Nittany Lions look more like themselves in rout
UNIVERSITY PARK — When Penn State wrestling fans walked out of Rec Hall on Friday night after the Nittany Lions’ lackluster win over Illinois, many probably wondered who some of those guys were and what happened to their trademark intensity and aggressiveness.
Those same fans probably walked out of Rec Hall on Sunday after No. 3 Penn State’s 30-9 shellacking of No. 13 Northwestern shaking their heads again. Only this time it was in the affirmative that the energy, effort and outcome was more like they are used to seeing.
“I think the energy level was a little bit better, a little more fire out there, which is important as we get moving forward,” Nittany Lion coach Cael Sanderson said. “We have things we can work on, that’s never going to change, but the important thing is let’s go wrestle with some passion.”
Passion was on display throughout the lineup from all 10 Nittany Lions, even the three that lost on Sunday. Of Penn State’s seven wins, three came by technical fall, another by pin and three by decision.
Northwestern could only muster five takedowns, dispersed among its three winners, while Penn State amassed 28 takedowns from nine of its 10 starters.
A draw set the starting weight at 133 pounds. Roman Bravo-Young, who sat out Friday’s dual and admitted that until Saturday’s practice, he hadn’t wrestled since Wednesday, said his goal was to set a torrid early tempo for the Nittany Lions. He did, snaring nine takedowns in a 23-8 technical fall in 6:26.
“Just go out there and score as many points as I can. That’s the goal every time I get out there. Obviously, today I was first. I just wanted to get the team rolling right away, to start off fast, do as well as I can.”
Nick Lee made it two in a row at 141. He rolled to a 14-4 first-period lead on the strength of five takedowns and a four-point nearfall. Lee tacked on two more takedowns in the second and ended the match at 4:51 with a 20-5 win.
Mark Hall added a third technical fall, 17-2 in 5:21, on the heels of Vincenzo Joseph’s fall in 56 seconds at 165. Joseph returned to the lineup after missing Friday’s dual.
Jarod Verkleeren (8-2 at 149), Creighton Edsell (4-1 at 184) and Seth Nevills (8-1 at 285) won by decision for the Nittany Lions.
Edsell subbed in for an ailing Aaron Brooks. On Saturday, Edsell won a match at the 2020 Shorty Hitchcock Memorial Open in Millersville, then pulled out of the tournament when Sanderson got word that Brooks probably wouldn’t be able to compete Sunday.
“It feels pretty good. Last year I was in a sling at this time. Just being able to come back a year later and being healthier and being able to compete and have fun is a blessing,” Edsell said.
“It’s always being ready when the coaches ask. I got a match in yesterday and then started preparing for today. Nothing really changed.”
Sanderson said that assistant coaches Cody Sanderson, Casey Cunningham and Jake Varner ran practice in his stead on Saturday, but nothing really changed to spark the transformation from Friday to Sunday.
“You just keep plugging away. You’ve got to stay positive and optimistic. Negativity has never really solved any problems. It’s just part of the process,” he said.
“That’s part of being a team. You step up. We’re all in this together. We win and lose as a team. They compete as individuals, but the big picture is the team. When the kids are focusing more on the team, they’re going to do better as individuals, too. These guys know that.”
Penn State has a week to try to get the team healthy and the lineup stabilized. Rutgers visits Rec Hall for a 5 p.m. Sunday dual that will be televised on ESPN2.
133: No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, won by tech. fall over Dylan Utterback, 23-8 (6:26). 141: No. 2 Nick Lee, PSU, won by tech. fall over Alec McKenna, 20-5 (4:51). 149: Jarod Verkleeren, PSU, dec. Eric Yang, 8-2. 157: No. 1 Ryan Deakin, NW, dec. Bo Pipher, 6-0. 165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, pinned Shayne Oster, :56.
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, PSU, won by tech. fall over Tyler Morland, 17-2 (5:21). 184: Creighton Edsell, PSU, dec. Jack Jessend, 4-1. 197: Lucas Davison, NW, dec. Shakur Rasheed, 7-5. 285: Seth Nevills, PSU, dec. Jack Heyob, 8-1. 125: No. 7 Michael DeAugustino, NW, dec. Brandon Meredith, 7-3.
Ridge Riley Award winner: Vincenzo Joseph.
Takedowns: Northwestern 5; Penn State 28.
Records: Northwestern 2-3, 0-2 Big Ten; Penn State 5-1, 2-0.
Next match: Rutgers at Penn State, 5 p.m. Sunday.