Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 48 of 67

M A Y 2 0 2 3 4 9 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M tin O'Connor, with six years on Haines, proved too strong in the NCAA finals. Rising senior Terrell Barraclough at 12- 11 over three seasons is a .500 wrestler who has the ability to jump to the next level. Having incoming freshman Ty- ler Kasak, the country's No. 24 pound- for-pound wrestler and third-ranked 145-pounder according to FloWrestling, jump in at 157 doesn't seem realistic. 165 pounds: As long as Haines doesn't redshirt — and there's no compelling rea- son to think that he will — he most likely would take over at 165 in favor of Alex Facundo, who got off to a 16-2 start as a redshirt freshman but dropped four of his last seven matches. Rising junior Matt Lee also could fit in here. Facundo has already used his redshirt. 174 pounds: There's intrigue at this weight class, too, because three-time NCAA champ Carter Starocci said at the NCAA Tournament that he wants to concentrate on making the USA Olympic team and wasn't certain about a return to the Nittany Lion lineup. The possibility of becoming Penn State's only four-time champion and just the sixth four-timer ever could very well sway him to return for his senior season. But as of early April, he was still undecided. "I enjoy being with the Penn State family and dominating with the best pro- gram in the world," he tweeted on April. 1. "However, the Olympics are around the corner, and that's what I want. The peak of the sport. With that being said, there are options on the table." Facundo doesn't seem quite big enough for 174, but that could change. Incom- ing recruit Josh Barr, from Facundo's high school in Michigan (Davison), is ranked as the ninth-best prep wrestler overall in the country and No. 2 nationally at 170 pounds by FloWrestling, and could be a prospect here. 184 pounds: If Starocci opts for free- style and three-time NCAA champion Aaron Brooks does the same, Penn State's lineup will look markedly different, as will its status as preseason favorite to win the team title. Brooks cut back on his 2022-23 matches to be fresh for the U.S. Open freestyle tournament at the end of April and hasn't publicly committed to a return, even though he, too, could be a prestigious four-timer if he were to win the title as a fifth-year senior. Want more intrigue? Cal Poly's Bernie Truax, a three-time All-American who placed fourth at 197 this year, is in the portal and rumors of a cross-country transfer were flying as of early April. No Brooks? No Truax? Barr could be another option. Or, could rising redshirt sopho- more Lucas Cochran make 184? 197 pounds: Don't rule out the pos- sibility of not only a Brooks' return to go for four, but a Brooks' bump-up of 13 pounds since his Olympic run would come at 86kg, or 189 pounds. Truax, if he makes the decision to complete his career at Penn State, also could fit here, along with Cochran. 285 pounds: Realistically, there are just three weights at which a starter is obvious, and heavyweight is the third. Rising senior Greg Kerkvliet, fresh off runner-up performances at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, already is the frontrunner to be the 2024 NCAA champion. The problem here is that Penn State lacks depth with senior Seth Nevills having entered the transfer por- tal in March. ■ THREE BEST WRESTLERS Carter Starocci | Jr. | 174 pounds Starocci may have felt like he was snubbed by the Hodge Trophy voters when they bestowed college wrestling's top individual honor on Michigan heavyweight Mason Parris. When it comes to our list, however, he will not be denied. The three-time national champion pinned Nebraska's Mikey Labriola in the 174-pound final. His 24-0 record on the season included 4 pins, 9 major decisions and a massive 82-2 takedown advantage. Aaron Brooks | Sr. | 184 pounds Brooks received the third seed at the NCAA Tournament in part because he did not wrestle as many matches as his peers. When he was on the mat, few in any weight class were as good as Brooks. That was especially so at the NCAA Tournament, where he racked up 5 wins, including a 7-2 decision over top- seeded Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa in the final. He surrendered just 1 takedown on the season while finishing 17-1. Roman Bravo-Young | Sr.+ | 133 pounds Bravo-Young did not cap his super senior season with a third national title, falling 10-4 to Cornell's Vito Arujau in the NCAA final. Even so, Bravo-Young en- joyed a spectacular season, finishing fourth in FloWrestling's pound-for-pound rankings while compiling a 20-1 record. He led all Lions during the dual meet season with 4 pins and 87 takedowns. KEY MOMENT On Jan. 27, Penn State hosted Iowa in the premier event of the dual meet season. Freshman 157-pounder Levi Haines had already hinted that he was ready to impress in Year 1, but coach Cael Sanderson was undecided about whether to pull his redshirt. Haines beat Iowa's Cobe Siebrecht 3-2 that night and became the permanent Penn State starter. He went on to finish second at nationals, playing a key role in the Lions' latest team title. BEST HIGHLIGHT From an individual perspective, it's hard to overlook Beau Bartlett's take- down of Pitt's Cole Matthews with 1 second left in sudden victory to win his 141-pound quarterfinal bout at the NCAA Tournament. It was a culmination of all the hard work the Nittany Lion junior had put in over the past three seasons. From an overall perspective, though, the highlight was yet another team national title — the 10th of the Sanderson era. BOLD PREDICTION Penn State will lose at least one starter, and maybe more, to an Olympic redshirt. Starocci has already hinted at that possibility, and Brooks, too, will be weighing his options. The loss of Starocci and/or Brooks would create a sizeable hole in Penn State's lineup, but it does appear likely that at least one of them will depart. — Greg Pickel PENN STATE WRESTLING SUPERLATIVES 2022-23 SEASON

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