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Mitchell Mesenbrink works a bar and half against #20 Bryce Hepner

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Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State vs No. 14 Rutgers

The annual BJC dual meet is upon us, this time on a Monday evening!

Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Every dual so far this year, I’ve been basically unconcerned headed into it that PSU would lose. Individual bout questions? Sure, though not many. But overall, this Penn State team is just so dominant (with expected NCAA tournament points projected based on rankings at more than double the #2 team at writing time) that the meet outcomes just haven’t been in doubt.

That isn’t about to change in this year’s BJC dual, which may arguably be the fourth best team on the home schedule for the Nittany Lions this season.

Rutgers comes in with a pair of top ten wrestlers, and ranked grapplers at 8 of the ten weights. That’s pretty good! But they’re enough years removed from having two national champs in the same year, with no freshman (and only two underclassmen) in their potential starting lineup, so they’ll have to look to continue to build their bench. Next year will be their year, I expect, to make more of a run; this year, it’s all Penn State, all the time.

How To Watch

What: #1 Penn State vs #14 Rutgers*

Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA

When: Monday, February 12, 7 PM EST

Audio: Free (via GoPSUSports)

Video: Big Ten Network

Lineup

#1 Penn State WT #14 Rutgers
#1 Penn State WT #14 Rutgers
#2 - Braeden Davis (Fr., Belleville, MI) 125 #19 - Dean Peterson (Jr., Barnegat, NJ)
#6 - Aaron Nagao (So., La Habra, CA) 133 #10 - Dylan Shawver (Jr., Lorain, OH)
#1 - Beau Bartlett (Sr., Tempe, AZ) 141 #19 - Mitch Moore (Gr., St Paris, OH)
#10 - Tyler Kasak (Fr., Doylestown, PA) 149 #26 - Michael Cetta (Jr., Wyckoff, NJ)
#1 - Levi Haines (So., Arendtsville, PA) 157 Andrew Clark (Jr., Collingswood, NJ) OR AJ DeSantis (Jr., Oceanport, NJ)
#7 - Mitchell Mesenbrink (Fr., Hartland, WI) 165 Anthony White (Jr., South Plainfield, NJ) OR Luke Gayer (So., Anaheim, CA)
#1 - Carter Starocci (Sr., Erie, PA) 174 #13 - Jackson Turley (Sr., Chester, VA)
#6 - Bernie Truax (Gr., Oceanside, CA) 184 #19 - Brian Soldano (So., Wantage, NJ)
#1 - Aaron Brooks (Sr., Hagerstown, MD) 197 #22 - John Poznanski (Jr., Colonia, NJ)
#1 - Greg Kerkvliet (Sr., Grove Heights, MN) 285 #8 - Yara Slavikouski (Gr., Rechitsa, Belarus)

125 LBS

The biggest question for me to start off this dual will be - how does a true freshman react to their first loss of the season? Davis’ll be the first of two athletes looking to answer that question this evening for Penn State, and I think he’ll start out a little slow but get his composure and pile it on as the match goes on. He may get taken down once early, but is ahead by the third period.

Prediction: Davis by decision

Score: PSU 3, Rutgers 0

133 LBS

I can’t pick a full shutout, can I? My Gulibon didn’t work on Kasak on Friday, so I’ll throw it here. Aaron Nagao had one of his best showings of the year in Iowa City, but hasn’t looked consistent against higher ranked opponents. Shawver is very good and another top ten guy, so this looks to be a tossup.

Prediction: Shawver by decision

Score: PSU 3, Rutgers 3

141 LBS

Speaking of best showings of the year - Beau Bartlett himself admitted that he wrestled as good as he ever has in the dual meet on Friday. If he’s able to continue that, the title at this weight will be his to lose. The march to March and his first title continues this week against a game, ranked Knight.

Prediction: Bartlett by major decision

Score: PSU 7, Rutgers 3

149 LBS

The second true freshman in the starting lineup and the second wrestler who’ll be looking to bounce back after a tough loss on the road on Friday. Kasak found himself down by a few takedowns in the third in his last outing, but responded really well and sent the bout to sudden victory. That’s a lesson you can only learn by going through it, and I expect he’ll come out on fire on Monday in response.

Prediction: Kasak by decision

Score: PSU 10, Rutgers 3

157 LBS

Levi Haines shut up all doubters on Friday night with a major decision over a top five guy that never felt as close as the score. He finally looks like the Levi of last year, which must be scary for either of the Rutgers wrestlers who’ll be taking the mat tonight.

Prediction: Haines by tech fall

Score: PSU 15, Rutgers 3

165 LBS

Speaking of scary - wrestling fans (and opponents) are getting introduced to Mitchell Mesenbrink and are wondering what they just saw. He’s taken many by surprise, including his opponents (and including a few higher ranked than he was at the time, including Michael Caliendo on Friday) - it’s just not the same watching him on video as it is seeing him in person or, especially, on the mat. Mitch seems like a lover of spotlight and attention to me, the natural successor to RBY and Bo Nickal, so I expect he’ll go out and try to give the BJC crowd the fireworks he knows they want to see.

Prediction: Mesenbrink by pin

Score: PSU 21, Rutgers 3

174 LBS

I get that Carter plays into his heel persona and, in many respects, is an online troll in wrestler form. But dang, the number of people who just disrespect what he’s been able to accomplish, and indeed denigrate his wrestling overall, just astound me. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but it does. He gets more bonus tonight.

Prediction: Carter by major decision

Score: PSU 25, Rutgers 3

184 LBS

Wrestlestat is predicting Soldano with an upset here, likely because he pinned the guy who (flukily, imo) pinned Truax last weekend, OSU’s Ryder Rogotzke. But the state of that bout before the pin, and the fact that Soldano lost to Michigan’s Jaden Bullock and MSU’s Layne Malczewski by major in the same weekend that Bernie beat both makes me think this’ll be closer to a bonus point Nittany Lion win than it will be a Rutgers victory.

Prediction: Truax by decision

Score: PSU 28, Rutgers 3

197 LBS

Aaron Brooks has never not gotten bonus over John Poznanski, and I don’t expect that to change in this bout; this one, though, won’t go the full seven, as Brooks is a man on a mission.

Prediction: AB by tech fall

Score: PSU 33, Rutgers 3

285 LBS

Iowa was very excited about their true freshman football player/wrestler from Iowa City, and there were some fans who thought he’d be able to take it to Greg Kerkvliet. He was not, and I’m not sure anyone will be able to. Rutgers has a Belarussian at this weight, which is interesting; but I’m not sure that anything is going to keep Kerk from his first title this year.

Prediction: Kerk by major decision

Score: PSU 37, Rutgers 3

Overall score prediction: Penn State 37, Rutgers 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; Rutgers is #14 in the Dual Meet rankings, and #26 (T) in the Tournament rankings.

Penn State Men's Basketball

YAY HOOPS Penn State at Iowa Preview/Open Thread: Lions Look for Another Sweep

Penn State Wrestling

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

MMQB - 5+7