Despite crowning 4 champs, Penn State falls just short of winning Big Ten wrestling title

NATE COBLER
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State head wrestling coach Cael Sanderson

LINCOLN, Neb. — The first part of Penn State's postseason came to a close on Sunday.

The Nittany Lions crowned four Big Ten wrestling champions and qualified nine wrestlers for the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Detroit. They came up just short of a conference title, that has escaped them for three years now.

Penn State ended with 141.5 points to finish second behind Michigan's 143 points. It was the Wolverines' first conference title since 1973.

"I think we competed. We lost a lot of close matches, but we still had a chance to win," Nittany Lions coach Cael Sanderson said. "The guys wrestled well. Michigan wrestled great. They kept winning every match. Congratulations (to them), they did a great job. We just got to score more points."

Iowa was the only other team to score more than 100 points at 129.5. Ohio State (91.5) and Northwestern (90.5) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Lions' champions were Ramon Bravo Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174) and Max Dean (197).

Here's a look at where Penn State's wrestlers finished at the end:

125 pounds: Drew Hildebrandt

Record for tournament: 1-3

Finish: 10th

Recap: Hildebrandt opened his day needing just one win to secure his spot for the NCAA Championships. However, it probably wasn't the spot he would've liked to be in, wrestling for a ninth place finish instead of a title.

Hildebrandt took on Indiana's Jacob Moran and really had no problems with the Hoosiers' wrestler in the ninth-place bracket semifinals. He tallied a first period takedown, added an escape in the second period and had a riding time point for a 4-0 win.

In the ninth-place match, Hildebrandt didn't make the call and medically forfeited to Illinois' Justin Cardani to finish 10th.

133 pounds: Roman Bravo-Young

Record for tournament: 3-0

Finish: Champion

Recap: RBY took on a familiar opponent in Iowa's Austin DeSanto for a second straight year in the finals. It seems as though RBY has figured out the Hawkeyes' wrestler since losing to him three years ago in the Big Ten semifinals.

"I just focus on what I can control. I don't want to fall into his antics and stuff," Bravo-Young said after the win. "Obviously, it's not easy, but I've wrestled him how many times now, so it was a battle. I know what I'm getting myself into."

Both wrestlers jostled for positioning in the first period and shots were defended both ways with no scoring. In the second period, DeSanto's choice of bottom position paid off with an escape and 1-0 lead to start the third period.

RBY started from the bottom position to start the third period and escaped midway through to tie the bout up. With roughly 40 seconds left, the pair got into another scramble situation that RBY put DeSanto into danger position to earn a takedown with 30 seconds remaining. Those points were the deciding score as RBY claimed his second straight Big Ten crown, with a 3-1 win, and improved his record against DeSanto to 5-2.

The win may have given RBY the nod for the No. 1 seed in two weeks at the NCAA Championships.

"Like I said, Big Tens doesn't really mean too much," Bravo-Young said of his second title, "but it's a hard tournament for a reason. The big show is coming up, so I'm looking forward to it."

141 pounds: Nick Lee

Record for tournament: 3-0

Finish: Champion

Recap: It was rumored just after the third session of the Big Ten Championships were over that Lee's opponent in Iowa's Jaydin Eierman was going to medical forfeit in the finals.

It came to fruition, and Lee was awarded his first Big Ten title.

"No, but it is what it is," said Lee with a laugh when asked if this is how he envisioned his first title. "You want to wrestle all the matches, but I don't really think about it."

K.J. Pilcher, who covers the Hawkeyes for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, stated in a tweet that Eierman had "knee issues" on Saturday.

With the conference title, it now likely makes Lee the No. 1 seed in Detroit for the NCAA Championships. He looks like he's at the peak, where he needs to be at this point in the season.

"I feel good. We've prepared the right way. I wrestled (my) best," Lee said.

149 pounds: Beau Bartlett

Record for tournament: 3-2

Finish: 7th

Recap: Bartlett entered Sunday needing to win his only match of the day to secure his NCAA spot.

