No. 19 Lehigh will host No. 1 Penn State in a sold out Stabler Arena this Sunday afternoon in Bethlehem, PA. The Mountain Hawks dropped a 22-11 defeat to No. 18 Pitt on Nov. 19, and are looking to get back into the win column. However that will be no easy task as Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions haven’t lost a dual meet in nearly three years, dating back to Jan. 31, 2020 when the Iowa Hawkeyes defeated Penn State 19-17 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. On Friday night, Penn State rolled over Rider 37-3, and are now 2-0 in dual meets this season. Despite Penn State’s dominance over the past years, Lehigh has half of their starting lineup ranked in the top 25 which will bring interesting matchups that are definitely worth watching.
125 – Gary Steen vs. Carter Bailey
To kick off the dual, this 125-pound bout is an interesting matchup that could swing either way. Lehigh’s Carter Bailey (2-3) has wrestled well to start the season, despite the losing record. Just a few weeks ago, Bailey defeated Oklahoma’s No. 15 Joey Prata at the Journeymen WrangleMania by a score of 5-4. For the Nittany Lions, Gary Steen (4-2) will continue to start for Penn State after news broke that Robert Howard will miss the entirety of the 2022-2023 season due to injury. Steen will have his toughest matchup of the year so far when he faces off with Bailey Sunday afternoon, and I would expect Bailey to have the slight advantage.
133 – #1 Roman Bravo-Young vs. #13 Connor McGonagle
RBY continues to do what RBY does, and that is to win with style points. However, Bravo-Young (2-0) will be facing his first top 25 ranked opponent in Lehigh’s Connor McGonagle (4-1). After finishing last season with a 11-12 record and a fourth place EIWA trophy, McGonagle surges into the top 15 for the first time in his career. In Lehigh’s dual with Pitt on Nov. 19, McGonagle beat No. 14 Mickey Philippi by a score of 5-3. Although McGonagle has looked really solid to start the 2022-2023 season, reigning 2x NCAA Champion Roman Bravo-Young has not lost a match since the 2020 season, and is in hunt for his third straight title and possibly a Hodge Trophy to go with it. When these two matchup on Sunday afternoon, I would predict RBY to put a lot of points on the board with his swarming offense and walk out with a major decision.
141 – #7 Beau Bartlett vs. Malyke Hines/Owen Reinsel
Penn State’s No. 7 Beau Bartlett (6-0) continues to look at home in the 141lb weight class, as he dropped from 149-pounds last season to fill the spot of Nick Lee. Friday night, Bartlett pinned Rider’s Mckenzie Bell in the third period and looks to keep his undefeated season going this Sunday. For the Mountain Hawks, it is likely Malyke Hines (1-4) will step out on the mat at 141-pounds. Hines has had a tough stretch of good opponents such as Oklahoma’s Mosha Schwartz and Oklahoma State’s Carter Young, and it doesn’t get easier when facing off with Bartlett this weekend. This matchup heavily favors Penn State, and I would expect Bartlett to win by a major decision.
149 – #17 Shayne Van Ness vs. Manzona Bryant
No. 17 Shayne Van Ness (5-0) is one of three freshmen in the starting lineup for the Nittany Lions, and has really impressed to start the 2022-2023 season. On Friday night, Van Ness easily beat Rider’s No. 14 Quinn Kinner by a score of 11-5, who previously held Nick Lee and Sebastian Rivera to a decision win last season. Van Ness will have no easy contest however, as Lehigh’s Manoza Bryant (0-2) will step up for the Mountain Hawks. Last season, Bryant had significant wins over Beau Bartlett and Max Murin, yet has had a shaky start to the new season. At the Journeymen WrangleMania a couple weeks ago, Bryant got pinned nearly two minutes into the first period by Oklahoma’s No. 12 Mitch Moore, as well as dropping a barn burner of match to Oklahoma State’s Victor Voinovich by score of 15-13 in sudden victory. If Bryant can find a way to wrestle like he did against Bartlett and Murin, Penn State and Van Ness could have trouble pulling out a win. But for how the season has started so far, I’ll predict a decision victory for Van Ness at 149-pounds.
157 – Terrell Barraclaugh vs. #8 Josh Humphreys
Lehigh’s highest ranked wrestler No. 8 Josh Humphreys (5-0) looks to keep his impressive start rolling when he faces off against Penn State’s Terrell Barraclaugh (5-1). After missing the 2020-2021 season due to injury, Humphreys bounced back in a big way in the 2021-2022 season as he finished with a 20-5 record and placed third at the EIWA Championships. Humphreys has surprisingly yet to record All-American status, but this season he looks on road to get there. For the Nittany Lions, Barraclaugh has seemed to win the starting job at 157-pounds, and has made the most of his opportunity so far. With just one loss to his own teammate Levi Haines at the Black Knight Invite, Barraclaugh has proved to be a tough opponent and has made big strides after finishing his sophomore season with a 7-8 record. For this matchup, I think Humphreys wins soundly but Barraclaugh makes a lot of matches close with good defense, so don’t be surprised if this match ends closer than you think.
