NCAA Wrestling Championships, Bravo-Young

At 133, Penn State wrestler Roman Bravo-Young faces Ethan Oakley in the first round of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center, in Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. Bravo-Young won 12-3.

March and upsets go hand-in-hand, but Penn State was able to avoid any shockers in the first session of the NCAA wrestling tournament.

Other schools saw their wrestlers drop first-round matches to wrestlers that were much lower seeded than them. The most extreme includes Cornell’s No. 4 seed Julian Ramirez losing to Michigan State’s No. 29 seed Caleb Fish.

The Nittany Lions had nine wrestlers take the mat in the first session of the NCAA tournament. In every instance, the Penn State wrestler was the higher-ranked seed and they wrestled like it. Of the nine wrestlers, eight of them won their first round matchup.

Penn State handled its business in a variety of ways, some less stressful than others.

Greg Kerkvliet closed off the session hardly breaking a sweat. The Nittany Lion heavyweight pinned Purdue’s Hayden Copass in 0:34 with a quick cradle.

NCAA Wrestling Championships, Kerkvliet

At 285, Penn State wrestler Greg Kerkvliet faces Hayden Copass in the first round of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center, in Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. Kerkvliet won via fall at 0:34.

On the other side, though, there was the drama that occurred at 149 pounds between No. 12 seed Shayne Van Ness and No. 21 seed Ethen Miller.

While Penn State went 8-1 in the first session, Van Ness could have, and probably should have, been the second loss of the session. After the first period, Van Ness found himself in an 8-0 hole that didn’t get much better until the third period, when Van Ness seemed to find another gear.

Van Ness took down Miller four times in the third period to significantly cut into the deficit. On the fourth takedown, Van Ness turned Miller on his back to secure the fall and the win in a complete turning of the tides.

Roman Bravo-Young, Beau Bartlett, Levi Haines, Carter Starocci, Max Dean and Aaron Brooks were the other winners in the first session.

The exception to Penn State’s near-flawless first session was Alex Facundo.

Facundo entered the tournament as the 165-pound No. 13 seed, which gave him a slight edge over his opponent in Pitt’s No. 20 seed Holden Heller. However, Facundo’s woes from the Big Ten tournament.

The redshirt freshman was the only Nittany Lion to get upset, as he fell 5-3 to Heller. Coincidentally, Facundo’s loss means he’ll wrestle Ramirez, another upset victim, in the consolation bracket.

The eight victories, though, were enough to give Penn State a 3.5-point team lead ahead of the second session. However, the Nittany Lions will now have a few underdogs in the second session.

In the winner’s bracket, Van Ness will try to play spoiler to Iowa State’s No. 5 seed Paniro Johnson. Max Dean, the No. 9 seed at 197 pounds, will wrestle Nebraska’s No. 8 seed Silas Allred in a rematch of the Big Ten Championship.

Facundo will have his hands full in the consolation bracket, as a loss to Ramirez will end his tournament on the first day.

Penn State will have to handle its business if it wants to send all eight wrestlers to the quarterfinals, but March is what Cael Sanderson prepares his team for.

“For the most part they're ready to roll,” Sanderson said before the tournament. “It's just about consistency, you know, just be the same person all the time.”


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