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TOM’s Final Thoughts on Penn State vs. Michigan from Friday

Pictured: Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet (left) helping Michigan’s Mason Parris (right) to his feet after defeating him 8-5 in a dual on Friday, January 21, 2022. Photo courtesy of Sam Janicki / @SJanickiPhoto. 

Friday, January 21, was the most talked-about night of the 2021-2022 season thus far. That should come as little surprise given that we had a pair of top-6 Big Ten duals running back-to-back on the Big Ten Network. First No. 1 Penn State took on No. 3 Michigan at 6 p.m. Eastern. Then, as a nightcap, we had No. 2 Iowa facing No. 6 Ohio State at 8 p.m. Eastern. Does it get any better than that?

The duals lived up to the excitement. So much so that I decided to dedicate a story to each of them. 

Here are some thoughts and observations from both Penn State vs. Michigan and Iowa vs. Ohio State in a weight-by-weight breakdown format. 

Penn State vs. Michigan 

Overview: PSU dominated, winning lopsidedly, 29-6, winning eight of the 10 bouts on the road vs. Michigan. Seeing the Nittany Lions win so convincingly leads me to believe the Blue and White are now the presumptive favorite to win the team title. Yes, I realize that a dual format and a tournament format are different, and can yield significantly different results, but man, Cael and company find ways to win when the lights are brightest. I don’t see that changing in March. 

125: A 2-1 decision in favor of Nick Suriano over Drew Hildebrandt was far closer than I expected. Both wrestled well, but I expected more offense from Suriano. That said, few coaching staffs can provide a better game plan for facing Suriano than the staff in State College. 

133: Roman Bravo-Young was dominant. Admittedly, I expected the margin of victory to be a bit wider, but it was a dominant win regardless. Also, that takedown attempt at the buzzer by RBY was something else! I know he didn’t get the takedown and win by a major decision, but wow, it was that close! I’m not sure there is a quicker, more agile wrestler in all of Division I than Roman. 

141: Obviously, I was sad to see Micic not take the mat here. Who doesn’t want to see a 2020 Olympian battle a 2021 NCAA champ? I am by no means accusing Micic of ducking, but it is sad to see yet another high-profile bout not materialize in a year where this trend seems so commonplace. This weight (plus 149) had massive implications for the final score. 

149:  Cole Mattin’s injury looked brutal. You never want to see an athlete go down with a potentially serious injury, no matter who you root for. To make matters worse for the Maize and Blue, Kannen Storr, Michigan’s starter at 149, was already sidelined by an apparent serious injury earlier in the season.

Depending on the severity of both injuries, it could be a devastating blow to Michigan’s team title home. The injury default certainly proved costly in this dual. Hopefully Storr can return before postseason play.

157: Will Lewan temporarily righted the ship for the home Wolverines but couldn’t get a much-needed bonus-point decision. Give credit to Terrell Barraclough for still fighting hard to keep it to a regular decision. That type of effort will be needed in Detroit in March, assuming he gets the nod and qualifies for NCAAs. 

165: This was a massive win for Brady Berge over a then-No. 10 Cam Amine. Granted, Amine has been out since after CKLV back in December, but this is a very nice win for Berge, who is a perfect 3-0 in his first week back on the mats for Penn State. Berge made his return to competition after retiring (and moving on to college coaching) last year due to concussion issues.

Since then, he has served as a volunteer assistant at South Dakota State under Damion Hahn. What a one-of-a-kind story! This victory has earned Berge a top-10 spot in the latest TOM national rankings

174: Carter Starocci and Logan Massa have always delivered fireworks when they battle. This matchup was no different. Last year, Starocci got the better of Massa in extras to win it 7-1. The result was the same this time around, but the bout was much closer.

Once again, Starocci got the edge over Massa but won narrowly, 3-2 in regulation, thanks to a big takedown in period one. It’s hard to say that a defending NCAA champion (as a true freshman, no less) can be the “most improved wrestler” on a team, but I genuinely believe Starocci is the most improved of the Nittany Lion starters. I’m sure we might see this matchup once or twice more. I hope we do. 

184: What a treat this match was. It’s not often you get a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in a regular-season dual, but we did. It’s also not often you see a reigning NCAA champ gets to wrestle an Olympic bronze medalist in a college setting either (I’m not sure such an occurrence has ever happened).

In a similar fashion to the 174-pound result, Brooks used a takedown in the first and stellar defensive scrambles throughout to get the 3-1 decision over the Olympian for San Marino. 

197: Yet again, we had another super compelling dual during the back half of this No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 3 Michigan dual. Once again, a Nittany Lion came out on top in a bout that featured No. 2 Max Dean vs. No. 4 Patrick Brucki.

After Dean delivered an entire third-period ride out, we needed extra time to crown a winner. Dean took that third-period  momentum to overtime, securing the winning takedown in extras. 

285: Then-No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet put an exclamation point on what was a demoralizing dual for Michigan with his surprising (yet very dominant) 8-5 decision over then No. 2 Mason Parris. 

Kerkvliet got to Parris’ leg and finished on three occasions (twice in the first and once in the third). Those takedowns, a riding time point, and an escape in the third sealed the deal. Kerkvliet’s win reverses an 11-3 defeat against Parris from the 2020 Big Ten Championships.

Simply put, this is a huge upset that shows the benefit of training in the PSU room. In my opinion, Penn State wrestlers may occasionally lose a match or two, but they make adjustments better than any program in the country. 

Final Thoughts: Despite being lopsided, the dual was excellent. As the Lions often do in big moments, the squad delivered. Not only did PSU win eight of the 10 bouts, but their losses were more competitive than expected, saving valuable team points. It was a complete performance, highlighted by winning four top-6 bouts in a row at 174, 184, 197, 285, where the Blue and White were underdogs in some cases. Penn State is the favorite for a team title as far as I am concerned. Let’s see if that holds true. 

Bout-by-Bout Results 

#1 Penn State 29, #3 Michigan 6
January 21, 2022 – Ann Arbor, Mich.

125: Nick Suriano MICH dec. Drew Hildebrandt PSU, 2-1                           
133:  Roman Bravo-Young PSU dec. Dylan Ragusin MICH, 8-1                   
141:  Nick Lee PSU tech fall Drew Mattin MICH, 21-6 (TF; 6:36)                       
149: Beau Bartlett PSU inj. def. Cole Mattin MICH, Ing. Def. (0:13)               
157: Will Lewan MICH dec. Terrell Barraclough PSU, 5-2                              
165: Brady Berge PSU dec. Cameron Amine MICH, 3-1                         
174: Carter Starocci PSU dec.Logan Massa MICH, 3-2                             
184: Aaron Brooks PSU dec. Myles Amine MICH, 3-1                               
197:  Max Dean PSU dec. Patrick Brucki MICH, 6-4 (sv)                           
285: Greg Kerkvliet PSU dec. Mason Parris MICH, 8-5                            

Attendance: 6,185
Records: Penn State (12-0, 4-0 B1G); Michigan (5-1, 1-1 B1G)

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