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Nittany Lions get five into finals round

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Most expected Penn State’s quest for a championship at the 2020 Big Ten Wrestling Championships to be an uphill battle, but no one could have predicted how tough it would end up being.

The Nittany Lions advanced five wrestlers into the finals, have qualified six for the NCAA Championships and have the possibility of qualifying another. However, despite the individual successes, the Nittany Lions stand in fourth place after day 1 at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

As expected, Iowa stands in first place with 121.5 team points, four finalists and five others alive in the consolations. Nebraska is a surprising second place with 102.5 points and one finalist but nine other wrestlers still alive in the consolations. Ohio State is in third with 94 points, three finalists and five alive in the consolations. Penn State has 93.5 points, five finalists and two in the consolations.

“Our guys who wrestle well consistently wrestled well today. We had four guys at four weights score one point. That makes it hard to compete as a team, but we have some individuals doing well. We just have to finish strong tomorrow and set ourselves up for the national tournament,” Penn State Coach Cael Sanderson said.

Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Aaron Brooks (184) will all wrestle for championships this afternoon. Shakur Rasheed (197) lost in the semifinals and is alive in the consolation semifinals. Jarod Verkleeren (149) faces a match in the ninth-place mini-tournament and can secure an NCAA berth with one more win.

Seth Nevills (285) hurt his knee and had to injury default in his first-round match, and then medically forfeited his next bout. Bo Pipher (157) went 0-2 and was eliminated. Brandon Meredith (125) went 1-3 and was eliminated.

Bravo-Young earned his trip to the finals with a couple of rollicking decisions. In the quarterfinals, he edged Sammy Alvarez, 5-2. Then, in the semifinals, he hit lightning quick double leg early in the first period against Iowa’s Austin DeSanto, added an escape and it held up for a 3-2 win. He will meet Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera, who upset No. 1 seed Seth Gross in semifinals, in this afternoon’s final.

Lee started his day with a 37-second fall over Purdue’s Parker Filius in the quarterfinals. Then, in the semifinals, he built a 5-0 lead over Nebraska’s Chad Red and held on for a 7-5 decision. Lee faces a rematch with Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher, the No. seed, in the final.

Joseph put together a pair of dominating wins to earn his finals berth. He started with a 16-5 major decision over Drew Hughes of Michigan State in the quarterfinals. Then, in the semifinals, he notched yet another physical win over Nebraska’s Isaiah White, 6-3. He earned a rematch with Iowa’s Alex Marinelli in a finals matchup of the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds respectively.

Hall earned his fourth trip to the Big Ten finals and a rematch Iowa No. 1 seed Michael Kemerer who dealt Hall his only loss of the season. Hall rolled to a 16-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals before he earned a tense 5-4 win over Purdue’s Dylan Lydy in the semfinals.

Brooks continued his rapid improvement as a college wrestler as he made the finals in his first appearance at the Big Ten tournament. He was dominant in majoring Minnesota’s Owen Webster 15-4 in the quarterfinals. Then, in the semfinals against Nebraska’s Taylor Venz, he avenged his only college loss but powering Venz to his back and pinning him in 4:00. Brooks will take on Michigan State No. 2 seed Cameron Caffey in the final.

Rasheed looked more like his old self in going 2-1 on the first day. He scored a quick 53-second fall in the first round and then scored a late takedown against Iowa’s Jacob Warner in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, though, a couple late takedown attempts went unfulfilled as he fell, 4-3, to Nebraska’s Eric Schultz.

Meredith started the tournament on a promising note as he made a first-period takedown stand up for a 3-2 win over Minnesota No. 3 seed Patrick McKee in the first round. He lost in the quarterfinals and the second round of consolations to fall into a ninth-place mini-tournament where he lost again and was eliminated.

Jarod Verkleeren went 0-2 but was still alive in a ninth-place mini-tournament semifinal bout.

Bo Pipher went 0-2 and was eliminated from the tournament after a first-round consolation loss.

Seth Nevills suffered a knee injury in the first period of his first-round match and had to injury default in the second period when he was unable to continue. He medically forfeited his second-round consolation bout and his tournament was over.

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