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Amateur Wrestling Block || Nittany Lions roar back

Photo credit @SJanickiPhoto

Since four-time NCAA National Champion and Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson took the reins at Penn State University in 2010, the Nittany Lions have scored a total of eight NCAA team championship titles. From 2011–2019, Penn State won every tournament except for 2015. Heading into the 2021 season, Sanderson’s team, despite being ranked third in the country, seemed to be in a rebuilding phase. Over this past weekend, Sean Bormet and the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines welcomed the Lions to Cliff Keen Arena.

Robert Howard, one of the top recruits in the class of 2020, debuted for PSU at 125 lbs. The two-time New Jersey State Champion from Bergen Catholic High School took on Michigan’s Jack Medley. Howard collected takedowns in thee first and second periods to grind out a 6–5 victory, giving Penn State a 3–0 lead after the opening match.

Photo credit @SJanickiPhoto


In a surprising match-up at 133 lbs., #3 Roman Bravo-Young faced Dylan Ragusin, ranked eighth at 125 lbs. Ragusin is a standout player for the Wolverines, finishing second at the US Senior Freestyle Nationals this past fall. But stepping up a weight class in the collegiate style proved to be too great of a challenge for the freshman, as Bravo-Young racked up more the two minutes of riding time to win 9–2. PSU led 7–0 before #2 141 Nick Lee scored a third-period takedown to beat #20 Drew Mattin 10–4.

Unranked red-shirt freshman Terrell Barraclough faced sixth-ranked 149 lbs. Kaden Storr of Michigan. The Wolverine hung on for the 4–3, putting Michigan on the board 9–3. In the marquee match of the dual, at 157 lbs. PSU’s 9th ranked Brady Berge took on Michigan’s eighth-ranked Will Lewan. The match was tied 1–1 late in the third as Berge chased down and a single leg to secure the takedown and the 3–1 decision, putting the Nittany Lions up 12–3.

At 165 lbs., Michigan scored an upset victory of their own as 18th-ranked Cameron Amine defeated  #6 Joe Lee in 4–1. PSU flipped the advantage in the match at 174 lbs. when Michigan’s second-ranked Logan Massa lost to #8 freshman Carter Starocci. The two remain tied 1–1 through three periods, leading into overtime. After another scoreless minute, Massa was given choice heading into the “ultimate tie-breaker” round. Massa chose the down position, hoping to collect another escape point. Off the whistle, Massa exploded to his feet with Starocci hanging on to his waist. Massa made a critical error in rolling under Starocci and forcing a scramble. Starocci caught Massa on his back and collected four near-fall points to secure a 7–1 victory.

At 184 lbs., we saw PSU’s third-ranked Aaron Brooks secure a 10–5 victory over Jaden Bullock. At 197 lbs., freshman Michael Baird lost to the number one ranked 184 lbs. Myles Amine 6–5. Michigan’s second-ranked heavyweight Mason Parris handled seventh-ranked Seth Nevills 12–2 to close the meet.

Penn State won the dual by a final score of 18–13. However, had Logan Massa not given up back points in the upset loss at 174 lbs., the final team score would have been Michigan 16, Penn State 15. This one turn of events showcases the slim margins between the NCAA elite level programs and how every match in a dual meet can impact the final team score. Cael Sanderson collected his 200th coaching win, while Carter Starroci was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors.

Penn State returns to action against Ohio State this Friday.

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