Penn State took to a familiar stage for the Big Ten Championships this year, right at home at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions fell behind Iowa in the team standings but crowned two individual champions at 133 and 184. Junior Roman Bravo-Young got his first title and sophomore Aaron Brooks got his second. The team fell behind Iowa in the team standings and ended as runner-up.
Although it wasn’t the dominant showing Penn State fans are accustomed to, six freshmen made their Big Ten Championship tournament debut for the Nittany Lions. In a season like this one, going up against the talent and experience of Big Ten wrestlers, this was a solid experience and pretty decent showing for these newcomers. With conditioning and more collegiate exposure, Penn State fans are in for several more years of tournament dominance with these young wrestlers.
Roman Bravo-Young’s journey to the top began with a bye in round one, then a 9-3 victory over Purdue’s Jacob Rundell. In the semis, Bravo-Young had another dominant showing over Cornhusker Chris Cannon, defeating him 8-3. Then a much-anticipated rematch in the finals, RBY versus Austin Desanto of Iowa. The finals match consisted of three periods of the two wrestlers battling it out. RBY was able to get two smooth takedowns from unique angles and using a quick drag. Desanto was held to two escapes and RBY had one himself to end the pretty quick and straightforward match 5-2.
Nick Lee didn’t get his Big Ten win in the finals, but his exciting match makes us all the more excited for his rematch with Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman. The two exchanged takedowns in the first, but Eierman got his escape while Lee couldn’t shake the Hawkeye and struggled through his 1:59 ride out to end the first. Eierman chose down and escaped to a 4-2 lead at the start of two, Eierman stalled his way through the second period running away from Lee’s shot attempts and got his first stall warning. Lee chose neutral to start the third and finally got in on a shot for a takedown to tie it up 4-4. He cut Eierman loose and went back to his shots. Eierman continued to stall and got called, tying the match 5-5. The Hawkeye was able to successfully stall out the rest of the match without a call and win on the riding time point. These two will definitely be meeting again.
Sophomore Aaron Brooks also started the tournament with a bye, then gave everyone a bit of a scare in his first match with Iowa’s Nelson Brands. Brooks suffered an apparent ankle injury and had to take two injury timeouts during the match. After a tight score in the first two periods, Brooks had enough and ran away with the bout. He scored a takedown and four near fall points to put the match away 14-8. He moved onto the semifinals and put up an easy major decision over John Poznanski from Rutgers. In the finals, he saw a familiar face, Nebraska’s Taylor Venz. Venz handed Brooks his single loss on his record early last season and then Brooks pinned Venz in the Big Ten Championships last year. For their third meeting, Brooks prevailed again. Brooks spent most of the match building a steady lead and a hefty riding time for a dominant 10-5 win for the title.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
1: Iowa – 159.5
2: Penn State – 124.0
3: Nebraska – 105.5
4: Michigan – 92.0
5: Minnesota – 77.5
125: Robert Howard - 6th Place
133: Roman Bravo-Young - 1st Place
141: Nick Lee - 2nd Place
149: Beau Bartlett - DNP
157: Brady Berge - 6th Place (medical forfeit in 5th place consolation match)
165: Joe Lee - 8th Place
174: Carter Starocci - 2nd Place
184: Aaron Brooks - 1st Place
197: Michael Beard - 6th Place
285: Greg Kerkvliet - 4th Place
The Nittany Lions will rematch with many of their Big Ten competitors at the National Championships on March 18-20. Nine wrestlers received bids to compete at the tournament, Beau Bartlett falling just short. It will be a tough feat to challenge Iowa for the national title, but maybe some of the Penn State freshmen will be better prepared for the tournament stage.
Catch the selection show for seeds and brackets releases on Wednesday, March 10 at 6 p.m. and keep an eye out on the NCAA website for updates on tournament coverage.