title at 165 remains a question, but there’s no doubt that anyone he faces in March is in for an all out war they may not be prepared for.

PSU 21, OSU 0

174: #1 Carter Starocci, PSU vs #7 Travis Wittlake, OSU

Somehow, despite apparently needing time in the offseason to decide whether he was coming back this season, Carter seems to have had the least number of distractions. He’s shown up on the mat consistently and seems fully focused on bringing home his 4th title.

We know what Starocci is capable of. We know how much better he is than the competition. And in a lot of ways the question is whether or not Carter will beat himself. Traveling across the country after the holiday break, against a highly ranked and experienced opponent, seems like the perfect test for where his mind is at.

1st

Throughout the opening minute, both wrestlers worked to set up their offense. Starocci was the first to find success, hitting a high crotch for the opening takedown. Wittlake would eventually get the escape, followed shortly thereafter by a double from Starocci for his second takedown. Starocci would end the period on top and leading 6-1.

2nd

Carter chose bottom to start the second, quickly getting the escape to increase his lead to 7-1. Carter was back in working his ties before eventually fighting through the head and hands defense of Wittlake to secure another takedown off a single leg. Wittlake was able to catch a leg, attempting to get the reversal, however Carter held position and drew a stalemate. Starocci continued his dominating ride for the rest of the period, getting Wittlake broken down but unable to find a turn and ending the period up 10-1.

3rd

Wittlake chose neutral to start the third in an effort to find some means of scoring. A desperation shot from Wittlake was easily countered by Starocci who quickly got behind for the takedown. After a quick escape the score was 13-2 and Carter resumed his offensive attacks looking for the tech fall. He would go on to score 2 more takedowns to prematurely end the match by a 19-3 technical fall—the first time in Wittlake’s 6-year college career he has ever lost by bonus.

Takeaways

This match may not have been flashy, but the systematic dismantling of an opponent ranked 8th in the country is thoroughly impressive. It felt as though Carter dictated and controlled every movement in that match and Wittlake was helpless to stop it. Starocci put his full arsenal on display, fighting through tight situations as well as using his athleticism to create space and find his opportunities. And somehow it all looks so fresh, so clean, and so effortless. Hopefully he’s wearing new socks for each match.

PSU 26, OSU 0

184: #2 Bernie Truax, PSU vs #6 Trey Muñoz, OSU

Despite being one of the newer additions to the team, Truax seems to be a pretty straight forward situation. In order to win a national title he’ll need to develop an offensive attack he can consistently rely on in March. He’s a fundamentally sound wrestler who is in search of finding ways to elevate his wrestling.

1st

Muñoz was the first wrestler in the match to find some offense. After capturing the leg of Truax, he converted the single for the opening takedown. Truax was able to stand and turn in for the escape, finding himself trailing 1-3. The rest of the period passed without much offense from either wrestler as they continued to feel each other out.

2nd

Truax chose bottom to start the second but wasn’t able to get out as easily as he had in the first. Muñoz was able to get a mat return and build his riding time advantage up to over a minute before Truax eventually worked his way up and out for an escape, On their feet Truax searched for offense but Muñoz maintained solid defense and kept the opportunities to a minimum.

3rd

Muñoz started the third period on bottom but was immediately out for an escape, preserving the riding time point. The wrestlers traded shots as Truax looked for the go ahead score but the Oregon State Beaver switched to straight defense, drawing a stall warning on his way to the 5-2 decision.

Takeaways

Truax really struggled to create offensive opportunities. Once Muñoz got the lead, it became even more difficult for Bernie. Against a highly ranked opponent, scoring opportunities become much more difficult to create, however Truax never really seemed close throughout the match. It wasn’t until the end of the match that he seemed to commit to shots and by that point Muñoz was fully in defensive mode.

This is just the start of the journey to March and Truax will have a lot more opportunities to improve throughout the rest of the season. However I expected more commitment to offense than we saw in this match. The shots Truax took were tentative and he didn’t chain his attacks together to find a way through Muñoz’s defense. The loss itself wasn’t disappointing, but the means in which he lost, without mustering much offense, certainly was. But hopefully this will serve as a learning opportunity and we’ll see a more aggressive Truax in the upcoming duals.

