STATE COLLEGE — Penn State swapped a scheduled Friday meet with No. 1 Iowa for a Sunday showdown No. 2 Michigan late last week after the Hawkeyes paused team activities following positive COVID-19 tests.
Despite the short notice, the Nittany Lions turned out an 18-13 win to win their fourth consecutive meet of the year and their second against a ranked opponent.
The win was Penn State coach Cael Sanderson’s 200th career dual-meet victory and his 156th win with the Nittany Lions.
“I think Michigan has a really good team, and they’re solid all the way up and down the lineup,” Sanderson said this week. “I think we have a little ways to go, but we’re excited to continue to improve over these next couple weeks as we head into the Big Ten (tournament).”
Highlights of the meet included eighth-ranked freshman Carter Starocci earning a 7-1 tie-breaker victory against second-ranked Logan Massa at 174 pounds. The redshirt freshman claimed Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors for his performance in Ann Arbor.
“I feel like I have to make improvements everywhere, as every match there’s always room to grow,” said Starocci, an Erie native. “I feel like I need to just keep working hard and keep listening to my coaches on what to do.”
Sunday marked Penn State’s debut with a 125-pounder this season. Freshman Robert Howard earned a 6-5 decision over Jack Medley in the category for the Nittany Lions.
No. 3-ranked Roman Bravo-Young (133 pounds), No. 2 Nick Lee (141 pounds), No. 8 Brady Berge (157 pounds) and No. 2 Aaron Brooks (184 pounds) posted wins against the Wolverines.
“He’s worked hard to get back,” Sanderson said of Berge’s win against No. 8 Will Lewan. “He’s going to be in it every and any match, and he did a great job. He did what he needed to do to go win a tough match there. Brady’s a guy we believe in, and we believe that can do really well.”
Penn State will try to roll its momentum from Sunday into another road contest against another Top 25 opponent in No. 11 Ohio State today. Six Buckeye wrestlers are ranked among InterMat’s list of Top 20-grapplers: No. 10 Malik Heinselman (125 pounds), No. 2 Sammy Sasso (149 pounds), No. 10 Ethan Smith (165 pounds), No. 3 Kaleb Romero (174 pounds), No. 20 Rocky Jordan (184 pounds) and No. 16 Tate Orndorff (heavyweight).
No. 20 Terrell Barraclough (149 pounds), No. 14 Joe Lee (165 pounds), No. 16 Michael Beard (197 pounds) and No. 8 Seth Nevills (heavyweight) join Starocci, Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Berge and Brooks as InterMat-ranked wrestlers for the Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes opened the 2020 season with a loss at No. 21 Illinois (18-15) before stringing together four-consecutive wins against Wisconsin (25-9), No. 18 Rutgers (19-14), Michigan State (24-9) and Maryland (41-0).
While Penn State’s 4-0 start is encouraging, Sanderson said neither he or his wrestlers are content. They’ll look to further improve against a talented Buckeyes program.
“I think we have a lot of potential, and we competed against a very good team on Sunday, but I don’t think anyone left there feeling really completely satisfied,” Sanderson said. “I think that’s encouraging. You just can’t really ever be satisfied with where you’re at.
“We have time to make some progress here. We have a big match on Friday with Ohio State.”