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Takedowns everywhere for Lions in victory

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State wrestled in Rec Hall for the first time on Monday night in this very, very strange season.

The Nittany Lions had two other home matches postponed because of COVID-19 issues, so they were back home wrestling Maryland in their now shockingly very quiet home venue. Only family and friends were permitted to attend — not counting the cardboard cutouts in the stands.

Season ticket holders could only watch on the Big Ten Network or listen to Jeff Byers’ call on the radio.

The 6-0 Lions finished off the last scheduled regular-season match by winning all 10 of bouts, recording five major decisions, three pins and two decisions, amassing a 47-2 advantage in takedowns in a 44-0 senior night romp over the 0-8 Terrapins.

“I think the guys wrestled well,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “I think we scored a lot of points in some areas they need to work on individually. I think we’re happy with where we’re at. We’re going to try to get a little better between now and the next competition.”

“It was awesome,” 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young said of wrestling at home. “We’ve been on the road. No one wants to be on the road, traveling, all the workouts, bussing five hours. It kind of gets old quick.”

Sanderson did provide a surprise when he sent 285-pounder Greg Kerkvliet out for the first bout. Sanderson had said recently that the injured Kerkvliet wasn’t going to wrestle the rest of the season.

“He was cleared to compete, so he competed,” Sanderson said. “That’s something that we’ll have to figure out obviously between now and next weekend.”

Kerkvliet was one of six freshmen in the Penn State lineup.

Kerkvliet didn’t actually spend too much time on the mat as he built a 6-2 lead before pinning Garrett Kappes in 1:12.

“I was surprised,” Bravo-Young said of seeing Kervliet wrestle. “He had a minor setback, but he’s healthy, so we’ll see what happens.”

Kerkvliet also wrestled an extra bout afterward and won by fall again. Wrestlers need to wrestle at least four bouts to wrestle in the postseason.

Freshman Robbie Howard built a 12-1 lead on Zach Spence before pinning him in 3:38 at 125, giving the Lions a 12-0 lead.

“Howard got some mat time, got some turns on top,” Sanderson said. “He got some experience, which is good for everybody. I think all of the freshmen are wrestling well. They have a lot of experience.”

Bravo-Young and Nick Lee dominated at 133 and 141, respectively, for major decisions. Bravo-Young rang up a 24-13 victory over Jackson Cockrell, while Lee pounded Danny Bertoni, 14-2.

“I’m just trying to score points, you know,” Bravo-Young said.

Freshman Beau Bartlett earned a 9-3 decision over Hunter Baxter at 149, scoring three takedowns and a reversal. Bartlett attempted the bow and arrow for back points from the top position but he couldn’t turn Baxter. Bartlett also wrestled an extra match afterward, winning 15-7.

“I think Bartlett has show that he’s a competitor,” Sanderson said. “He’s getting better each match. You can see he’s comfortable out there and he’s confident. He’s doing some really nice things. We’ve got several guys at 149 that we’d feel comfortable sending to the tournament.”

The Lions led 23-0 at halftime.

Penn State senior Luke Gardner and Michael Doetsch were tied, 2-2, in the third period at 157 when Gardner got a takedown and used a low leg cradle to score four back points for an 8-2 decision

Freshman Joe Lee, who appeared to injure his knee against Ohio State, rolled to a 14-3 lead over Jonathan Spadafora at 165 before putting the Terrapin on his back with a low leg cradle and getting the pin in 5:56. Lee looked like he was going to release Spadafora but he hit the cradle instead. Penn State was up 42-0.

“I felt good during the Ohio State match. I felt good today,” Lee said. “I just think it’s part of the process.”

Carter Starocci, one of the other talented freshmen, broke his 174-pound bout with Phillip Spadafora in the third period. He scored an escape, two takedowns and got riding time for a 15-6 major decision

Defending 184-pound Big Ten champion Aaron Brooks continued the major decision parade with a 17-5 victory over Kyle Cochran.

Freshman Michael Beard finished off the meet at 197 with a 13-4 major decision over Jaron Smith.

The Lions will now get ready for the Big Ten Championships, which will be held on March 6-7 at Rec Hall.

285–Kerkvliet, PS, pinned Kappes, 1:12; 125–Howard, PS, pinned Spence, 3:38; 133–Bravo-Young, maj. dec. Cockrell, 24-13; 141–N. Lee, maj. dec. Bertoni, 14-2; 149–Bartlett, PS, dec. Baxter, 9-3

157–Gardner, PS, dec. Doetsch, 8-2; 165–J. Lee, PS, pinned J. Spadafora, 5:56; 174–Starocci, PS maj. dec. P. Spadafora, 15-6; 184–Brooks, PS maj. dec. Cochran, 17-5; 197–Beard, PS, maj. dec. Smith, 13-4.

Records: Maryland (0-8), Penn State (6-0)

Extra bout winners: Bartlett (149), Pipher (157), Ball (197), Kerkvliet (285)

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