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2021-2022 Penn State Nittany Lion Lineup Preview

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The Penn State Nittany Lions have historically been the most dominant team in college wrestling during the past decade. They have had 8 team title at the NCAA Tournament along with 48 NCAA Titles and another 227 All Americans. They have came in second to the rival Iowa Hawkeyes and will be looking to reclaim the throne as the best team in college wrestling. Let’s take a dive into their lineup and see what they will be working with this season.

125lbs Robert Howard

Robert Howard has been one of the weaker parts in a crazy stacked Penn State lineup. He did qualify for the NCAA Tournament and was on pace to become an All American as a true freshman but ended up running into Patrick McKee from Minnesota in the wrestle backs where he ended up getting pinned. McKee ended up making an incredible run to 3rd place at the national tournament. He looks to be the starter this year but nothing has been confirmed yet as rumors still fly around about them possibly bringing in a transfer at 125 pounds as that is a weight class they have had trouble with since the graduation of Nico Megaludis and since Nick Suriano transferred. Should Robert Howard maintain the starting spot he would be looking at an All American finish should everything go to plan. For dual meet purposes against Iowa it is just unfortunate that he will have to wrestle one of the greatest college wrestlers of all time in Spencer Lee so that is what it is. Let us move on to 133 pounds.

133lbs Roman Bravo-Young

Roman Bravo-Young is a name we all quickly knew about after his freshman year match against Brandon Paetzell of Lehigh when he hit the infamous backflip counter off of a single. Since then he has made crazy strides in his wrestling ability under coach Cael Sanderson. His freshman season ended up with an 8th place All American finish which was very impressive with the stacked field at 133 pounds where former Nittany Lion Nick Suriano beat Daton Fix in the NCAA Finals. Since then RBY has gone on to win a Big Ten title over Austin Desanto this season and more recently winning a NCAA Title over Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix in the finals. Let’s talk about the dual meet with Iowa, we all know at this point in time RBY is a huge favorite over Austin Desanto but the main thing is this is a bout where we need bonus points. That may just make or break the dual. Looking at the post season it will definitely be a fun one should him and Fix run it back in the NCAA Finals again with Fix having tremendous success on the international scene making the world finals at 61kg.

141lbs Nick Lee

Nick Lee is another big guy for the Nittany Lions who just capped off an impressive season last year with a national title where he defeated Hawkeye Jaydin Eierman in the finals in overtime. Crazy enough that this wasn’t even the most impressive win on an already crazy run itself. At the Olympic Trials he ended up falling to eventual champion Jordan Oliver in the finals but the wrestle backs is where it gets crazy. Nick Lee takes out 2x NCAA Champion Yianni Diakomihalis and almost techs him but wins 16-8. He also beat teammate 3x NCAA Champion and returning world team member Zain Retherford 10-4 to take a 3rd place finish at the Olympic Trials and make the USA national team which was a big deal. Looking at this season if he can replicate his freestyle success and bring it to folkstyle he should have no problem winning another NCAA title and defeating Jaydin Eierman in the dual meet which is another big swing match that could make or break the dual.

149lbs Beau Bartlett

Beau may just be a key factor that Penn State needs right now. Although he did not have an impressive post season showing last year he is still a guy with a lot of potential to get onto the podium at NCAAs as an All American. He was declared the starter by Cael Sanderson on media day and he had a very good showing against national finalist Sammy Sasso at their dual meet in a match he dropped only 5-2. He will most likely make the NCAA Tournament without any problems this season but getting onto the podium will be a hard task. In dual meet purposes for Iowa he will most likely be facing Max Murin unless weights change at Iowa, Murin is a very solid wrestler and will be projected to get the win but that being said he is not a big bonus point guy and I would not say it is out of the question for Beau Bartlett to possibly pull a big upset there.

157lbs Joe Lee

Joe Lee is probably one of the weaker parts of the Penn State wrestling lineup, but that being said he still has potential for a good run at the NCAA Tournament. He was up at 165 pounds last season and Brady Berge at 157, but now with Berge unfortunately having to retire from the sport of wrestling due to multiple injuries it is time for Joe Lee to take over and see what he can do. I think he makes the NCAA Tournament again a little bit easier this time. 157 is a good weight class in the Big Ten with Ryan Deakin leading the pack and Kaleb Young, Kendall Coleman, and Chase Saldate closing out the top 4. I do not think he is at that All American Caliber just yet however he can definitely pick up some team points and make a solid run at NCAAs. For dual meet purposes I do not see a reason that Kaleb Young would not come out on top of this match but the big thing is he cannot afford to get pinned or give up bonus points which will be huge holding one of the best guys in the country to a close match even though Young is a more defensive wrestler.