165 – Alex Facundo vs. Brian Meyer
Redshirt Freshman Alex Facundo (5-0) has stepped into Penn State’s starting lineup, as many Nittany Lion fans have been waiting for arrival. Facundo, a Michigan native, was the No. 5 recruit in the entire 2021 class and appears to prove why he was such a highly sought after recruit. Facundo has been dominant to start the year, and will face off against Lehigh’s Brian Meyer (1-4) Sunday afternoon. Although having a 1-4 record, Meyer has wrestled in some tight matches with tough opponents, one being No. 14 Gerrit Nijenhuis of Oklahoma who beat Meyer 3-1 in sudden victory at the Journeymen WrangleMania. Based off of Meyer being able to keep matches close, I’ll predict a decision win for Facundo and Penn State.
174 – #1 Carter Starocci vs. Jake Logan
This is where the toughest part of the Penn State lineup starts, if you can believe that. No. 1 Carter Starocci (2-0) cemented his #1 ranking at the NWCA All Star Classic after beating No. 2 Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech by a score of 2-0. Starocci is the first wrestler in NCAA history to have a shot at being a 5x National Champion, and is easily one of the best pound for pound wrestlers in the country. For the Mountain Hawks, Jake Logan (2-3) has been a consistent option for Lehigh, and has been in some close matches with tough opponents to start the 2022-2023 season. At the Journeymen WrangleMania, Logan lost in tie-breaking ride out against Oklahoma’s No. 12 Darrien Roberts. After finishing fifth at the EIWA Championships last year, Logan looks to get back to the NCAA tournament in his senior season. I would be surprised if Starocci makes this match look super easy, as Logan can try to keep things close if needed.
184 – #1 Aaron Brooks vs. #18 Tate Samuelson
The 2x National Champion and 2021 Hodge Trophy finalist Aaron Brooks (1-0) will look to continue to dominate everyone in his path when facing off against Lehigh’s No. 18 Tate Samuelson (2-3). Recently, Brooks handily beat No. 2 Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa by a score of 12-8 at the NWCA All Star Classic. On Friday night, Penn State sent out Donovan Ball to wrestle at 184-pounds, but it seems Brooks will be back in the starting lineup for this top 25 matchup. Samuelson, a Wyoming transfer and 4x NCAA qualifier, looks to improve on his 2-3 record. In Lehigh’s most recent dual against Pitt on Nov. 19th, Samuelson dropped a 7-6 defeat to Pitt’s No. 17 Reece Heller, which was a back and forth match for the entirety of the seven minutes. Look out for Brooks and his ankle picks, as I’ll predict a major decision for Penn State.
197 – #1 Max Dean vs. #8 Michael Beard
In probably the most interesting match of the night, Penn State’s No. 1 Max Dean (5-1) will take on Lehigh’s No. 8 Michael Beard (4-1) at 197lbs. Beard transferred to Lehigh from Penn State before the 2022-2023 season, which was most likely inspired from Dean taking the starting job for Penn State at 197-pounds. What’s most interesting about this matchup is the familiarity between Dean and Beard, as you would expect they were wrestling each other every day in the Penn State practice room. Familiarity between Dean and Beard’s style could lead to a very close match, and after Friday night Dean was proved to be beatable. Rider’s No. 12 Ethan Laird took down Dean’s #1 credentials in the dual between Penn State and Rider, when Laird beat Dean in sudden victory by a score of 3-1. Although many people agree that the takedown call was controversial, Laird was able to shut down Dean’s offense the entire match, and did not let Dean dominate on top. Especially after losing for the first time in months, it will be interesting to see how Dean responds. Due to the similarity of styles, a recent loss, and a sold out crowd, I’ll predict another upset for Dean and give Michael Beard the edge at 197-pounds.
285 – #2 Greg Kerkvliet vs. Nathan Taylor
In the final match of the afternoon, Penn State’s No. 2 Greg Kirkvliet (2-0) will face off against Lehigh’s Nathan Taylor (2-2) at 285lbs. Kirkvliet immediately made a statement to begin the 2022-2023 season, after knocking off No. 3 Tony Cassioppi by a score of 8-5 at the NWCA All Star Classic. On Friday night Kirkvliet beat Rider’s David Szuba by a 11-1 major decision, and continues to look like the #1 heavyweight in the country, especially with Arizona State’s No. 1 Colton Schultz losing to South Dakota State’s No. 14 AJ Nevills in the quarterfinals at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Friday night. For the Mountain Hawks, Nathan Taylor looks to build off an impressive 2021-2022 freshman season after finishing the year with a 27-10 unattached record. Now in the starting lineup for Lehigh, Taylor had his best win over Oklahoma’s Josh Heindselman by fall in the Lehigh/Pitt dual meet. However, Kirkvliet has a huge advantage and I will predict a major decision for Penn State to end the day.
Final Score Prediction: 27-10 Penn State