photo courtesy of Richard Immel
Here at The Open Mat, we try to be as objective and unbiased as possible, as we all were wrestling fans before covering the sport professionally. With the most anticipated dual of the college season only two days away, we decided to switch things up and get the fan’s perspective on the upcoming match between #2 Penn State and #1 Iowa. In that vein, we have asked Clay Sauertieg and Bryce Villa to show the blueprint to victory for each of their home teams. We’ll start off which Clay, who has written about high school wrestling for The Open Mat, along with his duties covering Penn State for Black Shoes Diary.
While my fandom is clear and I make no bones about it, I’ve tried to take a step back from being “the Penn State fan writer” in the last couple years.
Alas, when Earl Smith asked me to write this piece, I couldn’t say no. Furthermore, Penn State fans won’t want to know what my actual answer was when he told me to write about how the Nittany Lions could beat the Hawkeyes in this dual.
And yet here we are.
The Hawkeyes are, unquestionably, the best team in the country right now and the favorites to win a national championship, as gross as I feel typing that. They’ve got big guns, they’re balanced, they can take advantage of some weights that are less than great this year and most importantly, perhaps, they’re hungry.
But any team can be beaten, and I’m here to show you how Penn State can do just that.
We’ll start at 125 and while I’m sure Brandon Meredith is a lovely human being who has worked his a-, er, butt off the last couple years for this opportunity, he’s going to get pinned by Spencer Lee. That happens sometimes.
Penn State’s road to victory starts at 133, where Roman Bravo-Young will have to have the best showing of his career. Luckily for him and Penn State, RBY is perfectly capable of that. Desanto, who is wrestling remarkably well this year, mauled Bravo-Young at Big Ten’s last year. But when they met at NCAAs, it was a much closer match, and Bravo-Young nearly had the go-ahead takedown in the third period if not for a well-placed scorers table. Desanto then clinched it with a late takedown in a merkle position.
We’ll say RBY gets this one and cut the score to 6-3.
Up at 141, Nick Lee is primed to win a national title and will get a major decision over a banged-up Max Murin. If Murin doesn’t go, it could be more than that. But we’ll call it a major for a 7-6 PSU lead.
Jarod Verkleeren isn’t wrestling well enough to beat Pat Lugo, but he’s good enough to keep it to a decision if he doesn’t do anything silly. 9-7 Hawks.
Up at 157, Brady Berge is perfectly capable of beating Kaleb Young. However, his recurring issues after a head injury suffered at U23 worlds probably keeps him out of this one. Can Bo Pipher keep it to a decision? We’ll say so. 12-7 Hawks.
After the break, we get our marquee matchup at 165. Vincenzo Joseph has yet to beat Alex Marinelli with the latter going 2-0 in their two meets. The first meeting saw Joseph up comfortably before going big and winding up on his back. The next time Marinelli picked him apart. But, we all know how good Cenzo is and he’s certainly capable of beating Marinelli. Let’s say he does it here to pull PSU to 12-10.
Following them at 174 are Mark Hall and Michael Kemerer in a potential NCAA finals preview. Kemerer has looked great up at 174, but Mark Hall isn’t losing this year. Hall takes this one and PSU going back out in front 13-12.
Transitive results are a silly way to gauge wrestlers, which is why I still truly think Aaron Brooks will beat Abe Assad. Because Aaron Brooks is a better wrestler than Abe Assad. He’s giving up a bit of size and appears to be wrestling through a right knee injury, but I wouldn’t want to be the one squaring off with Brooks coming off his first loss. Gimme Brooks in a close one to make it 16-12.
Heading to 197, I genuinely believe that Shakur Rasheed’s issues since his comeback from injury are confidence related. He’s not wearing a brace, he’s moving well, he just needs confidence and mat time to pull the trigger on his shots. The guy who was an AA in 2018 and was undefeated before tearing his ACL a year ago is in there somewhere. He and Jacob Warner are both coming off losses to Nebraska’s Eric Schultz. Rasheed tends to like the bright lights, this would be a good time for him to show that. Penn State locks up the dual with a win, making the score 19-12.
Finally, heavyweight, I’d love to pick Seth Nevills here and make the agony even worse for Hawks fans. Anthony Cassioppi beat Nevills pretty badly in freestyle this summer, but this ain’t freestyle, and Gary Traub rode Cassioppi like a government mule fairly recently. Nonetheless, I’ll give this one to Cassioppi 4-3. Still, that gives Penn State a 19-15 win and sends a lot of fans home unhappy. As it should be.