165lbs Alex Facundo

Alex Facundo is a wildcard right now that is as much as we can say. We have not seen him wrestle enough good competition in college to see what he can do this year. He is 6-1 right now so that is a good sign for the future. If he can develop to his potential quick enough there is no doubt that he can become a 4x All American and get up decently high on the podium this year. Nationals are going to be interesting at this weight with Wick, Marinelli, O’Toole, and Wentzel leading the pack as of now with a few guys bumping to 174 pounds. For dual meet purposes I am very high on Alex Marinelli this year and think he wins this match the big question is can Marinelli get bonus points in a match where Iowa definitely needs bonus points.

174lbs Carter Starocci

In my opinion one of the best wrestlers in this country in general. With his offseason success at the Olympic Trials and the World Team Trials I am big on Carter Starocci this season looking forward to what he can make happen in a stacked 174 field that he can to claw and scratch his way through last season with many overtime wins including the National Finals over Hawkeye Michael Kemerer. He took out teammate andf 3x National Champion Jason Nolf 4-3 in the consolation rounds of the World Team trials at 79kg which was probably his biggest career win so far. Looking forward to the National Tournament I think he is looking at a repeat the way he has performed so far, he will need a good bit more bonus point wins on the way to that national title that he was not able to provide last year. Looking at the dual meet I think he is the favorite to beat Kemerer at this point in time. Maybe crazy to think he can pull of a bonus point win here and he most likely will not but I see him winning a more dominant match not a major or anything just maybe by 3-4 points.

184lbs Aaron Brooks

Brooks was the face of the Penn State wrestling team back in 2020 when he was the lone Big Ten Champion of the squad that is returning (Mark Hall won in 2020). NCAAs was unfortunately cancelled that year and left his impressive freshman year run done right there. Since then last year he was the guy and did not lose a single match as a sophomore. He defeated Nebraska’s Taylor Venz in the Big Ten Finals and then he pretty much dominated his way through NCAAs and beat NC State’s Trent Hidlay in the finals 3-2 winning his first NCAA Title of a possible 4. This year however is going to be much harder as his biggest challenge yet in Olympic Bronze Medalist Myles Amine. Looking forward to the NCA Tournament and Big Tens he will most likely see Myles Amine in the finals in a matchup that will heavily favor Amine and I personally do have him winning. I am seeing the same thing sort of happening in the NCAA Tournament. This a weight class where some of the dark horses have to be pointed out in John Poznanski of Rutgers and Taylor Venz of Nebraska that could break into the finals and possibly knock Brooks off being he has a huge target on his back. Brooks needs to keep his head on swivel this season if he wants to repeat in this weight class.

197lbs Max Dean

Dean at 197 has to be one of the more interesting parts of this lineup being that he was at Cornell and transferred to Penn State for his final season of eligibility. He has been there for a while now and has had some time to train under coach Cael Sanderson and with their entirely talented room including Kyle Snyder and Bo Nickal along with current teammates. 197 seemingly is a weight class that anyone can win this season but it will depend on who peaks or shows out at the NCAA Tournament when it matters the most as we saw last season with AJ Ferrari not starting off the best but wrestling amazing at the NCAA Tournament and being able to knock off Myles Amine, Jacob Warner and Nino Bonaccorsi en route to become a true freshman national champion. Looking forward to nationals he is definitely an All American in this weight class there is no doubt about that but this being the said where can he place. It is hard to tell with him not having any Penn State matches yet so anything is only speculation. Against Iowa I would say at this point in time Warner is the favored wrestler but this could change very quick once the season is about a month in. It will be a bloodbath and the tougher wrestler will win this one.

285lbs Greg Kerkvliet

Greg Kerkvliet is one of the better wrestlers on this Penn State roster but just does not have the accolades to back it. He has some big wins throughout his youth and college level career and even his senior level career. The biggest one so far would have to be Mason Parris in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Trials before falling to eventual Olympic Champion Gable Steveson. He is a cadet world champ in what I would call the toughest most stacked bracket in college wrestling this year. The top 5 guys are all world champions at some level and people up until the top 15 go within 1-2 points of each other. Maybe Gable Steveson has separated himself from the pack but do not get that twisted, it is not because the weight is weak, Gable is just the best in the world. Looking at nationals where he wrestled through a major injury that very much hindered his performance he took 7th last season which is not bad at all as a freshman and only wrestling a week before the Big Ten Championships. This year he is between 2-5 I do not see him falling any lower than 5 but I also cant in the right mind put him higher than 2 for obvious reasons. If we want to be optimistic Kerkvliet was the only wrestler last season to score a takedown on Gable Steveson so do with that info as you may. However for dual meet purposes Kerkvliet vs Cassioppi is going to be insane. This matchup is the biggest swing match in my book. With Cassioppi’s recent transformation and Kerkvliet’s senior level freestyle success this match could go either way.

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