He took on Michigan's Kanen Storr in a bout that played into the team race as well. Neither wrestler scored in the first period, and the first points didn't come until Bartlett escaped with 12 seconds remaining in the second period.

In the third period, Bartlett used a strong ride to eliminate Storr's riding time advantage. Storr did escape with just over one minute left in the match.

With 35 seconds remaining, Bartlett was able to secure a standing cradle for a takedown, but was unable to get Storr to his back for more points. Bartlett won 3-1 to secure his first NCAA Championships appearance.

157 pounds: Brady Berge

Record for tournament: 4-1

Finish: 3rd

Recap: Berge got a rematch with Iowa's Kaleb Young in the consolation finals. Berge sent the No. 2 seed to the consolation bracket by beating him 5-3 in the quarterfinals.

The second time around, the result was the same — a two-point victory for Berge.

The pair traded escapes in regulation, which forced sudden victory. In the sudden victory period, Berge shot in on Young with a blast double that really just turned into a single for the winning score. Berge topped Young 3-1 to finish third.

"I'm just grateful to be in this situation. For me, this is what I came out here for, to wrestle in the Big Tens and Nationals," Berge said. "I'm just trying to stay present, and enjoy it with my teammates and coaches as I can."

Berge had one match earlier Sunday, that he didn't take too long to finish off.

Berge took on Purdue's Kendall Coleman in the consolation semifinals. The pair got into a scramble late, with Berge having the upper hand.

Coleman went to roll through to escape from being taken down, but Berge caught him, put him on his back and pinned the Boilermakers' wrestler in 2:59.

"I love Brady. I was sad to see him go when he did, so having back is like having a brother back," Lee said of Berge. "We are really proud of him. He finds a way every time."

165 pounds: Creighton Edsell

Record for tournament: 1-2

Finish: Eliminated on Saturday

Recap: Edsell was getting a taste of his first postseason action for the Nittany Lions. He opened up a win, but his reward was the No. 2 seed.

Edsell took on Purdue's Hayden Lohrey and led 1-0 after two periods of wrestling. Lohrey was awarded a penalty point in the third period, which forced sudden victory. Edsell took just 19 seconds to secure a takedown for the 3-1 win to advance.

In the quarterfinals, Edsell took on Iowa's Alex Marinelli. Marinelli had two first period takedowns to have a 4-2 lead at the period's end.

Edsell started from the bottom position in the second period, but was unable to get out from under Marinelli. In the third period, Marinelli added an escape, another takedown and added riding time for an 8-2 win sending Edsell to the consolation bracket.

Edsell took on Minnesota's Cael Carlson in the second round of consolations. Edsell was in on deep shots several times, but was never able to finish them off. Carlson finished off with a counter takedown on one of Edsell's shots and that was enough in a 3-2 win to end Edsell's Big Ten championships.

174 pounds: Carter Starocci

Record for tournament: 3-0

Finish: Champion

Recap: Starocci was in a familiar role from last year. He was in the Big Ten finals, except he was the No. 1 seed.

The sophomore took on Michigan's Logan Massa. Starocci tallied the first points with a takedown with just over one minute remaining in the first period.

Massa escaped late to make it 2-1 to start the second period. Starocci's escape in the second period were the lone points.

In the third period, Starocci had a full period ride out to add a riding time point and collected a penalty point in a 5-2 title cliniching win. It was Starocci's first title after missing out on one last year.

184 pounds: Aaron Brooks

Record for tournament: 2-1

Finsh: 2nd

Recap: Brooks was in the Big Ten finals for a third consecutive season. He took on Michigan's Myles Amine, who he topped earlier this year.

Brooks had a takedown midway through the first period and looked poised to defend his previous Big Ten titles. He led 3-2 after two periods of wrestling, then fireworks ensued.

Amine recorded an escape eight seconds into the third period. Amine than recorded a takedown with 13 seconds remaining to claim a 4-3 lead.

Brooks escaped with four seconds remaining to force sudden victory. It took Amine 15 seconds into the sudden victory period to take Brooks down, and dethrone the king, 6-4.

