Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 44 of 67

J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 4 5 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Defending NCAA champions Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184) have combined to go 28-0 thus far, and Cornell transfer Max Dean, a national runner-up in 2019, has won each of his eight bouts at 197 pounds. Sophomore heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet, an All- American last season, is 6-0. Penn State cruised against Northern Iowa, won the matches it had to win to pull off the victory against a talented Cornell squad and put it all together against an Arizona State team that has been making a name for itself on the na- tional scene. The Nittany Lions enjoyed a 22-13 advantage in takedowns over the Sun Devils, getting major decisions from Lee, Dean and Kerkvliet, a technical fall from Starocci and a fall from Brooks. That dominance showed the progress the team's many followers needed to see at the season's halfway point to breathe a bit easier. Now, they'll get ready to hold that breath to get through a typically tense postseason that will be here before they know it. ■ Penn State will start off the 2022 calendar year by adding an All-American to its lineup. The rumor mill had been churning for weeks, and perhaps even months, with spec- ulation that Central Michigan All-American Drew Hildebrandt was set to join the Nittany Lions via the transfer portal, potentially bol- stering the team's outlook in the 125-pound class. In late December, the team made it official that Hildebrandt had enrolled as a super senior. Hildebrandt was a two-time All-American for the Chippewas during his junior and senior seasons, compiling a 105-41 record at the Mid- American Conference school. During the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign, his most recent season on the mat, he went 14-2 en route to his second MAC title in as many years. He then lost to Iowa's Spencer Lee at the NCAA Tournament before wrestling back to claim fourth place. Wrestling runs in the Hildebrandt family. Last sum- mer, Drew's sister Sarah won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in women's freestyle. Picking up the Granger, Ind., native will go a long way toward shoring up the murky situation that Penn State finds itself in at 125 pounds as the 2022 portion of the season begins. With sophomore Robbie Howard sidelined due to offseason surgery, head coach Cael Sanderson and his staff held a competition for the spot. Sophomore Baylor Shunk started the year before giving way to senior Jake Campbell, a Bucknell transfer. Neither was able to get into a winning groove during Penn State's first eight dual meets. Shunk went 3-3 over that span, while Campbell went 0-4. Hildebrandt won't just be handed the starting job upon his arrival. But it's very likely that he'll have it by tournament time, if not before. Sanderson said at Penn State's wrestling media day in November that Penn State monitors the portal closely, alert for opportunities to strengthen its lineup. "I think every program probably checks the transfer portal every day," Sanderson said. "So, I would never … say that the transfer portal was not an option." As of late December, junior Brandon Meredith was said to be working down from 133 to 125, but neither he, Shunk or Howard figure to be able to score at the national tournament the way that Hildebrandt has already shown he can. Nasdeo, Davis Commit To Lions Penn State has picked up two new verbal commitments in its 2023 recruiting class: Cael Nasdeo of Williamsport, Pa., and Braeden Davis of Belleville, Mich. Nasdeo announced his commitment to the Lions in late November ahead of his junior season at Williamsport Area High. "This is a dream come true," he said via social media. "I would like to thank my family and everyone that has helped me get to this point." Nasdeo finished second at 113 pounds at the 2021 PIAA tournament and was 6-1 for the Millionaires as of late December. Five of his wins came by fall, and three of those falls occurred with less than a minute gone in the first pe- riod, according to With numbers like that, it's not hard to imagine why Sanderson was inter- ested in adding the junior to his room in the future. Nasdeo heads into the 2022 portion of the high school wrestling season fresh off a first-place finish at the prestigious King of the Mountain tournament Dec. 17-18 in Mill Hall, Pa. It was a big moment for him after he finished second both at the state tourna- ment last year and at the Top Hat tourney during the current season. "I was very disappointed last weekend and at states obviously," Nasdeo told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette after his performance at King of the Mountain. "I knew this was a big tournament. Last time we were here I took fourth, so I definitely wanted to win." The Nittany Lions' more recent recruiting pickup was from Davis. Rated the No. 36 overall recruit in the class of 2023 by FloWrestling, he's won at the Fargo and Who's Number One tournaments at 113 pounds. His commitment came as a bit of a surprise be- cause the top five that he announced in October did not include the Nittany Lions. He had instead been expected to pick from a list of schools that included Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Minnesota. Penn State's lone known commitment for the 2022 class, Levi Haines of Biglerville, Pa., is rated as the No. 11 pound-for-pound wrestler and No. 1 160-pounder in the nation by FloWrestling. After two runner-up finishes, Haines went 30-0 and captured a state title at 145 pounds as a junior. — Greg Pickel TRANSFER DREW HILDEBRANDT WILL BOLSTER LIONS' LINEUP AT 125 Sophomore Baylor Shunk went 3-3 in dual meet action early in Penn State's season. The Nittany Lions have been looking to solidify the 125-pound weight class and might turn to a transfer, Drew Hildebrandt, formerly of Central Michigan. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL Drew Hildebrandt

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