Image courtesy of Penn State Athletics/Mark Selders.
Some considered the 2021 campaign a down year in Happy Valley for the powerhouse Penn State wrestling program. The Lions finished with a silver medal as opposed to their customary gold medal, reserved for the team national champion, at the end of the pinnacle event of the NCAA wrestling postseason.
Despite the runner-up finish, Penn State ended on a high note, crowning four individual champions, creating a buzz for what Cael Sanderson and Co. might achieve in 2021-22.
While it remains to be seen how the Lions will stack up next season, Penn State recently learned that Nittany Lion 157-pounder Brady Berge announced his intent to graduate and step away from competitive wrestling. The two-time NCAA qualifier missed most of last season and suffered a tournament-ending injury at this year’s NCAA Championships in St. Louis last month.
Berge qualified for the NCAA tournament as a redshirt freshman in 2019, going 2-2 in his first trip to nationals. After missing nearly all of last season, Berge returned to the lineup this year and entered the 2021 NCAA Championships as the No. 12 seed. Berge began his tournament with two impressive wins, a 12-4 major over No. 21 Andrew Cerniglia of Navy in the opening round and then a thrilling 3-2 victory over No. 5 Kaleb Young of Iowa in the second round. The win over Young advanced Berge to the NCAA quarterfinals, where he met No. 4 Jesse Dellavecchia of Rider. Berge suffered an injury in that bout’s first period and was unable to continue and medically forfeited out of the tournament.
Berge announced his decision on his social media channels and said, in part, “Due to concussions and my own health, it is in my best interest to step away from competition. This is not an easy decision as I have had the goal of being a national champion since I can remember. I am not defined by my wins and losses. I am defined by my faith in God and the person he has guided me to become.”
“I want to thank my coaches, my teammates and everyone involved with the program here at Penn State,” Berge continued. “You have made my experience nothing short of excellent. There is no other program I would rather be a part of. I want to thank my family and the community back home for helping me get to this point in my wrestling career and in my life and for sticking by my side and supporting me every step of the way.”
The Mantorville, Minnesota, prep ended his pandemic-altered 2021 season with a 10-3 overall record, including five majors. He leaves Penn State with a 31-9 mark, 11 majors, and three technical falls. A top-notch student in the classroom, Berge was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.