197 pounds: Max Dean

Record for tournament: 3-0

Finish: Champion

Recap: Dean made the finals in his first Big Ten Championships. He made the finals in the EIWAs while wrestling for Cornell.

"The Big Ten is unanimously agreed on as the toughest wrestling conference, it's no secret. I had good competitors where I was before," said Dean comparing the two conferences. "I got great coaches and teammates now that support me. It's just different, but a lot of fun going out and getting after it.

In the finals, Dean took on Nebraska's Eric Schultz, who missed the Cornhuskers dual with the Nittany Lions a month ago. Dean tried to feel out the lengthier Schultz, and figured it out with 33 seconds remaining in the first period with a takedown.

Schultz escaped before the end of the first period, and added another escape in the second period to have a tied bout going to the third period. Dean took a 3-2 lead with a quick escape to open the final frame. He built up enough riding time in the second period to earn a 4-2 victory.

"It feels good. It's just wrestling. We got something bigger in a couple of weeks," Dean said. "(I) just got to keep focused, and go back and work on some things. (There are) guys here that have the talent to win this tournament on our team, that didn't get done what they wanted to. It will all be worth it in a couple of weekends from now, when they get it done there."

285 pounds: Greg Kerkvliet

Record for tournament: 4-1

Finish: 3rd

Recap: Kerkvliet got a rematch with Michigan's Mason Parris in the consolation finals. Kerkvliet topped Parris in the January dual.

Sunday's result was the same, but a closer outcome.

Kerkvliet secured a takedown with just under one minute to go in the first period, but Parris escaped to have a 2-1 bout. In the second period, Parris tied it up with another escape.

Kerkvliet took just seven seconds to secure an escape in the third period, and added a takedown late to pick up a 5-3 victory.

The Penn State wrestler rebounded nicely earlier in the day after falling to Iowa's Tony Cassioppi in Saturday evening's semifinals.

He took on Northwestern's Lucas Davison in the consolation semifinals, and was down 3-0 early in the second period. Kerkvliet stayed composed to collect a reversal before the final buzzer in the second period.

In the third period, Kerkvliet snatched up another reversal to claim a 4-3 lead. From there, he rode Davison out for the rest of the period to add a riding time point in a 5-3 win

Big Ten Championships

Sunday at Lincoln, Nebraska

Team key: Illinois (Ill.), Indiana (Ind.), Iowa (I), Maryland (M), Michigan (Mich.), Michigan State (MSU), Minnesota (Minn.), Nebraska (N), Northwestern (NW), Ohio State ( OSU), Penn State (PSU), Purdue (P), Rutgers (R), Wisconsin (W)

Team scores: 1. Michigan 143, 2. Penn State 141.5, 3. Iowa 129.5, 4. Ohio State 91.5, 5. Northwestern 90.5, 6. Minnesota 78.5, 7. Nebraska 75.5, 8. Wisconsin 68, 9. Rutgers 41, 10. Purdue 36.5.

Co-Outstanding wrestlers: Wisconsin's Austin Gomez & Michigan's Myles Amine

Wrestler of the year: Minnesota's Gable Steveson

Freshman of the year: Wisconsin's Dean Hamiti

Coach of the year: Michigan's Sean Bormet

Finals

125: Nick Suriano, Mich., major dec. Eric Barnett, W, 12-4; 133: Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, dec. Austin DeSanto, I, 3-1; 141: Nick Lee, PSU, med. forfeit Jaydin Eierman, I; 149: Austin Gomez, W, dec. Sammy Sasso, OSU, 8-5; 157: Ryan Deakin, NW, dec. Will Lewan, Mich., 7-2; 165: Alex Marinelli, I, dec. Cameron Amine, Mich., 2-1; 174: Carter Starocci, PSU, dec. Logan Massa, Mich., 5-1; 184: Myles Amine, Mich., dec. Aaron Brooks, PSU, 6-4 (SV); 197: Max Dean, PSU, dec. Eric Schultz, N, 4-2; 285: Gable Steveson, Minn., med. forfeit Tony Cassioppi, I