PSU raises banner, pounds Kent State

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s 2018 national championship banner was raised — the seventh time in the last eight years that’s happened — to the Rec Hall rafters by three-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford and athletic director Sandy Barbour on Sunday afternoon.

And then the top-ranked Nittany Lions served notice that another banner raising is a good bet for next season.

The Lions recorded seven pins, including falls from freshman Roman Bravo-Young at 133 and redshirt freshman Jarod Verkleeren at 149, and two technical falls to pound Kent State, 52-3, before a sold-out home crowd of 6,496.

“I’m happy with the guys,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “I thought they wrestled very well today. We’re appreciative of Kent State coming in here. It’s not an easy thing to do with the crowd and it being early in the season like this. We’re a pretty veteran team, with our freshmen having a lot of experience and being very good.”

Penn State’s only loss came at 125, where Devin Schnupp, who only had one win last season, dropped a 12-8 decision to Jake Ferri. Schnupp started off well with two takedowns in the first period, but it was all Ferri after that.

Then it was Bravo-Young’s turn. Sanderson said on media day he’d be fun to watch, and he was. The four-time Arizona state champion built a 9-0 lead on Tim Rooney before using a bar-arm and half nelson to get the fall in 5:31. The crowd roared its approval.

“It was really fun,” Bravo-Young said. “I was a little nervous at first, and I had the jitters, but once I got going, it was fun. In the second period, I found him kind of getting tired. In the third period, I shoved him a little to get to the center. I wasn’t tired. I could have kept going.”

Returning 141-pound All-American Nick Lee rolled to an 18-2 technical fall in 3:44 over Cory Simpson.

Kent State 149-pounder Kody Komara tried to muscle Verkleeren, but the Nittany Lion threw him to his back. The end came in 1:20.

“He body-locked me, and then I sent it,” Verkleeren said. “It was a full send to his back. I’m pretty comfortable up there, so I took the risk.”

Verkleeren said being at the same weight as Retherford last season helped.

“He beat me up a little bit here and there,” he said, “and I got a little tougher.”

Two-time NCAA champion Jason Nolf built a 12-5 lead on Joe Andrassy before cradling the Golden Flash 157-pounder for the fall in 2:29. The Lions led 23-3 at halftime, where former star David Taylor was recognized for recently winning a world championship with a standing ovation.

Vincenzo Joseph kept the Lions on a roll after halftime. The two-time NCAA champ built a 12-4 lead on Isaac Bast at 165 before pinning Bast in 3:40.

Mark Hall took the mat at 174 to the walkup song Ballroom Blitz, and the 2017 NCAA champion and 2018 runner-up blitzed Dylan Barreiro. Hall built an 11-0 before hitting a cement mixer at the edge of the mat and getting the fall in 3:34. The Lions led 35-3.

Shakur Rasheed, an All-American at 197 who dropped to 184 this season, put Andrew McNally away in only 1:13.

The expected bout between two-time NCAA champ Bo Nickal and Kent State’s second-ranked Kyle Conel didn’t happen as Conel was scratched due to an injury. Shane Mast filled in, and Nickal, up to 197 for the first time, pinned him in 2:06.

“Maybe the kid was a 184-pounder and bumped up for this match,” Sanderson said of Mast. “That takes a lot of courage on his part, and we appreciate them doing that so a guy like Bo Nickal can have a match in his home dual. But, yeah, Bo’s pretty good.”

Penn State’s Nick Nevills is ranked second at 285, but Anthony Cassar, up from 197 to 285 this season, got the call and dominated William Bolia. Cassar rolled up a 17-2 technical fall in 5:14 to end the dual meet.

“We have two really good guys at that weight,” Sanderson said. “They’ll face off down the road, and we’ll see how that turns out. I think Cassar looked really good. His finishes were really clean and quick, very explosive and powerful.”

Notes: Penn State had a 31-4 takedown advantage. … Veterans and current military members were recognized before the Veterans Day match. … The Lions are back in action next Sunday at the University of Pennsylvania in the Keystone Classic. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. at the Palestra.

125–Ferri, KS, dec. Schnupp, 12-8; 133–Bravo-Young, PS, pinned Rooney, 5:31; 141–Lee, PS, tech. fall Simpson, 18-2, 3:44; 149–Verkleeren, PS, pinned Komara, 1:20; 157–Nolf, PS, pinned Andrassy, 2:29.

165–Joseph, PS, pinned Bast, 3:40; 174–Hall, PS, pinned Barreiro, 3:34; 184–Rasheed, PS, pinned McNally, 1:13; 197–Nickal, PS, pinned Mast, 2:06; 285–Cassar, PS, tech. fall Bolia, 17-2, 5:14.

Records: Kent State (3-2); Penn State (1-0)

Attendance: 6,496

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