PSU 26, OSU 3

197: #1 Aaron Brooks, PSU vs #30 Justin Rademacher, OSU

Aaron Brooks is good at wrestling. He’s really good. There’s really not much more to say than that. He likely has things he’s working on, but he’s at such a high level that improvements seem irrelevant to the outcome of this season.

1st

Brooks worked his controlling ties into an ankle pick opportunity that he quickly converted into a takedown to take a 3-0 lead. After conceding Rademacher an escape, Brooks continued to hunt the near ankle before hitting a high crotch to the near leg for his second takedown and riding out the rest of the period.

2nd

Brooks chose bottom to start the second and was quickly out for the escape to extend his lead to 7-1. Rademacher was able to get in deep on a low single but Brooks fought it off before dropping down for a double to get his third takedown. While taking Rademacher to the mat, Brooks appeared to hurt his shoulder and immediately asked for injury time. On the restart, Rademacher was able to get out for the escape but the offensive onslaught from Brooks continued. Aaron scored 3 more takedowns in the period to win by a 19-4 technical fall.

Takeaways

There really isn’t much to take away other than Brooks is just really damn good at wrestling. His time on the mat looks more like he’s drilling with a partner than wrestling an opponent in a competitive match. Watching him on the mat is just a masterclass of poise and control, knowing that raw power and athleticism is at his disposal any time he chooses.

PSU 31, OSU 3

285: #1 Greg Kerkvliet, PSU vs #12 Boone McDermott, OSU

For Kerk, the major challenge is consistency. He’s incredibly athletic and talented and this seems to be his year. But in order to be successful in March he’s going to need to avoid making sloppy mistakes, stay out from underneath his opponents, and make sure to capitalize on the opportunities he creates.

1st

Greg took to the mat immediately looking to score. A snatch single found him quickly up 3-1 less than 30 seconds into the match. Again Kerk looked for lateral attacks, getting in on a low single while simultaneously coming around McDermott to score his second takedown. Kerk was able to flatten out McDermott while looking for a tilt before ultimately letting McDermott back to his feet. Kerk kept the pressure on, working the ties and ankle picks to set up a double that scored him is third takedown to close out the period 9-2.

2nd

Kerk conceded the escape to start the second before continuing the offensive barrage. After getting McDermott out of position, Kerk was able to spin behind to extend his lead to 12-3. McDermott attempted some offense himself but Kerk was quickly able to counter for yet another takedown and take a 15-4 lead. Another escape from McDermott was followed quickly by Kerk getting behind for another takedown, closing out the action in the second period with a score of 18-5.

3rd

Kerk chose neutral to start the third and was quickly in on a single yet again to secure the takedown and end the match via technical fall, 21-5.

Takeaways

McDermott is a pretty athletic heavyweight, yet Kerk was always a few steps ahead of him. Using his quickness to his advantage to avoid having to fight through his opponent’s strength and weight will be a very useful strategy during the NCAA tournament and we should hope to see Kerk use it more throughout the rest of the season.

PSU 36, OSU 3

Executive Summary

Box score: 2024-0105 Penn State over Oregon State
Box score: 2024-0105 Penn State over Oregon State

Penn State won 9 of 10 bouts, 5 of the 9 via Bonus, posting 4 Tech Falls and a Major, and outscored the Beavers in Match Points 123-36. Oregon State managed to score takedowns in 4 different bouts, but 9 Penn State wrestlers earned TDs to help the Lions win the takedown battle 33-5.

The Takery

Be impressed.

Be thankful. Be proud. Because this team very well could be the best so far in the Cael era.

This dual could’ve been a very easy one to overlook coming off the holiday break and traveling across the country to face a tough opponent, while several wrestlers on the team are also focusing on the Olympics in addition to the NCAA season. Instead, this team took it to the Beavers with several statement wins. There will undoubtedly be lessons learned from this match, but don’t forget to sit back and just appreciate the greatness we’re seeing put on display.

Penn State Wrestling

Wrestling Dual Season Postview: Penn State finishes a 4th straight season undefeated by shutting out Edinboro, 55-0.

MMQB - 5+7

Penn State Hockey

No. 6 Wisconsin 3, Penn State 2: Badgers Sink Lions in OT