Penn State battled their way through the long weekend in St. Louis, MO. giving Iowa a run for their money and walking away with four individual champions.
Junior Roman Bravo-Young (133), senior Nick Lee (141), freshman Carter Starocci (174), and sophomore Aaron Brooks (184) all won exciting finals matches on Saturday night. This makes a running total of 48 national champions for Penn State wrestling, 27 of those won under coach Cael Sanderson.
No. 2 RBY’s final match was the first of the night on Saturday night. On his way to finals, he notched a tech fall and a major decision and two decision wins. He met No. 1 Dayton Fix from Oklahoma State in the finals. They exchanged solid shots in the first but ended it scoreless and Fix down to start the second. RBY worked hard on top throughout the second, fighting off a roll through by Fix and working up 2:00 in riding time. Fix immediately cut RBY in the third and the Lion got hit with two stall calls to tie things up at 2-2, which included the riding time. The match went to sudden victory and RBY wasted no time. He tripped Fix to the mat and wrapped up both his legs for a quick takedown and the national title win. This polished off a perfect 14-0 season for RBY and we can’t wait to see him back for another next year.
Up next was the rematch Penn State fans were waiting for… No. 2 Nick Lee and Iowa’s No. 1 Jaydin Eierman. After Eierman’s stall out to win Big Tens, Lee was not ready to drop another match to his Hawkeye foe. The Lion made several quick shots in the first, driving Eierman off the mat several times. The Hawkeye worked in on one shot, but Lee fought it off and left the first 0-0. Eierman chose down to start the second and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead. The second ended without any more points and Lee chose neutral to start the third. After a tough experience below Eierman at Big Tens, he knew better than to let him ride out on top. Lee finished a single leg to take the lead 2-1 then Eierman escaped to tie it up at 2-2. Lee forced a stall call with 35 seconds left (shocker) and Eierman held off Lee’s attempts to end regulation in a tie. Deja vu, we were back in sudden victory and Lee immediately went for the win. He connected on a high shot and finished it off for his first national title win.
The next Nittany Lion to take the national stage was freshman No. 3 Carter Starocci. Starocci was on the rise this season, surprising opponents with upsets and overtime wins. He also earned Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors in February. He met veteran Hawkeye, No. 1 Michael Kemerer for one of his biggest tests yet. They swapped shots in the first that ended in two scrambles but no points, 0-0 at the end of one. Starocci chose down to start the second and escaped for a 1-0 lead. The Lion was in on a single leg late in the second, but it was a bit too late and he couldn’t finish it off. Kemerer chose down to start the third and escaped to tie things up. The third ended in the tie and for the third time that evening, a Penn State wrestler took things to overtime. Like his teammates before him, Starocci shot quickly at the start of sudden victory and worked in on a high shot. He got control of Kemerer’s waist and sealed the deal with a takedown and 3-1 win. Starocci ended his debut season with a 14-2 record and will be a tough one to beat at 174 for the rest of his career.
The last Lion in the finals was young veteran, sophomore No. 1 Aaron Brooks. Brooks was looking for his first national title with his usual calm, cool and collected style. He met with No. 2 Trent Hidlay from North Carolina State. Brooks went on the attack forcing Hidlay backward for most of the first and forced the first stall warning on Hidlay. The second began at 0-0 and Brooks chose down. He worked for shoulder control and got the reversal with Hidlay to his back. The Penn State bench challenged for back points but the score stayed 2-1. Hidlay chose down to start the third and tied things up 2-2. Brooks kept the pressure on Hidlay in the middle and forced another stalling call for a point and 3-2 lead with 30 seconds left. He fought off a late shot from Hidlay, which the NC State bench challenged for a takedown. With the no-call confirmed, Brooks celebrated his first national championship victory.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
- Iowa – 129.0
- Penn State – 113.5
- Oklahoma State – 99.5
- Arizona State – 74.0
- Michigan – 69.0
125: Robert Howard - DNP
133: Roman Bravo-Young - 1st Place, All-American
141: Nick Lee - 1st Place, All-American
157: Brady Berge - DNP (injury default in the quarterfinals match)
165: Joe Lee - DNP
174: Carter Starocci - 1st Place, All-American
184: Aaron Brooks - 1st Place, All-American
197: Michael Beard - 7th Place, All-American
285: Greg Kerkvliet - 7th Place, All-American
Next week on April 2-3 is the 2021 Olympic trials. Some familiar faces will be competing for a spot on the national team (Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, David Taylor… just to name a few). Then we’ll get some more wrestling over the summer in Tokyo.
Penn State is poised to come back with a vengeance next year. Senior Nick Lee gets the extra year of eligibility thanks to NCAA rules to make up for last year’s short season. He hasn’t announced if he will be back or not yet, but if he does, the entire Penn State lineup will be returning. That being said, an Iowa repeat at NCAA’s is not likely.
See you in November, Nittany Nation!