Blue White Illustrated

June-July 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 46 of 67

J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 2 47 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Bravo-Young will go into the 2022-23 season as the two-time defending cham- pion at 133 pounds. He's 80-9 at the col- lege level and hasn't lost a match since 2020. His return solidifies Penn State's out- look at 133 pounds and is a major boost in defending the NCAA team title the Nit- tany Lions claimed in March. "It has been over a month since that amazing night in Detroit, surrounded by fans, friends, coaches and my teammates, winning another title both individually and as a team," Bravo-Young wrote. "When I came to Penn State, a young kid from Tucson, Ariz., who could have imagined that I would become a two- time national champion, a four-time All-American and have earned a degree from one of the nation's most prestigious schools? "Over a month ago, that Saturday night in Detroit was the culmination of so much hard work, determination and support. During my time at Penn State, I have not only grown as a wrestler, but as a person, and that speaks to the greatness of this program. It is a special place." Bravo-Young's announcement was the second in which a Penn State national champion opted to return. Shortly after the season ended, 197-pound champ Max Dean announced that he plans on taking advantage of his bonus year of eligibility and will wrestle for Penn State for one more season. Dean defeated Iowa's Jacob Warner in March, winning his first title in his debut season with the Lions after transferring from Cornell. Penn State must still find new starters at 125, 141, 157, 149 and 165. Junior Robbie Howard and redshirt freshman Alex Facundo are on track to start at 125 and 165, respectively. Then, with junior Beau Bartlett likely dropping to 141 to take over for two-time national champion Nick Lee, a slot seems open for redshirt freshman Shayne Van Ness at 149. Newcomer Levi Haines, a PIAA champ with an open college tournament vic- tory already under his belt after wres- tling unattached during his high school senior season, is the favorite to win the 157-pound job. ■ Wrestling Notebook Penn State Has Strong Showing At U.S. Open The past, present and future of Penn State wrestling were well represented at the Marine Corps U.S. Open Wrestling Championships from April 27 to May 1 in Las Vegas. Nittany Lion Alex Facundo was the team's top performer, taking home the 74-kilogram title in the U20 freestyle competition. After redshirting last season, Facundo is expected to start next season at 165 pounds. Seventy-four kilograms equates to roughly 163 pounds, so his freestyle weight is nearly equivalent to his projected college weight. Facundo won his matches in impressive fashion by scores of 11-0, 10-0, 11-0, 14-4 and 8-1 to reach the semifinals. Then he topped South Dakota State's Jack Thomsen 11-0 before posting a 9-0 victory over Northern Colorado's Vincent Zerban to claim the title. For his efforts, Facundo was selected as the tournament's most outstanding wrestler. Hailing from Essexville, Mich., Facundo came to Penn State as a four-time state champ at Davidson High School. Now, he's added a U.S. Open crown to his already impressive resume. His effort gives the Nittany Lions even more belief that he'll be ready to compete in blue and white as a starter dur- ing the 2022-23 season. Facundo was not the only wrestler with Penn State ties competing at the event. Incoming freshman Levi Haines also competed in the U20 74-kilogram division, losing his second match, then winning seven in a row before falling in the third-place match. Haines was 8-2 for the tournament. At U20 57 kg (approximately 125 pounds), junior Robbie Howard lost his first match and then reeled off an incredible eight consecutive victories to finish third in his weight class. Howard is one of several Nittany Lions who will compete for the job vacated by grad transfer Drew Hildebrandt, who has used up his eligibility. The list of contenders is also likely to include sophomore Gary Steen, who wrestled in the 57-kg classification at the tournament and finished seventh. Additionally, redshirt freshman Lucas Cochran finished 3-2 at 86 kg, or roughly 190 pounds. Several Penn State wrestling alums also did well in the men's freestyle division. Jason Nolf was dominant in winning the 74-kg title, beating his opponents by a combined score of 48-0 en route to a gold medal. Mark Hall won the 86-kg crown, Nico Megaludis finished first at 61 kg, and Vincenzo Joseph was second at 79 kg. Finally, 2025 commit Dalton Perry of Central Mountain (Pa.) High won five consecutive matches to reach the 60-kg finals but lost a best-of-three series to earn a spot on the U.S. World Cadet Team, falling to Arizona's Kaleb Larkin 2-0. Perry is ranked as the No. 6 overall freshman in the country by FloWrestling. Michael Beard Transfers To Lehigh After losing the 197-pound starting spot to Cornell transfer Max Dean last season, Michael Beard is transferring to Lehigh. An All-American in 2021, Beard entered the transfer portal and made the change after Dean elected to return next season to defend his national title. Beard went 10-6 for Penn State during the 2020-21 season and finished seventh at the NCAA Tourna- ment. The Pottstown, Pa., native then lost a wrestle-off to Dean last November. Dean held onto the starting spot at 197 throughout the season and went on to defeat Iowa's Jacob Warner 3-2 in the NCAA finals in March. Four-time Pennsylvania Medalist Picks Penn State Connor Pierce, a four-time Pennsylvania state medalist and 138-pounder at Harbor Creek High, an- nounced in April that he will be joining the Nittany Lions. He is a 2022 recruit who will arrive on campus later this year. Pierce finished his prep career with a 139-18 record at the Class AA level. That record includes a 37-1 senior season in which he finished second at the state championships in March. In the title match, he dropped a 5-1 decision to defending state champ Ryan Crookham of Saucon Valley. Pierce could fit into any of the middle weights at PSU. He's likely to start his career at 141 pounds, but could end up at 149 or even 157. — Greg Pickel

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