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Four win titles as Penn State rolls in Army Invite

WEST POINT, N.Y — The Penn State Nittany Lions, ranked No. 1 nationally by InterMat, dominated action at the 2019 Army West Point Invite on Sunday in West Point, N.Y.

Fifteen Penn Staters competed at nine weights and the Nittany Lions came away with four champions with 11 total place-winners.

The Nittany Lions four champions were Roman Bravo-Young at 133, Nick Lee at 141, Jarod Verkleeren at 149 and Mark Hall at 174. Luke Gardner was runner-up at 149 as well, dropping a tough bout in an all-Penn State final at that weight.

Bravo-Young, ranked No. 3 at 133, won the first of Penn State’s individual titles at the event. Bravo-Young had a first-round bye and met Bloomsburg’s Shaun Orey in the quarterfinals. Bravo-Young dominated the bout on his way to a 22-9 major decision. The Lion sophomore took on Gregg Wert of Army West Point in the semifinals and battled his way to a 9-4 win, advancing to the finals. Bravo-Young took on Michigan’s Austin Assad in Penn State’s first finals bout of the day. The Lion sophomore dominated the bout, picking up three takedowns in each of the first two periods, on his way to posting a 17-9 major decision. Bravo-Young went 3-0 with two majors to win the Black Knight Invite title at 133.

Lee, ranked No. 3 at 141, picked up the crown at his weight. Lee opened up the tournament making short work of Maryland’s Quinn Devaney. Lee opened up a 12-1 lead in the first period before pinning Devaney at the 2:42 mark.

The Nittany Lion junior notched his second first-period fall, pinning Bloomsburg’s Marco Macrino at the 1:29 mark to move to the semifinals. Lee continued his dominant wrestling in the semis, rolling up a number of takedowns and back points on his way to an 18-0 technical fall over Central Michigan’s Drew Martin. Lee’s tech came at the 3:32 mark in the second period. In the finals, Lee took on Central Michigan’s Dresden Simon and rolled to an 11-5 win to claim the title. Lee went 4-0 with two pins and a major at the tournament.

Verkleeren won the all-Penn State final at 149. Verkleeren opened up a big lead in the opening period of his first-round bout against Michigan’s Nick Lombard before rolling up an 11-point lead in the third. Verkleeren picked up the fall at the 6:34 mark to move into the quarterfinals. He nearly pinned Maryland’s Michael Doetsch in the opening period but settled for a 6-1 win. Verkleeren controlled Hofstra’s Reece Heller in his semifinal bout, posting a strong 6-2 win to advance to the finals. Verkleeren met teammate Gardner in the 149-pound title bout. He used a third period takedown to post a hard fought 3-2 win and take the crown. Verkleeren went 4-0 with a pin on the day.

Hall, ranked No. 1 at 174, rolled to the title at 174. After a first-round bye, Hall made short work of Bloomsburg’s Justin Hayward, taking the Huskie grappler down quickly, turning him a couple times and then getting the first period pin at the 1:44 mark. Hall picked up his second pin of the tournament in the semifinals, getting a second period fall over Maryland’s Phillip Spadafora at the 4:12 mark to advance to the finals. Hall took on Big Ten foe Jacob Covaciu of Indiana in the title bout at 174 and dominated the action. Hall recorded the bout’s only takedowns and posted a 14-2 major with more than 3 minutes in riding time to take the title. The Lion senior went 3-0 with two pins on the day.

Four top-ranked Nittany Lions did not wrestle at the event: No. 5 Brady Berge, No. 2 Shakur Rasheed and No. 1 Anthony Cassar did not compete at 157, 184 and 285 respectively; No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph competed this weekend at the Bill Farrell Open in New York City, advancing to the semifinals.

Penn State will take its 1-0 dual meet record to Tempe, Ariz., next weekend to battle No. 6 Arizona State. The Nittany Lions and Sun Devils will tangle on Friday at 9 p.m.

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